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.]

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Stephen Harper doesn’t get new world economy

Stephen Harper’s Conservatives pride themselves on managing the economy. Oddly enough, the economy may turn out to be one of his government’s biggest failures.

This is not to diminish the real strengths that Canada has displayed during the worst slump since the 1930s. When the prime minister boasts that this country has fared better than the United States, he is correct.

Nor has the Conservatives’ overall approach to government finances been insane. Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty may talk tough about the need for other governments to practice brutal fiscal austerity. Yet their approach at home has been more nuanced than that of, say, Britain’s slash-and-burn, centre-right, coalition government.

Buying Canadian will short-change military, defence officials warn

OTTAWA — A struggle is quietly raging behind the scenes as the needs of Canada’s military smack up against the Conservative government’s desire to turn billions of dollars in planned defence spending into jobs and economic benefits.

Then-defence minister Peter MacKay was warned in a briefing note last November that a policy of always buying military equipment and services from Canadian companies would likely short-change Canada’s men and women in uniform.

Twisted Economy: Canada Ditches Manufacturing, Builds Condos Instead

Call it a sign of the times.

StatsCan’s most recent data on employment show the number of jobs in real estate in Canada jumped 3.9 per cent in the past year, nearly five times the rate of overall job growth. Construction jobs grew 3.1 per cent.

Over the same period, the number of manufacturing jobs fell by 0.9 per cent, or about 14,000 positions.

Scott Walker: Wisconsin GOP Considering Expanding Anti-Union Restrictions To Police, Firefighters

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R ) said this week that state Republicans might expand the state's controversial restrictions on collective bargaining to the two sectors spared from the new law more than two years ago.

Wisconsin Public Radio reports that Walker commented during a town hall meeting Monday that Republicans in the state Legislature are open to expanding the restrictions to police officers and firefighters. He added that he had not made a proposal to further the restrictions.

A Useful Corner of the World: Guantánamo

It was 1935, and the Guantánamo naval base had to go. So declared an American commission stocked with foreign-policy experts: the United States was pursuing less antagonistic relations with its southern neighbors, and an American base on Cuban soil, anchored by a lease without an end date, looked increasingly like an “anomaly.” Weren’t there enough defensible harbors on the United States’ own Gulf Coast, or on Puerto Rico? The commission wrote that the U.S. government should “seriously consider whether the retention of Guantánamo will not cost more in political misunderstanding than it is worth in military strategy.”

"Bradley Manning Has Become a Martyr"–WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange on Guilty Verdict

The sentencing hearing for Army whistleblower Bradley Manning begins today following his acquittal on the most serious charge he faced, aiding the enemy, but conviction on 20 other counts. On Tuesday, Manning was found guilty of violating the Espionage Act and other charges for leaking hundreds of thousands of government documents to WikiLeaks. In beating the "aiding the enemy" charge, Manning avoids an automatic life sentence, but he still faces a maximum of 136 years in prison on the remaining counts. In his first U.S. television interview since the verdict, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange discusses the Manning "show trial," the plight of National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, and the verdict’s impact on WikiLeaks. "Bradley Manning is now a martyr," Assange says. "He didn’t choose to be a martyr. I don’t think it’s a proper way for activists to behave to choose to be martyrs, but these young men — allegedly in the case of Bradley Manning and clearly in the case of Edward Snowden — have risked their freedom, risked their lives, for all of us. That makes them heroes." According to numerous press reports, the conviction of Manning makes it increasingly likely that the U.S. will prosecute Assange as a co-conspirator. During the trial, military prosecutors portrayed Assange as an "information anarchist" who encouraged Manning to leak hundreds of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents.

Author: --

The Trials of Bradley Manning

In late July, the trial of Bradley Manning finally came to a close in a heavily air-conditioned courtroom in Fort Meade, Maryland, where the young private from Crescent, Oklahoma, was prosecuted for the largest security breach in US history.

