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, December 16, 2013

Michigan's Mysterious Tar Balls

After Enbridge's Line 6B ruptured in 2010, spilling approximately 30,000 barrels of diluted bitumen (dilbit) into Michigan's Kalamazoo River, 47-year-old Craig Ritter couldn't believe the strange rocks he started to find on the river bottom.

The bizarre formations, the size of volley balls or melons, often resembled giant Easter eggs.

And they lined the bottom of the river downstream of the 51-kilometre-long spill all the way to Lake Michigan.

As Foreign Temp Program Rolls on, Oil Patch Workers Replaced

The federal government's simple fixes to Canada's Temporary Foreign Worker Program don't begin to solve some of the more serious problems, a Tyee reader-funded investigation has learned, with victims still being created both at home and abroad.

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) has been under intense scrutiny for a year after the United Steelworkers discovered advertisements for mining jobs in Canada requesting Mandarin as a language requirement.

Soon after, The Tyee discovered advertisements in China offering employment in Canadian mines for a hefty fee of C$12,500, more than a year's wages in some parts of China. The wages offered were also lower than Canadian residents doing the same job, according to unions.

Irrational energy illusions and a gold-rush mentality: The case against fracking

With anti-fracking protests ongoing in New Brunswick, Premier David Alward has been going around with a strangely blissful look on his face, proclaiming his determination to forge ahead because of the gusher of tax revenues and jobs he claims will surely follow.

New Brunswick, running deficits of over a half billion dollars a year, is especially desperate, which is unfortunately what all this is about. But the issue reverberates in other provinces, including Nova Scotia.

Humanitarian crisis continues for Palestinians, Gaza's Ark gets ready to set sail

"We don’t expect to have an easy ride out of Gaza," says Ehab Lotayef, a Montreal based spokesperson for the Gaza’s Ark international campaign.

Gaza's Ark is preparing a freshly renovated cargo vessel bearing non-perishable Palestinian products to leave the port of Gaza this spring. Gaza's Ark will attempt to get past the Israeli led blockade for the open sea in the eastern Mediterranean for foreign markets.

Harper and His Movement Were No Friends to Mandela

Of all the hypocrisies revealed by Stephen Harper, perhaps none are so morally offensive as his sudden, solemn respect for Nelson Mandela. We will never know how Harper would reconcile his past attitudes towards apartheid with his trip to South Africa to honour the iconic statesman at his memorial.

In 1989 Harper was a member of the Northern Foundation (NF) about the same time that he became policy chief of the Reform Party. The exclusive mandate of the NF was to counter the serious efforts of the Canadian government of Brian Mulroney to pressure the South African government to release Nelson Mandela from prison and to end apartheid.

Some Hill staffers forgoing raises, refuse to sign gag order

Some Hill political staffers are forgoing salary raises in order to not sign a mandatory lifetime loyalty and confidentiality agreement currently causing alarm bells to go off in some MPs’ offices.

The secretive Commons Board of Internal Economy (BOIE), an all-party board which oversees House administration, sent a memo to all MPs’ offices explaining there would be a change to standardized confidentiality agreements in March, which would take effect starting April 1.

Toronto Subway Shooting: Police Officers Too Quick To Open Fire?

TORONTO - All of the facts have yet to emerge in a police shooting at a Toronto subway station, but it has renewed debate over how officers in Canada's largest city use force.

A few dozen of protesters turned out Sunday night for a rally outside the downtown subway station where an 18-year-old was shot Friday night and sent to hospital.

42 Private College Presidents Make More Than $1M, And Harvard's Isn't One Of Them

Harvard University may be the richest institution of higher education, but its president is far from being the richest private college chief executive.

Forty-two presidents of private colleges were compensated with more than $1 million by their schools in 2011, up from 36 the previous year, according to a report released Sunday by the Chronicle of Higher Education on Sunday. The report analyzed how much 550 private college presidents made in 2011, concluding the median total compensation was $410,523.

Keith Alexander, Rick Ledgett Discuss Amnesty For Edward Snowden

Director of the National Security Agency Gen. Keith Alexander doesn't believe amnesty is the answer to ending Edward Snowden's leaks of classified documents.

