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, March 24, 2014

"A Slow Genocide of the People": Uranium Mining Leaves Toxic Nuclear Legacy on Indigenous Land

The iconic Grand Canyon is the site of a battle over toxic uranium mining. Last year, a company called Energy Fuels Resources was given federal approval to reopen a mine six miles from the Grand Canyon’s popular South Rim entrance. A coalition of Native and environmental groups have protested the decision, saying uranium mining could strain scarce water sources and pose serious health effects. Diné (Navajo) tribal lands are littered with abandoned uranium mines. From 1944 to 1986, 3.9 million tons of uranium ore were chiseled and blasted from the mountains and plains of the region. More than 1,000 mines have closed, but the mining companies never properly disposed of their radioactive waste piles, leading to a spike in cancer rates and other health ailments. Broadcasting from Flagstaff, Arizona, we speak with Taylor McKinnon, director of energy with Grand Canyon Trust, and Klee Benally, a Diné (Navajo) activist and musician. "It’s really a slow genocide of the people, not just indigenous people of this region, but it’s estimated that there are over 10 million people who are residing within 50 miles of abandoned uranium mines," Benally says. Benally also describes the struggle to preserve the San Francisco Peaks, an area considered sacred by 13 Native tribes, where the Snowbowl ski resort is using treated sewage water to make snow.

Author: --

Elections Canada, you got some ‘splainin’ to do

After 34 months on the scent of corruption most foul, Elections Canada may soon be calling off the hounds.

In about a week, we will either have the solution to the biggest unsolved crime in Canadian electoral history, or something far less satisfying. Here are 10 questions that need to be answered about what has come to be known as the Robocalls Affair.

EC investigator Al Mathews did a superb job of following the electronic tracks of Robocalls to the doors of the Conservative Party of Canada. Mathews learned that the list used by telephone fraudsters in the 2011 election matched a list from the Constituents Information Management System – (CIMS). 

Nato to bolster defences of Baltic states amid Ukraine crisis

Britain is to join forces with its Nato allies to help bolster defences of the Baltic states amid fears that Moscow may use the presence of substantial Russian minorities to destabilise Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

As Downing Street indicated that the leaders of the G7 countries were likely to punish Moscow for its annexation of Crimea by mothballing the larger G8, which includes Russia, the prime minister said Nato would send a "very clear message" to show it believed in the security of all its members.

Election bill doesn't close parties' privacy gaps

The Conservatives' election law reform bill clocks in at 242 pages, but doesn't have any measures to fill gaping holes in privacy protection that experts have been warning about for years.

The proposed updates to Canadian election law contained in Bill C-23 don't include measures to protect the private information that political parties hold and could actually make the situation worse, says Colin Bennett, a political science professor at the University of Victoria.

Climate Change Will Disrupt Food Supplies, Slow Economies, Cause Irreversible Damage, IPCC Finds

OSLO, March 23 (Reuters) - Global warming will disrupt food supplies, slow world economic growth and may already be causing irreversible damage to nature, according to a U.N. report due this week that will put pressure on governments to act.

A 29-page draft by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will also outline many ways to adapt to rising temperatures, more heatwaves, floods and rising seas.

Muslim Brotherhood Trial: Egypt Court Sentences 529 Morsi Supporters To Death

CAIRO, March 24 (Reuters) - An Egyptian court sentenced 529 members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood to death on Monday on charges including murder, a defence lawyer said, in a sharp escalation of a crackdown on the movement.

Most were arrested during clashes which erupted in the southern province of Minya after the forced dispersal of two Muslim Brotherhood protest camps in Cairo on August 14.

Political turmoil has deepened in Egypt since the army overthrew President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood last July.

Ukraine Says Air Force Commander Being Held After Crimea Base Stormed By Pro-Russian Forces

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — A Ukrainian air force commander is being held after his base in Crimea was stormed by pro-Russian forces, and the acting president called for his release Sunday.

Col. Yuliy Mamchur is the commander of the Belbek Air Force base near Sevastopol, which was taken over Saturday by forces who sent armored personnel carriers smashing through the base's walls and fired shots and stun grenades. One Ukrainian serviceman was reported wounded in the clash.

Europe Goes Soft on Conflict Minerals, Making Human Rights Optional

People in conflict zones don’t have a choice about living the midst of perpetual civil war, don’t choose to become child laborers and do not volunteer for enslavement in militia-controlled mines. But when it comes to the social responsibilities of companies that profit from the trade in conflict minerals, responding to such atrocities is mostly a matter of voluntarism.