Manning had already pleaded guilty to ten of the lesser charges against him—for instance, unauthorized possession and improper storage of classified material, which together carry a maximum twenty-year term. But this was not enough for the prosecution: it pressed on with a dozen more serious offenses, including the potential capital crime of aiding the enemy as well as charges stemming from the Espionage Act of 1917, which Richard Nixon retooled as a weapon against domestic leakers in his vendetta against Daniel Ellsberg. (Such a use of the statute has never been decided on the legal merits until this case.) Judge Denise Lind announced a verdict that splits the difference, acquitting the soldier of aiding the enemy but convicting him on the Espionage Act charges. Private Manning could still face a prison term of more than 130 years (the sentence will be determined in a separate proceeding). The consequences for American journalism are grave, as the government now has even greater incentive to prosecute as a spy any confidential source who passes classified information to the press, criminalizing what has long been a vital (and tacitly accepted) conduit of essential public information. Such collateral damage to the Fourth Estate will not be mourned by a government that has become aggressively intolerant of leaks, whistleblowers and, it often seems, a well-informed citizenry.

Army Child Abuse Cases Jump 40% From 2009: Report

Incidents of child abuse in the Army are on the rise, an alarming trend that coincides with the return of tens of thousands of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to an investigation conducted by the Army Times, 3,698 cases of Army child abuse and neglect were reported last year, a 40 percent increase from 2009.

Former Bear Stearns Executives Seemingly Unscathed By Financial Crisis They Helped Trigger

Before Lehman crashed, there was “The Bear.”

Bear Stearns, once the nation’s fifth-largest investment bank, had been a fixture on Wall Street since 1923 and had survived the crash of 1929 without laying off any employees.

But in 2008, its customers and creditors didn’t much care about its storied history. They were worried that the billions of dollars of mortgage-backed securities on its books weren’t worth what the company claimed. En masse, they stopped doing business with Bear.

Egypt: 3 Top Leaders Of Muslim Brotherhood Referred To Trial For Allegedly Inciting Killing Of Protesters

CAIRO -- Egyptian prosecutors have referred three top leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, including the group's fugitive spiritual leader, to trial for allegedly inciting the killing of protesters last month.

The decision Wednesday by Cairo prosecutors is the latest move in a crackdown by authorities on the Islamist group following the July 3 ouster of Mohammed Morsi in a military coup.

The three referred to trial are Mohammed Badie, the group's leader who is on the run, his powerful deputy Khairat el-Shater and senior leader Rashad Bayoumi.

They are accused of inciting the killing of at least eight protesters outside the Cairo headquarters of the group.

Original Article
Author: AP

Larry Summers Gets 'Full-Throated Defense' From Obama In Capitol Hill Meeting, Lawmaker Says

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama gave a "full-throated defense" of Larry Summers in a closed meeting with House Democrats Wednesday, according to a lawmaker in the room, but said he’s nowhere near making a decision on who will be the next Federal Reserve chairman.

Summers, along with Janet Yellen, are reportedly the top contenders for the Fed post. White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer said Wednesday that no decision will be made until the fall, but that hasn’t stopped people from speculating about the frontrunner.

Who Am I to Judge? Francis Redefines the Papacy

Week by week, during the past several months, we have gotten a better idea of what the papacy of Pope Francis looks and sounds like. From the beginning he has set a new tone, one of informality, openness, humility, and approachability. He has begun to redefine the papacy, replacing the traditional figure of the Pope—a medieval monarch dressed in ermine robes, crowned with a mitre, laying down infallible doctrine—with something closer to the Christ of the Gospels, who washes the feet of the Apostles. He has done this by consistently avoiding questions of doctrine, speaking largely through gesture and example. This behavior was exemplified during his remarkable press conference on Monday, on the flight back from his first foreign trip, to Brazil. His words about homosexual priests prompted headlines around the world: “If they accept the Lord and have good will, who am I to judge them?” he said. “They shouldn’t be marginalized.… They’re our brothers.”