In an interview that aired on CBS' "60 Minutes" on Sunday, Alexander likened the scenario to a hostage situation: If an individual was to shoot 10 of 50 hostages, Alexander explained, he shouldn't be set free in exchange for the 40 remaining hostages.

Deadbeat Governments

’Tis the season for taking retirement benefits away from public workers. In Detroit, an emergency manager has steered the city into bankruptcy, in part to avoid its pension obligations. In Illinois, the legislature just passed a bill cutting pensions and raising the retirement age for state workers, in the hope of saving a hundred and sixty billion dollars in pension costs over the next thirty years. And these moves are only the most dramatic instances of a broader trend: between 2009 and 2012, forty-five states passed some kind of pension reform. Pensions are supposed to be dull and reliable. But they’re now the locus of bruising political battles.

The reason is simple: though plenty of states and cities have managed to maintain healthy pension funds, in many places pension costs are eating up huge chunks of the budget. New Jersey’s and California’s pension funds are both in deep holes. San Diego now spends more than twenty per cent of its operating budget on pensions; San Jose spends a quarter of its budget on them. Illinois needs to come up with nearly a hundred billion dollars just to pay off obligations it is already committed to.

Israel retaliates after soldier killed by Lebanese sniper

Israeli forces reportedly shot two Lebanese soldiers on Monday, just hours after a Lebanese army sniper killed an Israeli soldier as he drove along the border between the two countries.

The first shooting took place near the Rosh Hanikra border crossing which has been mostly calm since a month-long war between Hezbollah and Israel in the summer of 2006. The soldier killed was identified as Shlomi Cohen, 31, from the northern Israeli city of Afula.

Aid To China Criticised After Beijing Lands Space Probe On The Moon

China, the world's second-largest economy, is still receiving millions of pounds in aid from Britain - despite having its own space programme.

The Government has been criticised after figures seen by the Daily Mail show the UK distributed £27.4 million to the country last year.

China celebrated at the weekend when it successfully landed a space probe on the moon.

Peers Told To Back Plan To Strip Expense Cheats Of Allowances

Peers have been told to back measures that would allow expenses cheats to be banned from claiming allowances once they return to parliament following a suspension.

Under the current rules there is nothing to stop members of the House of Lords from claiming the maximum amount in expenses and taking advantage of parliamentary banqueting facilities even if they have served time in prison for committing expenses fraud.

Nick Clegg: Theresa May's EU Migrant Plan Is 'Illegal And Undeliverable'

Nick Clegg has dismissed the idea of limiting immigration from the European Union, floated by home secretary Theresa May, as "illegal and undeliverable".

Reports of a leaked Home Office paper on Sunday suggested that May wants to introduce a cap on migration from the EU, possibly at 75,000 a year - around 30,000 lower than the current level.

Kusturica: Why does NATO still exist? To fight terrorism? It’s laughable!

As Brussels goes into a renewed push to bring more countries into its fold, the divisions between nations in fact go deeper. The call for European integration rings on Kiev squares – and some fear it will turn into western expansion. Who knows what’s for the best? Today we look at the picture not through the eyes of experts or politicians. We ask a great artist about the changes in the air: Emir Kusturica – filmmaker, actor, writer, and musician is on SophieCo.

‘Whole families murdered’: Syrian rebels execute over 80 civilians outside Damascus

Over 80 civilians in a town northwest of the Syrian capital of Damascus have been executed by Islamist rebels, sources within the Syrian military told RT. Many others were kidnapped to be used as human shields.

Government forces are continuing a large-scale operation against Jabhat al-Nusra and Liwa Al-Islam fighters, who captured the town earlier this week. The area is located some 20 kilometers away from Damascus.

Fracking waste water could be used to make cement

The Nova Scotia government is considering a proposal that could help get rid of waste water from the hydraulic fracturing or fracking process.

The Lafarge cement plant in Brookfield has applied to use the water in its cement-making.

There are an estimated 27 million litres of fracking waste water in Nova Scotia. Some of it contains so-called Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORMs). Fracking waste water is stored at the Atlantic Industrial Services facility in Debert, as well as in holding ponds in Kennetcook and Noel.