The European Union’s new plan for restricting conflict minerals in global trade starts with good intentions, but basically ends there. The European Commission’s draft legislation, slated for implementation in 2015, aims to designate “responsible importers” that voluntarily keep their supply chains free of materials used to finance armed conflict, primarily sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola and South Sudan. The plan covers four key minerals integral to electronic products like cellphones—tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold—through a “self-certification” scheme based on global ethical sourcing guidelines. But since it is not mandatory, and therefore only targets companies that voluntarily opt in, rights groups worry that the scheme would codify the trend of letting the fox guard the multinational henhouse.

In Spain, Anti-Austerity March Draws Tens Of Thousands Of Protesters From All Over Country

MADRID (AP) — Spanish police and protesters clashed during an anti-austerity demonstration that drew tens of thousands of people to central Madrid on Saturday. Police said in a statement that six officers were injured and 12 people were arrested.

As a final speech was being given, some protesters attempted to break through a police barrier and make their way toward the nearby headquarters of the governing conservative Popular Party. Riot police then charged the protesters, who hurled bottles and other objects, and beat them back with batons.

CSIS tracking 80 Canadians who came home after going abroad for ‘terrorist purposes’

Intelligence officials are aware of about 80 Canadians who have returned home after going overseas for “terrorist purposes,” according to speaking notes prepared for the director of the nation’s spy agency.

The document obtained by Postmedia News does not offer explicit information about their activities, though it makes it clear that not all were involved in combat. While some individuals may have engaged in paramilitary activities, others are believed to have studied in extremist Islamic schools or provided logistical or fundraising support. Others never achieved their goals and simply returned home.

MacKay rewording Supreme Court Act while seeking court's advice on legality of Nadon's appointment

Faced with an unprecedented challenge to the legitimacy of the latest appointment to Supreme Court, Justice Minister Peter MacKay is rewriting the law that governs such choices.

At the same time, Mr MacKay says he is also asking the country’s highest court to determine whether the appointment of Justice Marc Nadon is legal under the Supreme Court Act.

The Supreme Court’s remarkable rejection of Marc Nadon

Unprecedented doesn’t begin to describe it.

The Supreme Court has soundly rejected an appointment to its own bench in a 6-1 decision. Never before has it dealt with a legal challenge to an appointment of one of its own. And now it has—for the first time—officially elaborated on its own place in the Constitution, so that any changes to its “composition,” including who is eligible to sit on its bench, now require the consent of all provinces in the form of a constitutional amendment.

Oil Spill In Galveston Bay After Barge Collides With Ship

McALLEN, Texas (AP) — A barge carrying nearly a million gallons of especially thick, sticky oil collided with a ship in Galveston Bay on Saturday, spilling an unknown amount of the fuel into the popular bird habitat just as the peak of the migratory shorebird season was approaching.

Booms were brought in to try to contain the spill, which the Coast Guard said was reported at around 12:30 p.m. by the captain of the 585-foot ship, Summer Wind.

Ebola Kills Dozens In Guinea, May Have Spread To Sierra Leone

CONAKRY, March 22 (Reuters) - Guinea has received confirmation that a mysterious disease that has killed up to 59 people in the West African country, and may have spread to neighbouring Sierra Leone, is the haemorrhagic fever Ebola, the government said on Saturday.

Cases of the disease - among the most virulent pathogens known to infect humans, with a fatality rate of up to 90 percent - have been registered in three southeastern towns and in the capital Conakry since Feb. 9. It has never before been recorded in Guinea.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister: Possibility Of War With Russia 'Very High' And 'Growing'

Ukraine Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia said Sunday that the likelihood of armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine was "very high" and "growing."

"I would say if you wanted to measure [the possibility of war] somehow, it's becoming higher," Deshchytsia told George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week." "Because the problem is that Russians, and particularly Putin’s administration -- Putin himself is not talking to the rest of the world, he doesn't want to listen to the world, he doesn't want to respond on the arguments."

NATO: Russia Has 'Sizeable' And 'Very, Very Ready' Forces At Ukraine Border

BRUSSELS, March 23 (Reuters) - NATO's top military commander said on Sunday that Russia had built up a large force on Ukraine's eastern border and he was worried Moscow may be eyeing Moldova's mainly Russian-speaking separatist Transdniestria region after annexing Crimea.

NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe, U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, voiced concern about Moscow using a tactic of snap military exercises to prepare its forces for possible rapid incursions into a neighbouring state, as it had done in the case of Ukraine's Crimea region.

Youth vote could have scuttled Harper majority: pollster

OTTAWA — It’s a common refrain among those who don’t bother to cast ballots in Canadian elections: “My vote won’t make any difference.”

But a new analysis of young non-voters in the last federal election suggests they should think again.

If young people had turned out to vote in the same numbers as the population overall in 2011, pollster Nik Nanos says his research suggests they would have changed not just the outcome of the election but the tone and content of the political debate.

Revealed: Apple and Google’s wage-fixing cartel involved dozens more companies, over one million employees

 “British medieval ordinances of Bristol cobblers in 1364 state, ‘Masters are forbidden to poach workers from other members of the craft.’”
— Orly Lobel, Talent Wants To Be Free

Meet Joe Oliver, frontman for a file run by the PMO

During his eight years running the nation’s finances, Jim Flaherty got some big things right. And he got some big things wrong.

Of course, in the glow of long service rendered, it’s tempting to glorify a politician’s tenure (think of how quick the chattering classes are to hand out ‘greatest-prime-minister-we-never-had’ trophies; I can recall at least three recipients). And what the hell, why not be gracious as an old warrior limps from the arena?

A short history of new Finance Minister Joe Oliver

Joe Oliver, Canada's new federal Minister of Finance, made quite a name for himself during his tenure as Minister of Natural Resources. In his former position Oliver proved himself a fierce and outspoken defender of the oilsands as the economic engine of Canada (even if he did tend to fudge the facts). But is it just the oilsands he wants to protect from the criticisms of the public? Or is there more to his fondness for corporations in general, even at the expense of public health and the national interest?
With Oliver moving to the helm of the country's finances, perhaps it's time to take a look back over his notable career.

American Race and Education Disparities Begin in Preschool

Black students are more likely to be suspended from American public schools than their white classmates, even as preschoolers, a new report has found.

The report, released Friday by the Department of Education’s civil rights arm, highlighted racial disparities in American education, “from access to high-level classes and experienced teachers to discipline,” The Guardian noted. The disparities begin at the earliest grades.
According to The Guardian:
Black children represent about 18% of children in pre-school programs in schools, but they make up almost half of the preschoolers who are suspended more than once, the report said. Six percent of the nation’s districts with preschools reported suspending at least one preschool child.
Advocates long have said get-tough suspension and arrest policies in schools have contributed to a “school-to-prison” pipeline that snags minority students, but much of the emphasis has been on middle school and high school policies. This was the first time the department reported data on pre-school discipline.
… Overall, the data show that black students of all ages are suspended and expelled at a rate that’s three times higher than that of white children. Even as boys receive more than two-thirds of suspensions, black girls are suspended at higher rates than girls of any other race or most boys.
Read more here.

Original Article
Author: Alexander Reed Kelly

Right-Wing Dutch Politician Geert Wilders May Face Legal Action After Promising ‘Fewer' Moroccans In The Netherlands

A conservative Dutch politician is being sued following a party meeting in which he told supporters he would ensure there were ‘fewer’ Moroccans in the Netherlands, according to Reuters.

Geert Wilders was speaking before supporters of the right-wing Freedom Party (PVV) on Wednesday when he asked the crowd whether they wanted the Netherlands to have “more or fewer” Moroccans.

What Paul Ryan and Obama Have In Common

It’s surprising that Congressman Paul Ryan has been so roundly condemned for blaming a culture of laziness for inner-city poverty. On March 12, Congressman Ryan said on Bill Bennett’s radio program that “Charles Murray or Bob Putnam over at Harvard, those guys have written books on…this tailspin of culture in our inner cities, in particular of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work; and so there’s a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.”

Conservatives keep electoral reform documents secret

OTTAWA—The Conservative government is keeping secret documents prepared for Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre as he drafted the controversial electoral reform bill.
In an unusual move, the Privy Council Office has refused to release all but three pages of a 199-page transition binder prepared for Poilievre when he assumed his cabinet post in July 2013.
Citing cabinet confidence, the department also heavily censored the three pages they released, including a table of contents with most of the contents blacked out.

As Foresters Disappear, Who Watches Over the Trees?

In the past five years, the British Columbia government has let go of 27 per cent of the foresters who watch over the province's billion-dollar forest industry.

Instead, it increasingly relies on industry and third-parties to self-report, and critics are raising doubts about whether government still has the capacity to adequately oversee forestry operations.