NSA Commits 'Troubling' Surveillance Violations, Senators Say

WASHINGTON -- The National Security Agency's massive collection of all Americans' phone records breaks laws without making the country safer, two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee argued Tuesday night, saying the practices must be reformed.

Taking to the Senate floor, Sens. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) called on the White House to act on its own to rein in the programs. The senators criticized the administration's intelligence leaders for "misleading" the public on the controversial NSA programs and accused the administration of breaking the law.

Groundswell: A Secret Tape Reveals How It Lobbied Boehner and Issa on Benghazi

As Mother Jones revealed last week, Groundswell, the hush-hush right-wing strategy group partly led by Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, wanted to hype the Benghazi tragedy into a full-fledged scandal for the Obama administration, as part of its "30 front war" on the president and progressives. A secret audio tape of one of Groundswell's weekly meetings shows that prominent members of the group pressed House Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chair of the House oversight committee, to expand the Benghazi investigation and make this supposed scandal a top-priority for congressional Republicans. This recording indicates Groundswell's mission extends beyond message coordination to scandal-stoking.

Government may replace striking diplomats with locals at overseas missions

The federal government is considering outsourcing some diplomatic work at missions abroad as Canada’s striking Foreign Service officers give little indication they are prepared to abandon the picket lines and return to their jobs.

Sources tell CTV News that the government is considering replacing some Foreign Service officers at various missions abroad with local, cheaper hires.

Critical mass arrest: Eyewitness account of Montreal police repression of monthly bike ride

If you don't know, the last Friday of every month, an event takes place across the world at the exact same time. This event is known as Critical Mass: a collective bike ride through major cities, riding for not only the rights of cyclists, but for alternative transportation, environmentalism and anti-capitalism.

It's an event that has taken place in Montreal every month for the past 20 years. A month ago we began preparing for July's ride, hoping we would see a few more cyclists out after the SPVM's huge crackdown on cyclists this summer.

Bradley Manning verdict: Punishing the whistleblower while the war criminals go free

Reactions to the verdict in the Bradley Manning trial were swift on Tuesday.

Though some found solace in the fact that the 25-year-old U.S. Army whistleblower was found "not guilty" on the "most outrageous" charge of "aiding the enemy," voices across the progressive community were expressing mixtures of outrage and sadness after Judge Col. Denise Lind found Manning guilty on 19 other counts that could lead to a sentence of more than 100 years in prison.

The Center for Constitutional Rights put out a statement, which read in part:

    While the "aiding the enemy" charges (on which Manning was rightly acquitted) received the most attention from the mainstream media, the Espionage Act itself is a discredited relic of the WWI era, created as a tool to suppress political dissent and antiwar activism, and it is outrageous that the government chose to invoke it in the first place against Manning. Government employees who blow the whistle on war crimes, other abuses and government incompetence should be protected under the First Amendment.

Tories' Empty Tribute to Canadian Soldiers

A travelling tribute to the men and women who lost their lives in Afghanistan is coming soon to a provincial legislature near you.

Former defence minister Peter Mackay unveiled the temporary display in Ottawa on July 9. It will be open to the public and remain on Parliament Hill through Remembrance Day, before heading off on a two-year journey across the country to visit provincial legislatures and then on to Washington.

The memorial, featuring plaques of the 161 Canadians killed, will be a welcome gesture, no doubt, for some grieving friends and families.

U.S. wants exemption from Canadian law for cross-border officers, RCMP memo says

OTTAWA—The United States wants its police officers to be exempt from Canadian law if they agree to take part in a highly touted cross-border policing initiative, an internal RCMP memo says.

The debate over whose laws would apply to U.S. officers working in Canada raises important questions of sovereignty and police accountability, says the briefing note prepared for RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson.

"Justice! For Sammy!"

At 5 pm on Monday afternoon, 150 people converged at Yonge and Dundas for the start of a march held in memory of — and in protest of the death of — Sammy Yatim.

As it moved west on Dundas, the procession rapidly swelled until it occupied the width of the road for several blocks at a time. (I won't pretend to be any good at crowd estimates. It was 500 people? A thousand?)

