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 29, 2013

Streetcar shooting protest march draws hundreds

Hundreds of people turned up to a protest march in downtown Toronto that was organized in response to the death of Sammy Yatim, the 18-year-old teen who was shot by police on a TTC streetcar two days ago.

CBC News has learned that the Toronto police officer who shot Yatim has been suspended with pay. The shooting remains under investigation by the province’s police watchdog.

Confronting the ugly truths of Canadian history

Lionel Pett was a scientist with the precursor of Health Canada, a leader in his field and in charge of the program of apparently half-starving aboriginal children in an experiment to measure nutrition in the 1940s and '50s.

Amid the national revulsion over this revelation, his son has emerged to defend his reputation, telling the Toronto Star that his father "was just trying to do good work" as he was tasked to study the effects of vitamins and minerals in order to keep Canadians healthy, especially in the context of wartime and post-war privation.

He was a "progressive." Although it didn't come to pass, he advocated a national lunchroom program in the schools (whether he meant to include aboriginal children is unclear), and, under his initiative, Canada became the first country to keep national statistics on height and weight.

Human Rights Museum or Harper propaganda? Genocide in Canada denied

Canada has a dark history -- one which begins long before Confederation in 1867. The state of Canada, which was previously a British colony, was only made possible by the theft of Indigenous lands and resources, and the genocide of Indigenous peoples. While some government officials will admit that some of their laws and policies may have resulted in assimilation, you will never hear any of them speak of their elimination policies which resulted in genocide.

What is the difference between assimilation and elimination? Assimilation is when one group (usually the colonizing settler government) tries to force another group (Indigenous peoples) to abandon their culture, language, values, traditions, practices and beliefs for those of the colonizer. Policies like residential schools, resulted in the disruption and loss of Indigenous language and culture. This can and has resulted in inter-generational trauma in many Indigenous families, communities and Nations.

Lac-Mégantic a collision of water, oil and transport deregulation

How easy it would be to lay the blame for the tragedy in Lac-Mégantic on the engineer who ran the train. But the real responsibility lies with the governments on both sides of the border who have deregulated their transport sectors, gutted freshwater protections and promoted the spectacular growth and transport of new and unsustainable fossil fuels.

Starting back in the 1970s, the US government deregulated rail transport, allowing deep staff reductions, the removal of brakemen from trains and lower safety standards for shipping hazardous materials.  Canadian governments followed suit and allowed the railways to self-regulate safety standards and continue to ship oil in the older, accident-prone tanker cars of the kind that crashed into Lac-Mégantic.

How Stephen Harper is rewriting history

Mark O’Neill, president of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the country’s biggest and most-visited museum, is typically an upbeat guy. But as he leads a reporter around Canada Hall, the winding stroll through Canadian history that is one of the museum’s central features, he doesn’t exactly offer a seminar in cheery tour-guide patter. At about the midpoint of the walk, which starts with the Vikings arriving and ends in a 1960s-vintage airport lounge, O’Neill steps into one of his favourite installations—an intact early 20th-century Ukrainian Catholic church, painstakingly relocated to the museum from Smoky Lake, Alta. “Look around,” he says. “You will learn virtually nothing about Ukrainian Canadians. You will learn nothing about the first Canadian internment camps. You will learn nothing about the Ukrainian community today.”

Sammy Yatim Streetcar Shooting: Toronto Police Investigation Leaves Unanswered Questions

A police shooting on a downtown Toronto streetcar has left Sammy Yatim dead, a family grieving -- and unanswered questions.

Namely, how does an encounter between several police officers and an 18-year-old with a small knife on an empty streetcar end in a hail of bullets and and a discharge of a stun gun?

On Vultures and Red Wings: Billionaire Gets New Sports Arena in Bankrupt Detroit

The headline juxtaposition boggles the mind. You have, on one day, “Detroit Files Largest Municipal Bankruptcy in History.” Then on the next, you have “Detroit Plans to Pay For New Red Wings Hockey Arena Despite Bankruptcy.”

Yes, the very week Michigan Governor Rick Snyder granted a state-appointed emergency manager’s request to declare the Motor City bankrupt, the Tea Party governor gave a big thumbs-up to a plan for a new $650 million Detroit Red Wings hockey arena. Almost half of that $650 million will be paid with public funds.

Lawmakers Protecting NSA Surveillance Are Awash In Defense Contractor Cash

Though it failed by a twelve-vote margin, Congressman Justin Amash’s (R-MI) amendment last week to curtail the NSA’s dragnet surveillance efforts reveals new fault lines in the debate over privacy. The roll call for the vote shows that 111 Democrats and ninety four Republicans supported the measure, which was co-sponsored by Amash’s Democratic colleague, John Conyers.