A report released yesterday by the Professional Employees Association (PEA), which represents government-licensed science officers such as foresters, reveals a trend of cutbacks to professionals in the public service.

Earth Will Cross the Climate Danger Threshold by 2036

The rate of global temperature rise may have hit a plateau, but a climate crisis still looms in the near future.

"Temperatures have been flat for 15 years--nobody can properly explain it," the Wall Street Journal says. "Global warming 'pause' may last for 20 more years, and Arctic sea ice has already started to recover," the Daily Mail says. Such reassuring claims about climate abound in the popular media, but they are misleading at best. Global warming continues unabated, and it remains an urgent problem.

San Cristobal Mayor Daniel Ceballos Arrested Amid Protests In Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Agents of Venezuela's domestic intelligence service on Wednesday arrested the opposition mayor of a western city that has been a crucible of anti-government resistance and which spawned the current wave of protests.

San Cristobal Mayor Daniel Ceballos, who a top aide said was arrested in a Caracas hotel, became the second opposition leader jailed by Venezuela's socialist-led government since the unrest began last month. Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez is being held on charges of arson and conspiracy.

American Schools Are STILL Racist, Government Report Finds

Public school students of color get more punishment and less access to veteran teachers than their white peers, according to surveys released Friday by the U.S. Education Department that include data from every U.S. school district.

Black students are suspended or expelled at triple the rate of their white peers, according to the U.S. Education Department's 2011-2012 Civil Rights Data Collection, a survey conducted every two years. Five percent of white students were suspended annually, compared with 16 percent of black students, according to the report. Black girls were suspended at a rate of 12 percent -- far greater than girls of other ethnicities and most categories of boys.

The biggest lease holder in Canada’s oil sands isn’t Exxon Mobil or Chevron. It’s the Koch brothers

You might expect the biggest lease owner in Canada's oil sands, or tar sands, to be one of the international oil giants, like Exxon Mobil or Royal Dutch Shell. But that isn't the case. The biggest lease holder in the northern Alberta oil sands is a subsidiary of Koch Industries, the privately-owned cornerstone of the fortune of conservative Koch brothers Charles and David.
The Koch Industries subsidiary holds leases on 1.1 million acres -- an area nearly the size of Delaware -- in the oil sands region of Alberta, Canada, according to an activist group that studied Alberta provincial records. The Post confirmed the group’s findings with Alberta Energy, the provincial government’s ministry of energy. Separately, industry sources familiar with oil sands leases said Koch’s lease holdings could be closer to two million acres. The companies with the next biggest net acreage positions in oil sands leases are Conoco Phillips and Shell, both close behind.

NSA: Tech Companies Knew About PRISM The Whole Time

Since leaked documents revealed that Internet companies like Apple, Facebook and Google were giving the National Security Agency vast access to people's online information under a scheme codenamed PRISM, those Silicon Valley titans have taken pains to deny participation in such a program.

But now, the NSA's top lawyer says that just isn't true.

When asked at a hearing on Wednesday whether tech companies knew about and assisted with PRISM's data collection, Rajesh De, the NSA's general counsel, said "Yes."

Radical U.N. Report Promotes Democratic Control of Food and an End to Corporate Domination

A new report submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council on the “Right to Food” took aim at the entire basis on which food is produced and distributed on a global scale. Reflecting the type of progressive analysis of our food system from experts like Vandana Shiva and Michael Pollan, report author Olivier De Schutter called for an undermining of large agribusinesses and an infusion of democratic control.

Although the report’s recommendations are revolutionary, news of its release went largely unreported in the major U.S. media.

While America Spars Over Keystone XL, A Vast Network Of Pipelines Is Quietly Being Approved

After countless marches, arrests, Congressional votes, and editorials, the five-and-a-half year battle over the controversial Keystone XL pipeline is nearing its end. If a recent ruling in Nebraska doesn’t delay the decision further, America could find out as soon as this spring whether or not the pipeline, which has become a focal point in America’s environmental movement, will be built.
But while critics and proponents of Keystone XL have sparred over the last few years, numerous pipelines — many of them slated to carry the same Canadian tar sands crude as Keystone — have been proposed, permitted, and even seen construction begin in the U.S. and Canada. Some rival Keystone XL in size and capacity; others, when linked up with existing and planned pipelines, would carry more oil than the 1,179-mile pipeline.

