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.]

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Grassroots movements in U.S. politics are challenging the establishment and winning

The cable news channels wasted no time before crowing over the landslide re-election victory of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. According to exit polls, Christie won a majority of both women and Latino voters, traditional Democratic voting blocs. The political chattering class is abuzz with Christie as the GOP's great hope to retake the White House in 2016. But they miss a vital and growing undercurrent in U.S. politics: grassroots movements at the local and state level that are challenging the establishment, and winning.

Species at risk are victims of Harper's love affair with big oil

The federal Environment Commissioner, Neil Maxwell, is only acting on an interim basis, and doing his best under the circumstances.

His predecessor, Scott Vaughan, left before his term was up.

Vaughan was diplomatic. He did not say he left out of frustration with the Conservatives’ passive-aggressive approach to the environment.

But his last report sternly took the Conservative government to task for failing to enforce the 1999 Canadian Environmental Protection Act, an act Vaughan called Canada’s principal federal environmental statute.

Israel says Separation Wall will be border

Israeli negotiators have told their Palestinian counterparts that the Separation Wall that cuts through the occupied West Bank will serve as the border of a future Palestinian state, local media reports said.

Just hours before US Secretary of State John Kerry's arrival for top-level talks on ongoing direct peace negotiations on Tuesday, two press reports said the Israeli team had made the proposal.

"Israel's opening position was that the border be the route of the separation barrier [wall], and not the 1967 lines as the Palestinians have demanded," public radio said in a report, which also featured in the top-selling Yediot Aharonot.

Forget the Backdoor: The Government Now Wants Keys to the Internet

Internet privacy relies heavily on the ability of tech companies to hide user content—such as your emails and bank information—behind a secure wall. But the Department of Justice is waging an unprecedented battle in court to win the power to seize the keys of US companies whenever the US government wants. Edward Snowden has shown that the government is already doing a great job at getting companies to hand over information, breaking down weak doors, and scooping up unlocked material. But if the Justice Department succeeds in this case, it will be far easier for it to do so, and—poof!—there will no longer be any guarantee of Internet privacy.

Anti-Fracking Measures Pass In 3 Of 4 Colorado Cities On Election Day

Voters in three communities in Colorado succeeded in passing fracking moratoriums or outright bans on election night Tuesday.

By Wednesday morning, nearly all of the votes had been tallied and the anti-fracking measures had passed handily in the Colorado cities of Lafayette, Boulder and Fort Collins, but appeared to be failing in neighboring Broomfield, where rumors began swirling of a recount.

The Voters Of Washington State Don't Want To Know If Their Food Was Genetically Modified

SEATTLE -- SEATTLE (AP) — Voters in Washington state have rejected a ballot measure requiring mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods.

The campaign over Initiative 522 drew millions of dollars from out of state and was one of the costliest initiative fights in state history.

California Mercury Water Contamination Will Worsen With Climate Change: Study

SAN FRANCISCO -- High in the Sierra Nevada, the Yuba River winds through the northeastern mountains of California. The area, just west of Tahoe National Forest, is home to dense forests, crystal-blue lakes and hills that sparkle with the mineral deposits that gave the area its famous nickname -- Gold Country.

The region was the focus of the 1849 Gold Rush, California's great legacy, which led to San Francisco's founding and California's statehood. But the Gold Rush left the state with a darker legacy, as well.

U.S. Trashes Afghanistan Gear, Angering Afghans Who Could Use Equipment

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) — The withdrawing U.S. military is destroying most of the equipment it is leaving behind in Afghanistan after 13 years of war, selling the scrap for millions of dollars to those willing to buy it.

The policy stands in stark contrast to the Americans' withdrawal from Iraq, when they donated or sold still-usable items worth about $100 million.

China's President Charts Path For 'Comprehensive Reform' Amid Economic, Environmental Problems

BEIJING -- China has a situation.

For three decades, the ruling Communist Party has pressed an effective formula in engineering an extraordinary economic transformation. The party lifted key state controls, enabling private businesses to take root. It invested heavily in highways, ports and other industrial infrastructure while courting foreign investment and handing out land for manufacturing operations. Chinese-made products landed on shelves around the globe, and inland farmers flocked to the coasts to take up new factory jobs, sending home wages that have sent children to school and purchased modern conveniences. In this fashion, some 600 million Chinese have been lifted from poverty.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reached New Highs In 2012, World Meterological Organization Says

GENEVA, Nov 6 (Reuters) - Atmospheric volumes of greenhouse gases blamed for climate change hit a new record in 2012, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said on Wednesday.

"For all these major greenhouse gases the concentrations are reaching once again record levels," WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud told a news conference in Geneva at which he presented the U.N. climate agency's annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin .

UK property taxes highest in developed world, says thinktank

British people pay the highest levels of property taxes in the developed world and more than twice the average for the 34 rich countries in the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), according to a thinktank report.

