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.]

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Police Tase Black Man Who Was Sitting On A Chair While Waiting To Pick Up His Kids

The shooting of unarmed teenager Mike Brown rekindled a debate about why police seem to target African Americans. Cell phone video posted this week suggests that clashes between unarmed black men and police can happen over little more than sitting on a chair.
Chris Lollie, 28, says he was waiting to pick up his children in a skyway in St. Paul, Minnesota, after working the night shift in a nearby restaurant. A security guard told him the seemingly public area he was sitting in was reserved for employees. Lollie, suspecting he’s being singled out for his race, responded that there was no sign saying so. The guard called the police, who confronted Lollie.

Obama’s Racial Justice Initiative—for Boys Only

On a Saturday morning in mid-July, about seventy-five recent high school graduates and college underclassmen—all young black men—crowded into the Laney College student center in downtown Oakland, California. Some were accompanied by parents, mostly their mothers. Some wore red button-up shirts and black ties that marked them as members of the Striving Black Brothers Coalition, a group that provides mentorship to young African-American men attending a nearby community college. One wore a letterman-style jacket issued by another college-prep program geared toward black youth. Embroidered on the back was a question: What if the prince dared to be king?

Safety Board final report on Lac Mégantic disaster is sharply critical of railway regulation, but federal gov't unmoved

Canada's Transportation Safety Board issued a 181-page report on August 19 detailing the breakdown in application and enforcement of federal rail safety regulations that caused the deaths of 47 people in the oil train disaster in Lac Mégantic, Quebec on July 6, 2013. (Read the 12-page executive summary here.)

The TSB report identified 18 distinct causes and contributing factors in which safety procedures and regulations failed or were not applied. These pertain to the operations and equipment of Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, the short-line company that was receiving crude oil trains from CP Rail south of Montreal and then running them through Quebec and Maine to Irving Oil in New Brunswick; the oil tanker cars that are used by railways across North America to transport oil; and lax procedures and enforcement by Transport Canada over railway operations in Canada.

Surplus military gear moves from battle to U.S. police forces

If the armoured personnel carriers rolling down the streets of Ferguson, Mo., this month looked as though they belonged in Iraq or Afghanistan, that’s because some of them once did.

Over the last seven years, the Pentagon says it has given police forces in St. Louis county (which includes the suburb of Ferguson) seven Humvees, three helicopters, 15 weapon-aiming sights, two night-vision devices, a cargo trailer, as well as pistols, rifles and a bomb-disposal robot.

U.N. Condemns U.S. Police Brutality, School Segregation And 'Stand Your Ground'

A U.N. committee urged the U.S. Friday to stop police brutality, in light of the shooting of Michael Brown that set off the riots in Ferguson, Mo.

In a news briefing Friday, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (C.E.R.D.) vice chairman Noureddine Amir said the "excessive use of force by law enforcement officials against racial and ethnic minorities is an ongoing issue of concern."

Alberta Chiefs Boycott Meetings With Province Over Development Of First Nation Lands

EDMONTON - A dozen northern Alberta chiefs say they will boycott the province's attempt to implement legislation to regulate consultation with industry over development on their lands.

"We're sick and tired of someone telling us what to do and thinking for us," Rose Laboucan, chief of the Driftpile First Nation, said Thursday. "We can think for ourselves."

Putin Reminds West Russia Is One Of The 'Largest Nuclear Powers'

Do not "mess with Russia" was the bellicose offering from Vladimir Putin on Friday, as the Russia President reminded an increasingly exasperated West that his country maintains one of the largest nuclear arsenals in the world.

After being excoriated by Nato and President Obama on Thursday for the invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops, Putin spoke at a pro-Kremlin youth camp on Friday, issuing a threat against Western military action, saying no country would "think" of conflict with Russia.

Pro-Russian Separatists In Control Of Key Town Of Novoazovsk

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union on Saturday was poised to impose new sanctions against Russia as Ukraine's president warned the conflict with Moscow threatens peace and stability for Europe as a whole.

Petro Poroshenko said before a summit of the EU's 28 leaders that a strong response was needed to the "military aggression and terror" facing his country.

Obama Administration To Reward Student Loan Company Accused Of Cheating Troops

The Obama administration plans to reward Navient Corp, the student loan specialist formerly owned by Sallie Mae, with new business some three months after federal prosecutors accused the company of intentionally cheating troops on their federal student loans, according to three sources familiar with the administration's plans.