Koch Brothers' Cash Reigns Supreme In The Battles Of 2014

WASHINGTON -- Democrats appear to be winning the fundraising race at nearly every turn in Senate contests and doing well enough at the House level this year. Their congressional party committees and super PACs are on record pace ahead of their Republican counterparts, while the majority of Democratic incumbents in key races boast a financial advantage over their opponents. And yet, it's still likely Democrats will be outspent by wide margins.

Nunavummiut speak out to feed their families

Two years ago, communities across Nunavut joined together to speak out against the shockingly high food prices in the north, protesting in front of local grocery stores. This was the first time such actions had been organized in the remote, fly-in communities of Canada's northernmost territory. Feeding My Family (FMF) is the movement that grew out of these protests. The Facebook site quickly grew to over 19,000 members, and FMF has provided a forum for Nunavummiut to come together to share personal struggles and expose the impacts of hunger in the north. Members have been posting photos of the exorbitant food costs in the north, showing prices as high as  $28 for a head of cabbage and $99 for a whole fish .

Despite Redford's Departure, the Petro State Marches On

Alberta's political queen and pipeline champion, Alison Redford, has abdicated.

The media seems stunned: why would the premier, who in 2012 beat the odds and won a majority government, only serve half her term?

But personal vanities and the difficult political chore of running a petro state ruled by one party for 43 years simply got to be too much.

And so the lawyer, ever fond of pearls and expensive air travel, departed from the petroleum honeypot of Alberta as unceremoniously as her predecessor, Ed Stelmach.


A new and exciting book fell into my lap the other day, adding an archaic flavor to the current stew of apprehension and awe about where the world is going, and what we might find when it gets there. The book, by Eric H. Cline, an archeologist and anthropologist, is called “1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed.” It adds that remote date, previously inauspicious to all but scholars of the Late Bronze Age, to other, later ones—476 A.D., when Rome got sacked for good; 1348, the first year of the Black Plague; and that grim centennial favorite, 1914—as one more marker showing how a thriving civilization can gasp, fall over, and give up.

The robocalls cloud still hangs over Joe Oliver’s riding

Our new finance minister, Joe Oliver, still has a hurdle to clear.

Oliver’s riding of Eglington-Lawrence is among those being probed by Elections Canada in an investigation of automated robocalls and other alleged illicit activities in the 2011 election campaign. That investigation is scheduled to wind up shortly, with a report to follow soon after.

Oliver defeated Liberal incumbent Joe Volpe in that campaign by more than 4,000 votes. So convinced of wrongdoing was Volpe that he took the unusual step of filing a grievance with Elections Canada even before voting day. He said his supporters were being harassed by calls coming from North Dakota and elsewhere. Two years after the campaign he went to Elections Canada again with more allegations, which included a claim that large numbers of electors were wrongly registered.

Wireless Price Hikes: Tories Failing To Live Up To Promises, Analysts Say

MONTREAL - Canada's big three wireless carriers have put up prices on some of their voice and data plans since January, showing Ottawa is unable to live up to its promises of overall lower prices and increased competition, according to analysts.

Rogers, Bell and Telus have been able to increase prices because of their market dominance with smaller, new players like Wind Mobile and financially struggling Mobilicity up for sale, analysts said Wednesday.

25 Years Later, Exxon Valdez Spill Effects Linger

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Before the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico, there was the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska, at the time the nation's largest oil spill.

The 987-foot tanker, carrying 53 million gallons of crude, struck Bligh Reef at 12:04 a.m. on March 24, 1989. Within hours, it unleashed an estimated 10.8 million gallons of thick, toxic crude oil into the water. Storms and currents then smeared it over 1,300 miles of shoreline.

BP Pays $41.6 Million For New Gulf Of Mexico Drilling Leases, Including Tract Near Spill Site

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — High bids from Freeport-McMoRan Oil & Gas LLC made up more than one-third of the $850.8 million total at Wednesday's federal oil lease sale for the central Gulf of Mexico. It also was the first sale since the government said BP PLC can again secure federal contracts; the company made $41.6 million in high bids.

Freeport-McMoRan's 16 high bids totaled $321.4 million, including the day's biggest — $68.8 million — and six of the 10 highest, according to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

Canada's Digital Divide Persists, CIRA Report Shows

Canada is one of the most wired countries in the world, but a growing number of connected households is not helping to close a persistent digital divide, a new report suggests.

The Canadian Internet Registration Authority’s 2014 Factbook found that 87 per cent of Canadian households are now connected to the internet, compared to 80 per cent in 2010. The country ranks 16th globally in terms of internet penetration rates.