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.]

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

John McCain: Congressional Vote Against Military Action In Syria Would Be 'Catastrophic'

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) warned that a Congressional vote against military action in Syria would be "catastrophic."

McCain sounded the warning after he and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) met with President Barack Obama on Monday. McCain made similar claims on Sunday, before his meeting with the president.

Graham said he feels there is a "solid plan" from the Obama administration to "upgrade the opposition" in Syria. McCain agreed but still cited "concerns."

The Real Reason Kansas Is Running Out of Water

Like dot-com moguls in the '90s and real estate gurus in the 2000s, farmers in western Kansas are enjoying the fruits of a bubble: Their crop yields have been boosted by a gusher of soon-to-vanish irrigation water. That's the message of a new study by Kansas State University researchers. Drawing down their region's groundwater at more than six times the natural rate of recharge, farmers there have managed to become so productive that the area boasts "the highest total market value of agriculture products" of any congressional district in the nation, the authors note. Those products are mainly beef fattened on large feedlots; and the corn used to fatten those beef cows.

Charts: How Big Debt on Campus Is Threatening Higher Ed

The explosion of college tuition and student debt is leaving more grads with big bills and doubts about their futures. Some back-to-school stats:

1. College costs a lot more than it used to.

The good news: College grads earn 84% more than high school grads.

The bad: Getting that sheepskin is getting a lot more expensive.

Noam Chomsky Weighs In On Syria Strike

WASHINGTON -- A U.S.-led attack on Syria without United Nations support would be a war crime regardless of congressional approval, Noam Chomsky, the antiwar activist and author, said in response to President Barack Obama's announcement that he would seek Hill approval.

"As international support for Obama’s decision to attack Syria has collapsed, along with the credibility of government claims, the administration has fallen back on a standard pretext for war crimes when all else fails: the credibility of the threats of the self-designated policeman of the world," Chomsky told HuffPost in an email.

Senate expense scandal left no paper trail, really?

The fact that the Senate expense scandal left no public paper trail in the prime minister's own bureaucracy — not an email, memo or even a sticky note — provides more evidence that the promised new era of accountability is really the golden age of secrecy.

The CBC recently reported that the Privy Council Office, the PM's public service, claimed in June that it had no documents of any kind related to the scandal nor anyone involved in it, including Harper's former chief of staff, Nigel Wright.

Canadians shouldn’t be surprised with prorogation, say Conservatives

Although two-thirds of Canadians say they disapprove of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s plans to prorogue Parliament and delay MPs from returning to the House until late October, they shouldn’t be surprised, say political observers.

“Everybody realized when the House rose for the summer break that there was likely going to be two things happening over the summer: one was the Cabinet shuffle and one was prorogation, so I’m not sure what the surprise is,” said Fleishman-Hillard vice-president John Capobianco, a former Conservative Party candidate, adding that at the mid-term, after a major Cabinet shuffle, it makes sense to have a throne speech.

A just society would condemn Marois's divisive Charter

Once upon a time, long ago, there was a progressive political formation in Quebec known as the Parti Quebecois. Times change, principles change. Yet since the PQ was seen, however misguidedly, to represent progressive values in an increasingly social democratic Quebec, the NDP decided to forfeit the idea of a Quebec branch.

For decades the national NDP tied itself in knots trying to appeal both to Quebec and to The Rest of Canada. This was no easy trick. How do you square an unyielding circle? The objective was to demonstrate to Quebec the NDP's identification with its aspirations and to TROC the NDP's repudiation of Quebec separation -- the PQ's very raison d'etre.

Harper to turn Senate reforms into wedge issue

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is doing his best to separate himself from the Senate expense scandal, but he’s letting the controversy “fester” before stepping in and turning it into a wedge issue with a clear decision for Canadians—abolition or reform, says a senior Conservative.