Yatim had been gunned down by police at Dundas and Bellwoods, and the rally remained there for some time before a group split off and headed to 14 Division on Dovercourt. Over the next few hours, the assembly at 14 Division gradually dwindled, until only a couple dozen protesters remained.

At around 11 pm, they ordered pizza, which they had delivered to their sit-in outside the police station.

Original Article
Source: NOW
Author: Jonathan Goldsbie

Gay Pride Flags Burned In Fort McMurray Parking Lot

RCMP are investigating after two gay pride flags were burned in a parking lot during Fort McMurray's first gay pride event.

Approximately 100 people had gathered at Bailey's Pub in the northern Alberta city Saturday night for a night of karaoke and drag performances, when two rainbow flags went missing shortly after 11 p.m., reports Fort McMurray Today.

Science Cuts In Canada: Tech, Science Spending Lower Next Year

OTTAWA - Statistics Canada says the federal government is expected to spend less on science and technology in the coming year.

The federal agency says spending for the 2013-14 fiscal year is expected to decrease 3.3 per cent from the previous period, to $10.5 billion.

Enough is enough: Time for the public to police the police

The tragic news of Sammy Yatim's unnecessary death at the hands of the Toronto police Friday night has sparked a much needed debate regarding the use of excessive force by police in the mainstream media.

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair announced that the "public has every right to be concerned" about the events which unfolded on the 505 streetcar, and the he would be conducing his own investigation in addition to the one being done by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU).

Why NSA Surveillance Will Be More Damaging Than You Think

This column over the weekend, by the British academic John Naughton in the Guardian, takes us one more step in assessing the damage to American interests in the broadest sense-- commercial, strategic, ideological - from the panopticon approach to "security" brought to us by NSA-style monitoring programs.

The Time Is Now to Inquire About Missing and Murdered Women

Imagine your worst nightmare has come true. Your 18-year-old daughter suddenly goes missing. Without a trace. Overcome with fear and paralyzing worry you can think of only one thing: getting her back home safe with you. Days turn into weeks turn into months turn into years. It's a pain deeper than any you've known.

And she's not the only one.

Unthinkably you've met other families experiencing the same nightmare. Hundreds of other families worrying, wondering, grieving. The media has forgotten their names. The government is not interested in answers.

Another Citizens United—but Worse

Think the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United was bad? A worse one may be on the horizon.

To recognize the problem, it’s necessary to review some of the Court’s gnarled history on the subject of campaign finance. In Citizens United, which was decided in 2010, the Court rejected any limits on what a person or corporation (or labor union) could spend on an independent effort to help a candidate win an election. Thus the rise of Super PACs; that’s why Sheldon Adelson could spend sixty million dollars to help Mitt Romney in 2012. But, though Citizens United deregulated independent expenditures on behalf of candidates, the case said nothing about direct contributions to the candidates themselves.

Obama Proposes 'Grand Bargain' For Jobs

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — President Barack Obama on Tuesday offered congressional Republicans a new corporate tax cut and jobs spending package he said might "help break through some of the political logjam in Washington," only to have GOP lawmakers immediately throw cold water on the idea.

The announcement and quick rejection underscored how elusive common ground is between the Democratic White House and Republicans in Congress on fiscal issues. The divide was particularly stark on the corporate tax proposal given that both parties generally have supported overhauling the code for businesses, though the White House and Republicans have differed on specifics.

Deadly Clashes Deepen Crisis in Egypt

The corpses emerge from a field hospital near the Rabea al-Adeweya mosque every few minutes in a grim routine. First, a man on a megaphone strides purposefully out into the sun, announcing the name of the dead to the waiting throng of mourners—the Grand Marshal of a macabre parade. Behind him come the medical workers carrying the body on a fluorescent orange stretcher. The white shroud is invariably splattered with blood, the name and hometown of the deceased is scrawled across the front. Hands and feet have been tied together to prevent limbs from flopping out. Two lines of men with linked arms form a thin passageway through the crowd that leads to a waiting ambulance. Pleas to God fill the air, rising to a crescendo of grief and anger as the body passes through. The commotion subsides until the next body is brought out, and the scene repeated.