The amendment failed as the White House and NSA director General Keith Alexander personally lobbied lawmakers to oppose the measure. At first glance, a look at the ‘no’ votes seems to suggest an odd coalition of establishment Republicans and Democrats rallying to support the administration’s position. Congressman Darrell Issa, a Republican who casts himself as a leader on privacy issues and as a tough opponent of most of President Obama’s domestic policies, voted against the Amash bill. So did minority leader Nancy Pelosi, who, as The Huffington Post reported, previously criticized the section of the Patriot Act enabling large-scale data-mining as a “massive invasion of privacy.”

Issues With Fracking Could Be Eased If Industry Was More Honest, Some Say

PITTSBURGH -- The boom in oil and gas fracking has led to jobs, billions in royalties and profits, and even some environmental gains.

But some experts say arrogance, a lack of transparency and poor communication on the part of the drilling industry have helped fuel public anger over the process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Pat McCrory Hasn't Read Controversial Voter ID Provision That He's About To Sign Into Law

As of Friday, North Carolina's Republican governor, Pat McCrory, hadn't read one of the most controversial provisions of an extensive voter ID bill that he plans to sign into law.

Asked at a press conference on Friday about the bill's prohibition against pre-registering 16- and 17-year-olds, McCrory said, "I don't know enough … I'm sorry, I haven't seen that part of the bill."

Financial Stocks Are On Their Way To Being The Biggest Sector In The S&P 500 Again

Here's yet another thing banks are taking over: the stock market.

Financial stocks are the second-biggest sector in the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index and are well on the way to overtaking technology as the biggest industry in the broad stock index, Bloomberg reports. Finance's share of the stock market has nearly doubled from a low of about 8.6 percent in March 2009, just after the financial crisis, to 16.8 percent as of Friday. Tech makes up 17.6 percent of the index.

Apple Supplier Accused Of Labor Abuses By China Watchdog

BEIJING -- A labor rights group Monday accused a Chinese company that makes iPhones for Apple Inc. of abuses including withholding employees' pay and excessive working hours.

China Labor Watch said it found violations of the law and of Apple's pledges about working conditions at factories operated by Pegatron Corp., a Taiwanese company.

Conditions in Chinese factories that produce iPhones and other popular Apple products have been under scrutiny following complaints about labor and environmental violations by a different supplier, Taiwan's Foxconn, a unit of Hon Hai Precision Industry Co.

Louisiana Police Sting Targets, Arrests Gay Men For Sex Using Unconstitutional Anti-Sodomy Law

Law enforcement in Baton Rouge have reportedly been using an invalid, unconstitutional law to target and arrest adult gay men, according to a new report.

The Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office sting was revealed on Saturday by the Baton Rouge Advocate, which investigated the arrests of at least a dozen Louisiana gay men since 2011 who agreed to consensual gay sex with undercover officers. In all of the cases, the men were arrested under the state's anti-sodomy law, which was struck down as unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2003 ruling in Lawrence v. Texas.

Fewer Young Americans Have Full-Time Jobs Now Than Last Year

According to a recent poll, young Americans are finding themselves with fewer job opportunities as the recovery continues.

The poll, conducted by Gallup, discovered that only 43.6 percent of Americans ages 18 to 29 had a full-time job in June 2013. That rate is lower than the 47 percent of millennials who were employed full-time in 2012. In fact, more young Americans reported to be employed full-time three years ago than last month.

SAC Capital CEO Steven Cohen Throws A Party Despite Indictment

July 28 (Reuters) - Hedge fund billionaire Steven A. Cohen did not let the filing of criminal charges against his $14 billion SAC Capital Advisors get in the way of a party this weekend at his vacation estate in tony East Hampton, New York.

The Saturday night party at Cohen's 10-bedroom home on Further Lane took place two days after federal prosecutors in New York announced a five-count criminal indictment against SAC Capital that portrayed the 21-year-old Stamford, Conn.-based fund as a breeding ground for unlawful insider trading.

Canada's history awash with crimes against First Nations

The CBC National News began one evening last week with these words from anchor Paul Hunter: "It's the kind of revelation that makes you shudder, shake your head, wonder how it could ever happen in Canada." I was transfixed. What could possibly lead to such subjectivity, such raw emotion, from the always cool, detached, neutral public broadcaster? Had the Prime Minister added Prince George Alexander Louis to his enemies' list?

What an anti-climax. All it was was another scandalous injustice that Canada had perpetrated against its aboriginal people since Confederation, this time the cold-blooded deprivation of food and medicine to kids at residential schools in the name of nutritional experiments. Seriously, people, if the media were going to go ballistic every time a new atrocity against Native peoples was revealed, there'd never be anything else on the news.