The right-of-centre Policy Exchange said politicians should reject new levies on property – such as the "mansion tax" on residences worth over £2m favoured by the Liberal Democrats and Labour – and instead pledge to bring down housing costs by building 1.5m new homes by the end of the decade.

All meetings with RCMP must be approved by Conservatives, documents show

OTTAWA—The federal Conservatives are directly exerting strict communications control over the RCMP and its new top cop, documents obtained by the Star reveal.

Public Safety documents released under Access to Information show that top political staff of Minister Vic Toews oversaw and approved the design of the new RCMP communications protocol that put the national police force on a tighter leash.

As the Star first reported, that protocol requires the RCMP to flag anything that might “garner national media attention” to Public Safety Canada.

Greek riot police evict last ERT staff

Greek riot police have stormed the premises of the country's erstwhile state broadcaster, ERT, evicting former employees who had occupied the building since June in protest at the government's abrupt decision to close down the channel.

In a carefully calibrated pre-dawn raid on Thursday, 13 vans of riot police surrounded the complex in northern Athens before blocking its entrance and removing the workers. Scuffles broke out and teargas was fired as the police moved in.

UK spy chiefs to face MPs over mass surveillance

The three heads of the British intelligence agencies are to make an unprecedented public televised appearance in front of the intelligence and security committee of MPs where they will seek to justify the scale of their surveillance activities.

Before the 90-minute hearing on Thursday afternoon, the former head of GCHQ Sir David Omand claimed the effectiveness of the committee itself was as much on show as the spy chiefs themselves.

Along with Ford, Canada's Political Leadership Hits Rock Bottom

There was a time when it was frowned on for the mayor of a major city to smoke crack and hang with shady characters. And while Rob Ford has much to answer for, his supporters in "Ford Nation" have been on a dangerous bender of their own.

Mayor Ford's puzzling popularity in the face of one salacious scandal after another seems propelled by his cheapening of values that appeals to a morally lazy electorate. Like a pair of drunks egging each other on, Ford and his die-hard supporters are enabling each other's bad behaviour that goes far beyond mere substance abuse.

Suspension of three senators 'dangerous,' Joe Clark says

Former prime minister Joe Clark says the suspension of three senators over alleged “gross negligence” regarding their expense claims was “dangerous” because all the facts aren’t in.

In an interview with CTV’s Power Play to promote his new book, “How We Lead: Canada in a Century of Change,” Clark said he “understands the impulses” behind the move to suspend Senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau without pay or access to Senate resources for the remainder of the Parliamentary session.

Climate Change Poll: Many Don't Know Canada Out Of Kyoto Agreement

A majority of Canadians don’t realize that the Harper government has pulled Canada out of the landmark Kyoto Protocol climate change agreement, according to a new poll from Canada2020.

The progressive-leaning think tank found a vast majority of Canadians — 88 per cent — want the federal government to take the lead on climate change, and 71 per cent want the government to make it a “high priority.” Only 16 per cent believe the issue actually is a top priority for the government.

B.C. Children's Advocate: Ministry Squandered Millions, Improved Nothing

VICTORIA - The British Columbia government needs to stop wasting millions of dollars on ill-conceived initiatives and start taking direct action to help aboriginal children and youth, the province's children's watchdog said Wednesday.

In a scathing 92-page report that includes detailed tables of expenditures, B.C.'s Representative for Children and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond said the Ministry of Children and Family Development has spent roughly $66 million in the last dozen years on "big, blue sky initiatives." However, there is no evidence that a single aboriginal child or family has received better service as a result.

Protecting Alberta's Environment Act Criticized By Opposition

The Alberta government may as well hire a group of ballerinas and a railway engineer to monitor the oilsands, the Alberta Liberals charge, thanks to a bill soon to be made law in the Alberta Legislature.

The Alberta government passed legislation on Tuesday night for an arm's-length panel to monitor the environment and help officials reduce pollution in years to come.

Julian Fantino Calls White Poppies 'Offensive' To Veterans

A campaign to hand out white poppy pins is "an offensive attempt to politicize Remembrance Day," says Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino.

Fantino, an MP for the Ontario riding of Vaughan, was responding to a campaign by the Rideau Institute in Ottawa to hand out the white poppies, instead of the traditional red ones, under the slogan "I remember for peace."

Last year, 18 million traditional red poppies were pinned on Canadians. The campaign raised $14 million for various veterans services.

Ron Paul Basically Called for Armed Revolution This Week

Way back in 2012, when he was running for president, Ron Paul seemed to some people like a breath of fresh air. Sure, maybe he was a bit of a crank, but at least he didn't sanitize his beliefs in order to avoid offending people. He said what he meant, and he meant what he said.

The Ray Kelly ‘Shoutdown’: Free-Speech Failure or Democracy in Action?