Your Clothes Were Made by a Bangladeshi Climate Refugee

Down in the hole that used to be Rana Plaza, the crushed remains of half a dozen cars were still waiting for removal, and next to them was a broken mannequin. She was lying on her back. She wore a pair of tight purple knee-length pants, but she was naked above the waist. Her torso had been severed in a neat diagonal below the right breast, but her head was intact. She had ivory skin, a pink rosebud mouth, ash-blonde hair brushed straight back off her forehead, and piercing blue eyes that stared up without expression at the sky.

More than 1,100 Bangladeshi garment workers died here in April, almost half as many as died in the World Trade Center. Yet the first thing that hit me about Rana Plaza was how small it was. The footprint of the building was not much larger than a basketball court. The site of the Twin Towers covered 16 acres. All that remained of Rana Plaza now was this shallow pit, a few inches deep in muddy water from the pre-monsoon rains, ringed by mountains of rubble and twisted rebar and damp piles of half-sewn clothing and bolts of brightly colored cloth.

Oilsands expansion raises red flags for regulators

The proposed west-east oil pipeline is inching closer to reality.

Last week the premiers discussed the feasibility of such a huge project at their annual get-together. And TransCanada Energy confirmed that it has already signed up major producers who want bitumen from the Alberta oilsands delivered to refineries as far afield as New Brunswick and possibly for export.

Meanwhile in Alberta, for the first time regulators have raised alarming red flags about the environmental impact of oilsands expansion and urged the federal and Alberta governments to step up their oversight of these enormous operations.

CFIA contract flip-flop latest sign of Tories’ ‘hardball’ approach to PS unions

OTTAWA — The chair of a conciliation panel has scolded the federal government after its representative on the panel rejected three recommendations he had earlier endorsed during contract bargaining involving more than 4,000 employees of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

“It does not assist the process when one party backtracks from earlier agreements,” Lorne Slotnick, a respected mediator and arbitrator, wrote as the three-member panel released its recommendations, including a dissent from Andrew Tremayne, the member representing the CFIA.

On Keystone pipeline, President Obama may be ‘headed toward yes’

President Barack Obama’s latest critique of the Keystone XL oil pipeline still leaves a path for approving the project — but its supporters may need to make concessions to blunt its impact on the climate, analysts said Monday.

Obama’s remarks to The New York Times echoed some of the most potent criticisms offered by Keystone’s opponents, scoffing at GOP claims about job creation and warning that the pipeline might even raise gasoline prices. He also said Canada “could potentially be doing more” to counteract the greenhouse gas emissions being unleashed from Alberta’s oil sands, the major reason for climate activists’ outrage at the pipeline.

New Mideast Talks Hang on Old Question: Will U.S. Drop Support for Israeli Annexation of West Bank?

Israel and the Palestinian Authority have resumed peace talks for the first time in three years, but the two sides appear as far apart as ever on the key issues of borders, settlers, refugees and the status of Jerusalem. We’re joined by scholar and author Norman Finkelstein and Yousef Munayyer, executive director of The Jerusalem Fund and its educational program, the Palestine Center. Munayyer says the talks hinge on a major reversal of the longstanding U.S. role in the conflict. "Instead of acting as an enforcer of international law, as an enforcer of Israeli obligations in previous commitments, the United States has only acted instead as an enforcer of Israeli positions," Munayyer says. "If you’re on the Palestinian end, there’s really no interest for you to keep going back to negotiations that only act as a cover for Israel’s continued colonial activities in the West Bank." Finkelstein says the true hope for peace lies in a nonviolent Palestinian movement that can force enough global pressure on Israel to obey international law and abandon its West Bank settlements. "The Palestinians are not demonstrating any power, so of course they’re going to be clobbered by the United States and Israel," Finkelstein says. "The question is: Can you change the power equation? And I think there are realistic possibilities for changing that equation. Number one, use the instrument of international law to isolate Israel in public opinion. And number two, you need massive Palestinian civil disobedience with, unfortunately, the force and repression that Israel unleashes to galvanize international opinion. That was exactly the strategy of the civil rights movement."