Young Workers Face 'Crisis' of Scarce Good Jobs

Bonnie Hammond doesn't need statistics to understand the precarious job landscape B.C. offers young people today. Her first paid gig was a paper route at 12, and by the time she was 15 she was working in an ice-cream parlour. After leaving school at 16, she worked at "every crappy retail and office job in the province," moving so often from one temporary job to another that by 24, she could count up over 50 different employers.

Senate reform debate lacks creativity, ignores real problem

OTTAWA—If polls are correct, Canadians are looking for Senate reform following recent scandals that have rocked the upper chamber of Parliament and will continue to gain momentum as the RCMP pursues its investigation. But the reform debate thus far fails to address the real issue of under-representation facing Canada’s democracy and lacks creativity in finding solutions.

The two most prominent options under consideration include an elected or an abolished Senate. While both are certainly different than the current institution, neither option fundamentally improves Canada’s democracy. In fact, both options risk entrenching a status quo that excludes many from the political decision-making process.

For Harper’s Conservatives, Senate reform is mostly about the form

OTTAWA—When facing a battle on democratic reform, Stephen Harper decided to focus on the battle, not the reform.

As the only party in Parliament with an ambivalent position on the Senate, you could be forgiven for expecting the Prime Minister to unearth a constitutional expert to help draft out the party’s policy—now that the old ones have been thrown out—on the much-maligned institution. Instead, he’s decided to assign his personal attack dog Pierre Poilievre as minister of state for Democratic Reform.

Will Aglukkaq do for environment what she did for health?

GATINEAU, QUE.—Stephen Harper’s ministers tend to have little more presence than plastic markers in a board game, but Leona Aglukkaq is singularly opaque.

Her tenure as health minister was marked by dutiful announcements of small grants to friendly groups and heavily-scripted photo-ops. She banned cancer-causing chemicals in toys. But anything more substantial—even warning of the dangers of too much salt, informing Canadians of the perils of energy drinks, or acting against trans-fats—was an unacceptable intrusion into private decisions.

Millions continue to be spent by federal government on promotion of ‘natural resource development’ in Canada

Advertising funding allocated to the federal Department of Natural Resources totalled $9-million in 2012-2013 according to the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, and represented just over 14 per cent of total government advertising expenditures last year.

But this year, funding projections for natural resources promotion increased by more than 83 per cent to $16.5-million after supplementary estimates tabled in late March indicated the ministry was seeking an extra $4.5-million in addition to the original $12-million departmental advertising budget allocated for 2013-2014.

‘Absolute disgrace’ PBO forced to file ATIPS to find out impact of billions in federal spending cuts

Opposition parties say it’s “an absolute disgrace” employees in the Parliamentary Budget Office will have to file access to information requests to analyse the effects of the $5.2-billion in government cuts announced in the 2012 budget after interim PBO Sonia L’Heureux publicly announced last week that most government agencies and departments were not cooperating with her.

NDP finance critic Peggy Nash (Parkdale-High Park, Ont.) said “nothing is off the table at this point,” when it comes to holding the government to account and helping the Parliamentary Budget Office get information on the $5.2-billion in government cuts announced in the 2012 budget.

Feds, industry investing in innovation to clean up the oilsands

Government and industry continue to invest in research and development to reduce the environmental impacts of oilsands development, but it appears unlikely that the sector will adopt greener practices without tougher regulations.

The federal and Alberta governments and the oil industry are making multi-million dollar investments aimed at addressing the impact of oilsands development on land and water usage and carbon emissions, in some cases independently and other cases partnering on specific projects and initiatives.

Oil Sands: 4,000 Environmental Infractions, 40 Punishments

A new report out today finds that environmental infractions by companies in the Alberta oil sands are addressed with an enforcement action far less often than similar infractions reported to the United State's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The report [pdf], authored by the environmental non-profit Global Forest Watch, looked at more than 15 years of data on recorded environmental mishaps by oil sand's companies, tracking the follow-up actions taken and the final verdict on fines.

Conservatives push to restrict temporary releases of federal prisoners

The Harper government says it is pushing forward with plans to place more restrictions on temporary releases of federal inmates, even as an internal Correctional Service of Canada briefing document highlights their benefits.

Inmates can be granted escorted and unescorted “temporary absences” for a variety of reasons: to perform community service, attend medical appointments or treatment programs, and visit with family members. They can last a few hours, a few days or even weeks.

PM no longer signs big hospitality bills, delegates authority to clerk

OTTAWA - Stephen Harper's signature is no longer needed for big hospitality bills run up by his bureaucrats.