“Where people need to keep their eyes fastened is the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is a long-term thinker, so go back to the beginning, what did he say about the Senate? And that’s where he’s going,” said the Conservative, who spoke to The Hill Times on the condition of anonymity.
“The strategy from what I can see is to let the thing fester.”

The Expendables: How the Temps Who Power Corporate Giants Are Getting Crushed

It's 4:18 a.m. and the strip mall is deserted. But tucked in back, next to a closed-down video store, an employment agency is already filling up. Rosa Ramirez walks in, as she has done nearly every morning for the past six months. She signs in and sits down in one of the 100 or so blue plastic chairs that fill the office. Over the next three hours, dispatchers will bark out the names of who will work today. Rosa waits, wondering if she will make her rent.

In cities all across the country, workers stand on street corners, line up in alleys, or wait in a neon-lit beauty salon for rickety vans to whisk them off to warehouses miles away. Some vans are so packed that to get to work, people must squat on milk crates, sit on the laps of passengers they do not know, or sometimes lie on the floor, the other workers' feet on top of them.

Naked Man Tasered Outside Of Chicago Music Festival After Putting Rear Through Car Windshield

A naked man Chicago police suspect was intoxicated or "high on a hallucinogenic drug" spent Saturday night having shards of glass removed from his buttocks after he stuck his rear end through a windshield, prompting cops to Taser and arrest him.

The Tribune reports two people called 911 from outside the North Coast Music Festival near Ogden Avenue and Randolph Street about 8:10 p.m. Saturday: One to report a naked man who broke a windshield, and the other to report a naked man jumping on top of cars.

NSA Spied On Brazil, Mexico Leaders, Glenn Greenwald Says

RIO DE JANEIRO — The Brazilian government condemned a U.S. spy program that reportedly targeted the nation's leader, labeled it an "unacceptable invasion" of sovereignty and called Monday for international regulations to protect citizens and governments alike from cyber espionage.

In a sign that fallout over the spy program is spreading, the newspaper Folha de S.Paulo reported that President Dilma Rousseff is considering canceling her October trip to the U.S., where she has been scheduled to be honored with a state dinner. Folha cited unidentified Rousseff aides. The president's office declined to comment.

Drug Agents Use Vast Phone Trove, Eclipsing N.S.A.’s

For at least six years, law enforcement officials working on a counternarcotics program have had routine access, using subpoenas, to an enormous AT&T database that contains the records of decades of Americans’ phone calls — parallel to but covering a far longer time than the National Security Agency’s hotly disputed collection of phone call logs.

 The Hemisphere Project, a partnership between federal and local drug officials and AT&T that has not previously been reported, involves an extremely close association between the government and the telecommunications giant.

Syria crisis: Obama 'has the right' to strike regardless of vote, says Kerry

The US has evidence that sarin nerve gas was used in chemical attacks outside Damascus last month and could go ahead with military strikes against Bashar al-Assad's regime even without the backing of Congress, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, has said.

A day after Barack Obama vowed to put any intervention in Syria to a vote of both the Senate and House of Representatives, Kerry said the administration was confident of winning a motion of the kind that David Cameron unexpectedly lost last week. "We don't contemplate that the Congress is going to vote no," Kerry said, but he stressed the president had the right to take action "no matter what Congress does".

Tory support collapsing as Liberals make gains with Ontario, ethnic, older voters

The Conservatives are bleeding support from older voters, Ontarians and ethnic Canadians who helped the party win a majority government in 2011, say pollsters, noting Liberals are the ones gaining.

“The Liberals, no matter what the poll is, are still leading among older voters. The Conservatives have banked on these older voters, where law and order and economic stability are the most important issues, but in recent polls we’ve seen that the Liberal lead is just as strong among 30 year olds as it is among 60 year olds,” Eric Grénier, a polling expert who blogs at, told The Hill Times. “That’s great for the Liberals because those are the people who turn out.”