No end in sight to strike by Canada’s foreign service officers

OTTAWA—No end is in sight to the job action by Canada’s diplomats that is causing a massive backlog in Canadian visa applications by students, temporary workers and tourists from around the world.

With about 150 of Ottawa’s foreign service officers on strike in the 15 largest immigration processing centres — including Beijing, New Delhi, Mexico City and London — would-be visitors face delays and disruptions of their plans while Canada’s economy could take a multi-million-dollar hit.

Cellphone videos fight police abuse of power, experts say

The investigation into the Toronto police shooting death of Sammy Yatim, 18, on an empty Dundas streetcar last week might turn on a trio of videos shot by bystanders .

The videos of the shooting, taken by YouTubers “Marko G,” Martin Baron, and later, of the aftermath, by “CaplinGrey,” made it to social media without interference from police, perhaps because they were shot from a distance, in the shadows.

Harper helped push world toward austerity

In June 2010, the transformation of the city’s downtown core into a pseudo war zone seemed like the worst aspect of the Harper government’s handling of the G20 summit in Toronto.

But perhaps just as insidious was Stephen Harper’s personal role at that summit in pushing the developed world to abandon stimulus spending and veer sharply toward austerity.

That embrace of austerity has led to deep government spending cuts, with devastating consequences, particularly in some southern European nations. Canadians have suffered, too.

Long-term view needed to judge Conservative ads

OAKVILLE, ONT.—When it comes to judging the effectiveness of the Conservative government’s communications strategy—otherwise known as its propaganda—the media tend to take a short-sighted view.

For example, a consensus seems to have emerged among journalists that those infamous anti-Trudeau attack spots and those ubiquitous Economic Action Plan ads are both utter and complete failures.

And I suppose they can be deemed as failures, unless you look at them from a long-term perspective, in which case a different picture emerges.

Don't be fooled by cabinet shuffle spin: 15 reasons why Harper is a fake feminist

When Stephen Harper stands in the House of Commons, he is surrounded by women. Earlier this month, he made a big to-do about promoting four new women to his cabinet. But any suggestion that Harper and the Conservatives genuinely care about women or the many issues women face can easily be refuted. Let's start with the following list.

Bakken Shale Flaring Burns Nearly One-Third Of Natural Gas Drilled, New Study Finds

NEW YORK, July 29 (Reuters) - Oil drillers in North Dakota's Bakken shale fields are allowing nearly a third of the natural gas they drill to burn off into the air, with a value of more than $100 million per month, according to a study to be released on Monday.

Remote well locations, combined with historically low natural gas prices and the extensive time needed to develop pipeline networks, have fueled the controversial practice, commonly known as flaring. While oil can be stored in tanks indefinitely after drilling, natural gas must be immediately piped to a processing facility.

Fast Food Workers Walk Out Across The Country

NEW YORK -- Fast food workers across the country are walking off their jobs this week in protest of what they describe as low wages and unfair labor practices.

The employees, in New York, Chicago, Detroit and other cities, are calling for a $15 per hour wage as well as the right to unionize without fear of retaliation. The campaign launched Monday in New York City, and has been aided by Fast Food Forward, a New York City-based advocacy group of fast food workers:

FERC Accuses JPMorgan Chase Of Manipulating Electricity Market

WASHINGTON, July 29 (Reuters) - The U.S. power market regulator took a step toward charging JPMorgan Chase & Co. with gaming electricity prices on Monday, confirming months of media reports about "manipulative" trading schemes that have rattled the bank.

The "notice of alleged violations", which outlines bidding strategies used by traders in California and the Midwest, is an intermediate step by the regulator,but brings details of the investigation into public view.