Rural N.Y. Communities Use Fracking Waste to De-Ice Roads

What the hell are they thinking?

Several rural communities and counties in New York have received permission from state regulators—despite a state fracking moratorium and a warning from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency—to spread fracking waste brine on roads as a de-icer.

Environmental group Riverkeeper, which focuses on the health of the Hudson River, warns that the liquid can move into watersheds, a concern that led nine other counties in the state to ban the practice. And remember, this is mystery juice. The natural gas industry, the frackheads who inject the fluid into subterranean shale formations to force out natural gas, has kept the chemical makeup of the fluid a closely held industrial secret.

America’s Child Soldiers

Congress surely meant to do the right thing when, in the fall of 2008, it passed the Child Soldiers Prevention Act (CSPA). The law was designed to protect kids worldwide from being forced to fight the wars of Big Men. From then on, any country that coerced children into becoming soldiers was supposed to lose all U.S.  military aid.

It turned out, however, that Congress—in its rare moment of concern for the next generation—had it all wrong. In its greater wisdom, the White House found countries like Chad and Yemen so vital to the national interest of the United States that it preferred to overlook what happened to the children in their midst.

As required by CSPA, this year the State Department once again listed 10 countries that use child soldiers: Burma (Myanmar), the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda,  Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.  Seven of them were scheduled to receive millions of dollars in U.S. military aid as well as what’s called “U.S. Foreign Military Financing.”  That’s a shell game aimed at supporting the Pentagon and American weapons makers by handing millions of taxpayer dollars over to such dodgy “allies,” who must then turn around and buy “services” from the Pentagon or “materiel” from the usual merchants of death. You know the crowd: Lockheed Martin, McDonnell Douglas, Northrop Grumman, and so on.

Jim Flaherty Implies Jason Kenney Crossed Onto His Turf In Criticizing Rob Ford

OTTAWA - Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is saying little about a report that he had sharp words with a cabinet colleague for criticizing Toronto's embattled mayor, but hinted it had to do with political turf.

The CBC has reported Flaherty confronted Jason Kenney in the House of Commons last month after the employment minister called for Rob Ford's resignation.

Sheriffs Refuse to Enforce Laws on Gun Control

GREELEY, Colo. — When Sheriff John Cooke of Weld County explains in speeches why he is not enforcing the state’s new gun laws, he holds up two 30-round magazines. One, he says, he had before July 1, when the law banning the possession, sale or transfer of the large-capacity magazines went into effect. The other, he “maybe” obtained afterward.

 He shuffles the magazines, which look identical, and then challenges the audience to tell the difference.

“How is a deputy or an officer supposed to know which is which?” he asks.

Cuts to care funding mean half a million fewer looked after, study finds

Almost half a million fewer old and disabled people are receiving care and support from the public purse than would have been the case before the financial crash, according to an expert study.

The research comes as MPs vote on Monday on the coalition's care bill, which aims to overhaul the care system in England but threatens to tighten still further the rules of eligibility for state support.

Charities and care organisations are calling on ministers to address a "black hole" in social care funding which they say has left the system short of £2.8bn a year that would be necessary to meet people's needs assessed as "moderate".

The cost of Harper's 'Delete' on mail

Stephen Harper’s Canada Post problem — its restless union, its failure to thrive, its continued existence —has been solved, but at a terrible cost to Canadians. Five years from now, how isolated and privatized are we going to be?

Harper did it in the beautifully guileless manner of those TV ads at 3 a.m., as Hugh Laurie would put it. “Tired of heavy things? Use light things. Frustrated by hard? Try easy. Can’t sleep? Lie down.”

Harper can’t stand city home delivery? Start not-at-home delivery. Sick of handing out EI cheques? Cease to do so. Against people putting their hands up? Cancel the census.

PMO snubs CTV for year-end Harper sit-down

The Prime Minister’s Office has yet to say which media outlets will be afforded the traditional year-end interviews with Stephen Harper this month, but we know for certain that CTV won’t be on the list.

Harper’s director of communications, Jason MacDonald, confirmed that the PM will bypass the broadcaster for the second consecutive year, despite the network’s long history of interviewing prime ministers at Christmas.