Centre’s closure a symbol of Canada’s misguided science policy

For more than a decade, at the Centre of the Universe kids learned while looking out into the vastness of deep space that our modest blue planet is not, in fact, the centre of the universe. Now, due to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s industry-oriented redesign of our national science agency, the popular education facility has been senselessly closed.

The centre, which opened its doors in 2001 and shuttered them likely for good last week, is among the first casualties of the recent misguided makeover of the National Research Council. The federal government announced in May that the NRC, once a leader in pure research and science education, will now dedicate itself to large-scale industry-driven research projects, effectively transforming its $900-million budget into a business subsidy.

Newly elected Unifor leader says he is taking labour movement on the offensive

TORONTO - Jerry Dias hopes to use his new position as president of Canada's newest — and largest — private sector union to turn the tide for Canada's labour movement.

The Canadian Auto Workers union and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada have merged to form a new group called Unifor.

Dias was elected with about 87 per cent support at the new union's founding convention in Toronto on Saturday.

Harper's vaunted Arctic naval refuelling station going nowhere fast

OTTAWA - One of the crown jewels in the federal government's Arctic strategy is mired in a slow-moving environmental clean-up and the threat of legal action, federal documents reveal.

The deep-water port at Nanisivik, Nunavut, remains under the control of the federal fisheries department, six years after Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced with much fanfare the establishment of a naval refuelling station high in the northern archipelago.

Nepotism In Canada: Chart Shows How Top 1% Use Hiring To Keep Wealth In Family

We’ve all heard stories of nepotism in the workplace — people rising through the ranks thanks to a helping hand from an influential relative.

Now a research paper from University of Ottawa economist Miles Corak shows how nepotism helps the wealthiest people in society retain their riches.

In Secret AT&T Deal, U.S. Drug Agents Given Access to 26 Years of Americans’ Phone Records

The New York Times has revealed the Drug Enforcement Administration has an even more extensive collection of U.S. phone records than the National Security Agency. Under a secretive DEA program called the Hemisphere Project, the agency has access to records of every phone call transmitted via AT&T’s infrastructure dating back to 1987. That period covers an even longer stretch of time than the NSA’s collection of phone records, which started under President George W. Bush. Each day, some four billion call records are swept into the database, which is stored by AT&T. The U.S. government then pays for AT&T employees to station themselves inside DEA units, where they can quickly hand over records after agents obtain an administrative subpoena. The DEA says the collection allows it to catch drug dealers who frequently switch phones, but civil liberties advocates say it raises major privacy concerns. We speak with Scott Shane, national security reporter for the New York Times and co-author of the report, "Drug Agents Use Vast Phone Trove, Eclipsing NSA’s."

Author: --

John Kerry: Evidence Of Sarin Gas Used In Syria, U.S. 'Case Is Building' For Strike

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry asserted Sunday that the United States now has evidence of sarin gas use in Syria and said "the case gets stronger by the day" for a military attack.

A day after President Barack Obama stepped back from his threat to launch an attack, Kerry said in a series of interviews on the Sunday news shows that the administration learned of the sarin use within the past 24 hours through samples of hair and blood provided to Washington by first responders in Damascus.

Why politics could get in the way of justice reform

I'm re-watching the footage we shot of federal justice minister Peter MacKay arriving this past Monday at the Delta Hotel in St. John's for one of his cross-country, round-table discussions on the Harper government's proposed bill of rights for victims.

Seven women and two men representing local interest groups and government agencies are already sitting at the horse-shoe table arrangement, chatting, reading, making notes.

Crossing the Line

Early in 1987, Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi President, decided to clear out scores of Kurdish villages, in order to undermine separatist rebels. He asked Ali Hassan al-Majid, a general and a first cousin, to lead the project. In tape recordings later produced by Iraqi prosecutors, Majid told Baath Party colleagues that the novelty and the terror of chemical weapons would “threaten” the Kurds and “motivate them to surrender.” On April 16th of that year, Iraq became the first nation ever to drop gas bombs on its own citizens; the gassing campaign lasted two years and killed thousands of people. “I will kill them all with chemical weapons!” Majid told his colleagues. “Who is going to say anything? The international community? Fuck them! The international community and those who listen to them!”