The prime minister has delegated that sometimes controversial duty to his senior public servant, the clerk of the Privy Council.

The unannounced move — made last June — followed revelations of large hospitality expenses approved by Harper himself in the months before.

Was journalist Michael Hastings murdered?

I think sometimes some journalists forget what their job is. If you're choosing not to investigate something because you're worried you might look silly, or be made fun of, you're doing it wrong.

I have no idea what happened to Michael Hastings, and it's certainly both possible and reasonable that his accident was solely due to his own error or a mechanical fault. In fact, that's probably the most likely explanation.

Increasing CPP benefits comes at a price

We’d all like to see an improvement to the benefits of the Canada Pension Plan.

We pay into it all our working life, the fund had assets worth $183 billion as of the end of March, it is well-managed and free from political manipulation. The fund predicts it can cover its obligations for the next 75 years, so if that’s the case, why not pay us more?

Bradley Manning Awaits Verdict After Trial Ends with Prosecution "Smears" & Harsh Gov’t Secrecy

Closing arguments have wrapped in the nearly two-month military trial of Army Private Bradley Manning. The presiding judge, Col. Denise Lind, is now deliberating on 21 charges, including "aiding the enemy." Manning faces up to life in prison for leaking more than 700,000 documents to WikiLeaks and other news sources, the largest leak of classified information in U.S. history. Over the weekend, protesters in dozens of cities around the world held rallies to mark an international day of action calling for Manning’s release. We get an update from outside the courtroom with independent journalist Alexa O’Brien, who has been in the courtroom daily since the trial began. "We had armed guards roaming the aisles, actually standing behind reporters, peering into our computers, coming every five minutes behind us," O’Brien says of how journalists were treated last week. "It was quite shocking behavior." We’re also joined by Michael Ratner, president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights and a lawyer for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who observed the trial’s closing arguments. "The government’s theory is what really is awful here: You can 'aid the enemy' by putting information up on the Internet, intelligence that doesn’t have to be classified," Ratner says. "Because the enemy reads the Internet, you can be accused of aiding the enemy."

Author: --

Sammy Yatim: Family of dead teen stunned and baffled by police shooting

The Toronto police shooting of an 18-year-old wielding a knife on an empty streetcar has left a family shattered and renewed questions about police procedure in “crisis” situations.

Sammy Yatim died of a gunshot wound in hospital after officers fired at least nine shots into the streetcar early Saturday. New witness video shows Yatim standing alone near the front of the TTC vehicle, brandishing a small knife, before police open fire.

Glenn Greenwald: NSA Analysts Have Access To 'Powerful and Invasive' Search Tools

WASHINGTON -- Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian reporter who broke the news of the National Security Agency's mass surveillance programs, said Sunday he will soon disclose new information about the access low-level contractors have to Americans' phone and email communications.

Naftali Bennett: 'I've Killed Lots Of Arabs In My Life And There's No Problem With That'

As Middle East peace talks are set to resume after a five-year freeze, 972 Magazine reports a member of Israel's cabinet has declared his backing for simply killing Palestinian prisoners, rather than bringing them to trial.

On Sunday, Israel announced it would release 104 Palestinian prisoners, a key caveat in the John Kerry-brokered plan to renew peace talks.

80 Percent Of U.S. Adults Face Near-Poverty, Unemployment: Survey

WASHINGTON — Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.

Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press points to an increasingly globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and poor, and the loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend.

Time To Mess With Texas

The same day, last month, that the Supreme Court struck down a key section of the Voting Rights Act, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott declared that Texas laws that had been stopped by the Act—because courts found them to be discriminatory—would immediately go into effect. On Friday, Attorney General Eric Holder struck back.

In the color-blind wish-world of Chief Justice Roberts and his four conservative colleagues on the Supreme Court, Jim Crow-era restrictions on minority voting represent a sad, historical curiosity, unrelated to modern reality. Surveying the landscape from their marble aerie, these five Justices decided in Shelby County v. Holder that requiring the pre-clearance of election-law changes in certain jurisdictions, a provision of Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, was now unconstitutional. Congress had passed the Act in 1965 in response to the broad denial of the right to vote; as recently as 2006, an overwhelming majority of Congress found that it was still necessary. The Court simply disagreed: “Nearly 50 years later, things have changed dramatically.”

Will someone please save the Experimental Lakes Area already?

The Experimental Lakes Area, the world’s leading freshwater research centre, can’t seem to catch a break.

The federal government announced last year that the northern Ontario facility, which has been home to groundbreaking work on acid rain and the environmental effects of lake pollutants, was supposedly no longer consistent with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ increasingly practical priorities. To save $2 million a year in operating costs, the government declared, it would spend some $50 million to close it. Bizarre.