"Makes Absolutely No Sense": David Cay Johnston on Budget Deal That Helps Billionaires, Not the Poor

A bipartisan budget deal to avert another government shutdown comes before the Senate this week. The vast majority of House members from both parties approved the two-year budget agreement last week in a 332-to-94 vote. It is being hailed as a breakthrough compromise for Democrats and Republicans. The bill eases across-the-board spending cuts, replacing them with new airline fees and cuts to federal pensions. In a concession by Democrats, it does not extend unemployment benefits for 1.3 million people, which are set to expire this month. To discuss the deal, we are joined by David Cay Johnston, an investigative reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize while at The New York Times. He is currently a columnist for Tax Analysts and Al Jazeera, as well as a contributing editor at Newsweek.

Author: --

Labour shortage predicted for mining industry

VANCOUVER - Glen Paul still remembers his first week on the job at a copper-gold mine in British Columbia's Interior — a position, he says, he landed three years ago as a "fluke" after taking a course to operate heavy machinery.

Paul says he didn't start his training with a specific plan to end up in the mining industry, but there he was at the New Afton project near Kamloops, which at the time was still two years away from full production.

By his second day, he was standing underground for an orientation of the mine site.

France: President Francois Hollande Will Not Attend 2014 Winter Olympics In Russia's Sochi

PARIS, Dec 15 (Reuters) - Neither President Francois Hollande nor any top French official will attend the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia's Sochi, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Sunday.

Fabius offered no explanation for the move.

The decision to hold the Winter Olympics in Russia has been criticised in France due to concerns about human rights abuses and a law passed in June that bans "gay propaganda" which critics say discriminates against homosexuals.

"There are no plans to attend," Fabius told Europe 1 radio, referring to Hollande and himself. "Top French officials have no plans to be there."

German President Joachim Gauck's office announced last week that he would not be attending the Games and the government's human rights commissioner praised Gauck's decision as a "wonderful gesture". (Reporting By Nicholas Vinocur; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Original Article
Author: Reuters

Amherst College Sexual Assault Policies Treat Alleged Rapists Better Than Laptop Thieves

A few months after Angie Epifano accused Amherst College of failing her as a rape victim, the school president travelled from Massachusetts to Alabama to meet with her for a few hours.

Epifano left Amherst in summer 2012. That October, she published a lengthy op-ed in the school newspaper, writing that the college failed to adequately respond to her report of sexual assault, and sent her to a psychiatric ward after she told a school counselor she felt depressed. The article rocked the campus, drew national attention and prompted Amherst President Biddy Martin to immediately order a task force to review sexual violence policies.

Ukraine: 200,000 Anti-Government Protesters Converge On Central Square Of Kiev

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — About 200,000 anti-government protesters converged on the central square of Ukraine's capital Sunday in a dramatic show of morale after nearly four weeks of daily protests, but the rally was shadowed by suggestions that their goal of closer ties with Europe may be imperiled.

A much smaller demonstration of government supporters, about 15,000, was taking place about a kilometer (less than a mile) away from Kiev's Independence Square. Anti-government protesters have set up an extensive tent camp there and erected barricades of snow hardened with freezing water and studded with scrap wood and other junk.

Google will not answer to British court over UK privacy claim

Google has been called "arrogant and immoral" for arguing that a privacy claim brought by internet users in the UK should not be heard by the British legal system.

The search giant will tell the high court on Monday that it should throw out claims that it secretly tracked the browsing habits of millions of iPhone users.

In the first group claim brought against Google in the UK, the internet firm has insisted that the lawsuit must be brought in California, where it is based, instead of a British courtroom.

NSA officials consider Edward Snowden amnesty in return for documents

National Security Agency officials are considering a controversial amnesty that would return Edward Snowden to the United States, in exchange for the extensive document trove the whistleblower took from the agency.

An amnesty, which does not have the support of the State Department, would represent a surprising denouement to an international drama that has lasted half a year. It is particularly unexpected from a surveillance agency that has spent months insisting that Snowden’s disclosures have caused vast damage to US national security.