Joe Arpaio Racial Profiling Case Ruling Delayed By Judge

PHOENIX -- A federal judge delayed a ruling in the racial profiling case against Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office Friday as both sides remain at odds over key remedies to ensure the agency adheres to constitutional requirements.

U.S. District Judge Murray Snow found in May that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office singled out Latinos and deputies unreasonably prolonged detentions, marking the first finding by a court that the agency covering Arizona's most populous county engages in racial profiling.

Why Should We Believe Them This Time?

If President Barack Obama wants the country united behind him, no matter his position, he should come out front-and-center as did British Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday.

The president needs to demonstrate unequivocally that hidden agendas, puffed up 'intelligence,' patriotic chest-pounding and pie-in-the-sky predictions of a positive outcome -- including the notion that this would be a 'limited' strike -- that buttressed the rationale of our invasion of Iraq do not happen this time.

Has Obama Forgotten General Dempsey’s Warnings?

Summoning up all the enthusiasm of a middle-aged man approaching his annual prostate examination, President Obama has signalled that he is preparing to order the Pentagon to bomb Syria. If the President is indeed as wary of the upcoming military operation as he looks, it would hardly be surprising. His top military adviser, General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also harbors serious doubts about the wisdom of engaging U.S. forces in Syria.

Last month, Senator Carl Levin, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, asked Dempsey, a sixty-one-year-old Army man who commanded U.S. forces in Baghdad in 2003 and 2004, to provide him with an unclassified list of options for the potential use of U.S. military force in Syria. Dempsey responded with a letter, which, he said, contained “my independent judgment with as much openness as this classification allows.”

U.S. Oil Worries Predated Lac-Mégantic Disaster

New information from the U.S. Department of Transportation shows authorities were worried prior the Lac-Mégantic disaster about the transport of oil from North Dakota on trains.

A spokesman for the U.S. transportation department said inspectors have found "inconsistencies with crude oil classification" in oil being shipped from North Dakota.

The train that derailed and exploded in Lac-Mégantic on July 6 is reported to have been carrying crude oil from that region.

P.E.I. argues Ottawa cannot abolish Senate without provincial consent

Prince Edward Island has joined with seven other provinces and territories in arguing the federal government cannot abolish the Senate without unanimous consent of the provinces.

The federal government has asked the Supreme Court of Canada for guidance on what it would take to reform the upper chamber, and whether it can abolish the body without provincial consultation.

Ten things to know about the University of Alberta's unprecedented Faculty of Arts cuts

Below is the text of a memorandum sent by Acting Dean Heather Zwicker to all members of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta earlier today. (Dean Lesley Cormack is on holidays.) The memorandum indicates that the Faculty of Arts is to cut over $5 million cut from its budget for 2013-2014.

Ten points about the current situation:

1. It needs to be generally known that the Faculty of Arts has been progressively cut or shaved down since 2009-2010, the year that departments were forced to cut 50 per cent from their budgets. That year, for lack of anything else of significance to cut, the Department of English & Film Studies had to pull most of its phones out of the wall. It also needs to be known that for the last two years, we have had to cut over $1 million from the Faculty's budget each year. These cuts have resulted in the loss of significant numbers of support staff, along with the closing of faculty lines. Put simply, we have been losing people, lots of them. We have lost people that none of us has ever met because they will never have the opportunity to be our colleagues, and we have lost the people who offered the Faculty's teachers and researchers the support they need to pursue the University's academic mission to the best of their ability. All of this is totally invisible to the public, but we need them to understand that we have already lost far, far too much.