If Bill de Blasio’s landslide win is any indication, it’s clear that liberals—and New Yorkers in general—deplore Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and his controversial stop-and-frisk policy. So it was no surprise that when he went to Brown University on October 29, his appearance generated a certain amount of buzz. What was unusual was that, after about half an hour of booing and heckling from the audience of students and members of the public, Kelly and the Brown administration were forced to cancel the talk. Was this “shoutdown” an abrogation of free speech or a necessary moment of speaking truth to power? The Nation asked writers Rania Khalek, Richard Yeselson, Jesse A. Myerson and Nation columnist Katha Pollitt to weigh in.

The Right Thinks Anti-Gay, Anti-Choice Cuccinelli Wasn’t Conservative Enough

Republicans just lost the Virginia gubernatorial race to Terry McAuliffe, a smarmy, unlikeable Clinton hack with negligible governing experience. They did it by putting up Ken Cuccinelli, an anti-abortion absolutist who also wants to ban sodomy, and whose running mate, E.W. Jackson, thinks yoga leads to Satanism. This, clearly, is going to lead conservatives to rethink the value of ideological maximalism, and to seek more pragmatic candidates in future elections.

Renisha McBride, 19, Shot To Death On Metro Detroit Porch While Trying To Get Help, Family Says

A woman who appeared to need help in the middle of the night and was subsequently shot to death may have been the victim in a case of self-defense gone wrong, according to WJBK-TV.

Renisha McBride, 19, was killed after Saturday in Dearborn Heights, Mich, located just west of Detroit. Her family says she approached a stranger's house for help around 2:30 a.m. after she had a car accident, according to the Detroit News. She was fatally shot on the porch.

McBride’s aunt Bernita Spinks told the paper she believes it was a case of racial profiling.

NYPD Officer Risks His Job to Speak Out Against "Stop-and-Frisk" Targeting of People of Color

The New York City Police Department’s controversial "stop-and-frisk" program was a major issue for voters going to the polls in the city’s mayoral election. The issue drew widespread attention in August when U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin found stop-and-frisk unconstitutional, saying police had relied on a "policy of indirect racial profiling" that led officers to routinely stop "blacks and Hispanics who would not have been stopped if they were white." While she did not halt use of the tactic, Scheindlin appointed a federal court monitor to oversee a series of reforms. In a dramatic development last week, those reforms were put on hold. On Thursday, an appeals court stayed the changes, effectively allowing police officers to continue using stop-and-frisk. We get reaction from a police officer who has spoken out about problems with the program he and thousands of others are asked to carry out. Adhyl Polanco became critical of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy when his superiors told officers to meet a quota of stops, or face punishment. Polanco made audio recordings of the quotas being described during meetings in his precinct and brought his concerns to authorities, but he said he was ignored. He then took his audio tapes to the media, including The Village Voice, where reporter Graham Rayman wrote a series called "The NYPD Tapes," featuring several police officers like him. For several years, Polanco was suspended with pay. He has returned to work on the police force, where he has been put on modified assignment. "You cannot treat the whole black and Latino community as if they are all about to commit a crime," Polanco says. "I’ll handcuff anybody who’s committing a crime. But when you take a male black [and say]: 'Cuff him, he doesn't look like he belongs here.’ Cuff him for what?"

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With Wins for de Blasio, Minimum Wage and Tea Party Losses, Voters Signal Rejection of Austerity

Election Day was held Tuesday, deciding state and local races across the country. In Virginia, former Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McAuliffe was elected governor, defeating tea party-backed Ken Cuccinelli, the state’s attorney general. McAulliffe’s victory was seen as a rebuke of the tea party-backed government shutdown that impacted many of the state’s workers. In New Jersey, Republican Gov. Chris Christie easily won re-election, paving the way for a possible presidential run in 2016. New Jersey voters also approved a constitutional amendment to raise the minimum wage by $1, to $8.25 an hour, and add automatic cost-of-living increases each year. Christie vetoed a similar bill last year. Backers of a measure to impose a $15-an-hour minimum wage at Seattle’s international airport and surrounding hotels have also declared victory. After campaigning on a vow to tackle inequality, Bill de Blasio won an overwhelming victory to become the first Democrat mayor of New York City in two decades. In another closely watched race, the union-backed Martin Walsh was elected mayor of Boston. "When I look across this country, I’m seeing results that say people are really ready to look at an alternative to austerity," says John Nichols, political writer for The Nation. "They want something different than just 'cut, cut, cut.'" We also discuss the results of several other ballot measures, including victories for legalized marijuana in Maine and Colorado, and the defeat of a GMO-labeling proposal in Washington state.

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Yasser Arafat Poisoned? Swiss Scientists Say They Found Lethal Level Of Polonium In Palestinian Leader's Body

PARIS, Nov 6 (Reuters) - Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was poisoned to death in 2004 with radioactive polonium, his widow Suha said on Wednesday after receiving the results of Swiss forensic tests on her husband's corpse.

"We are revealing a real crime, a political assassination," she told Reuters in Paris.

A team of experts, including from Lausanne University Hospital's Institute of Radiation Physics, opened Arafat's grave in the West Bank city of Ramallah last November, and took samples from his body to seek evidence of alleged poisoning.