40% of top-paid CEOs busted, bailed out or booted, study says

A new report from the Institute for Policy Studies points to a weak link between performance and pay among some of the highest-paid CEOs of American companies, and urges the U.S. government to push through laws that would bring chief executive pay under closer scrutiny.

The report, titled "Executive Excess 2013," found that since the 2008 financial crisis, 40 per cent of the highest-paid CEOs in the U.S. had been either "bailed out, booted, or busted" – that is, worked for companies bailed out by taxpayers, had been fired or had been arrested for illegal activities.

Iran, not Syria, is the West's real target

Before the stupidest Western war in the history of the modern world begins – I am, of course, referring to the attack on Syria that we all yet have to swallow – it might be as well to say that the cruise missiles which we confidently expect to sweep onto one of mankind’s oldest cities have absolutely nothing to do with Syria.

They are intended to harm Iran. They are intended to strike at the Islamic republic now that it has a new and vibrant president – as opposed to the crackpot Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – and when it just might be a little more stable.

Police Groups Furiously Protest Eric Holder's Marijuana Policy Announcement

WASHINGTON -- A broad coalition of law enforcement officers who have spent the past three decades waging an increasingly militarized drug war that has failed to reduce drug use doesn't want to give up the fight.

Organizations that include sheriffs, narcotics officers and big-city police chiefs slammed Attorney General Eric Holder in a joint letter Friday, expressing "extreme disappointment" at his announcement that the Department of Justice would allow Colorado and Washington to implement state laws that legalized recreational marijuana for adults.

Not doing enough for refugees: Trudeau

HALIFAX -- Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says Canada should be doing more to admit refugees from the bloody conflict in Syria.

Trudeau said Friday he was pleased to hear the Conservative government is not contemplating military intervention following an alleged chemical weapons attack by the Syrian regime the United States says killed at least 1,400 people.

The death toll since the conflict began has topped 100,000 and the United Nations says more than six million Syrians have had to flee their homes.

Keystone XL Pipeline Will Be Like 51 New Coal-Fired Power Plants: Report

TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline will increase carbon emissions by the equivalent of 51 coal-fired power plants or 37 million new cars on the road, says a new report from a coalition of environmental groups.

In a twist to the ongoing battle over the controversial project, the groups’ report — titled simply “Fail” — uses the industry’s own arguments to cast the pipeline as a major enabler of pollution.

President Obama’s long-awaited decision on the pipeline “is so important precisely because it has critical implications for the rate at which tar sands are extracted,” the report said, estimating that Keystone's approval would increase oil sands production by 36 per cent.

American-Led Strike in Syria Risks Return to Reckless Cowboy Era

Only a cynic could absorb the sight of children wrapped in body bags outside Damascus following the apparent chemical weapons attack and not feel a primal urge to see those who unleashed such evil punished.

Only an innocent could contemplate a world in which a brutal dictator can deploy such weapons without consequence and feel secure.

Yet only someone who has willfully dismissed the tragic lessons of the last dozen years could countenance the Obama administration unleashing its own lethal weapons against Syria absent the authority of the United Nations Security Council and without the active participation of a multi-national coalition. (And, no, France and Australia do not constitute enough.)

Obama's Big Syria Conundrum

Just because you should do something doesn't mean you ought to.

That might sum up one way of thinking about whether the United States should bomb Syria in response to the horrific chemical weapons attack presumably launched by regime forces against civilians earlier this month. The assault, which led to the deaths of 1,400 Syrians, including children, was a dramatic step over President Barack Obama's "red line" and prompted the administration to move toward a punitive strike that would be designed not to affect the ongoing balance of power in the continuing Syrian civil war but to deter President Bashar al-Assad and his military forces from further use of chemical weapons. Immediately, a trans-Atlantic debate ensued over whether such military action would be appropriate, effective, and wise. And this afternoon—as the White House released a four-page unclassified assessment declaring that Assad regime officials "were witting of and directed the attack on August 21"—Secretary of State John Kerry made a public statement presenting the case for a limited attack.