The move is likely to stoke comparisons to recent multi-billion-dollar settlements reached between big banks and federal authorities over financial crisis-era misdeeds. Banks agreed to pay sizable sums, but public interest groups have criticized the settlements because the banks suffered few business consequences and their executives escaped criminal and civil charges.

LA Cops Shot An Unarmed Black Man, Are Being Even More Secretive Than Ferguson Police

Outrage escalated in Ferguson, Missouri, as city officials waited a full week to release the name of the officer who shot and killed Michael Brown. But it took even longer for Los Angeles to release the names of two officers involved in the shooting of another black man believed to be unarmed.
On Thursday — more than two weeks after Ezell Ford was fatally shot — police announced that the names of the officers were Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas, both in the gang enforcement unit. As in Michael Brown’s case, police allege that Ford was reaching for their gun — not that he had his own. But witnesses say the 25-year-old man who strugged with mental illness was laying on the ground when he was shot, and that they saw no struggle. Witness Leroy Hill told the Huffington Post that he stood across the street as officers beat Ford, at one point yelling “shoot him.”

Why the ‘Unhiring’ of Steven Salaita Is a Threat to Academic Freedom

In early August, Inside Higher Education ran a story that sent a shock wave through the academy. It reported that at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, an official offer of a tenured professorial appointment had been rescinded by a top administrative officer. That alone would have been unusual, but concerns grew after sources close to the decision-making process reported that Chancellor Phyllis Wise was responding to calls and e-mails about Professor Steven Salaita’s acerbic and emphatic anti-Israel tweets.

Gov’t to end fees for paper bills: Moore

OTTAWA - The big telecom companies may have agreed to exempt some customers from fees charged for paper invoices, but the federal government says it's going to end the whole practice.

Industry Minister James Moore says the government will introduce legislation to end what is called pay-to-pay, the practice of charging people extra for a monthly bill on paper.

"We do not believe that Canadians should pay more to receive a paper copy of their telephone or wireless bill," Moore said in a statement Friday.

Seven US children are shot dead every day on average ‘and we are as a country ignoring them’

For every U.S. soldier killed in Afghanistan during 11 years of war, at least 13 children were shot and killed in America.

More than 450 kids didn’t make it to kindergarten.

Another 2,700 or more were killed by a firearm before they could sit behind the wheel of a car.

Every day, on average, seven children were shot dead.

Shell Submits a Plan for New Exploration of Alaskan Arctic Oil

Royal Dutch Shell submitted a plan to the federal government on Thursday to try once again to explore for oil in the Alaskan Arctic, following years of legal and logistical setbacks as well as dogged opposition from environmentalists.

While the plan is just a first step in the process, it reflects the energy potential in the Arctic. Shell’s proposed programs consist of two drilling rigs working simultaneously in the Chukchi Sea, which could produce more than 400,000 barrels of oil a day.

Putin Urges Release Of Ukrainian Soldiers

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia's President Vladimir Putin on Friday called on pro-Russian separatists to release Ukrainian soldiers who have been surrounded by the rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Putin's statement came several hours after Ukraine accused Russia of entering its territory with tanks, artillery and troops, and Western powers accused Moscow of lying about its role and dangerously escalating the conflict.

NATO said at least 1,000 Russian troops are in Ukraine and later released what it said were satellite photos of Russian self-propelled artillery units moving last week.

Voters may be saying 'enough is enough' to Harper's Tories

For lack of a better term, let's call it "voter fatigue." Voter fatigue is what sets in when the public simply grows tired of the politicians who are running their lives. They may not be especially angry at the people in power. It's more a matter of being weary -- and bored -- of hearing the same self-serving arguments, the same empty platitudes, the same threadbare rationalizations over and over from the same political mouths.
That's when voters start telling one another (and they tell pollsters, too) that "enough is enough." I think we are at that point in federal politics today. As I read the opinion polls, people are not so much outraged by Stephen Harper and the Conservatives as they are tired of them. Some of this was reflected in the Angus Reid Global survey mentioned in last week’s column. Asked to describe Harper in one word, 26 per cent of the 1,502 Canadians polled chose "boring" while 37 per cent said "arrogant."

The Fraser Institute's 'research' is junk -- have a happy Labour Day!

While the conclusions of the Fraser Institute's annual Labour Day attack on labour unions and the rights of working people to bargain collectively are predictably in tune with the market fundamentalist nostrums of the globalized corporations that bankroll its efforts, the group's methodology appears to be shifting in an interesting way.
The so-called "institute" released a paper yesterday that asserts the more heavily the labour relations field is tilted in favour of corporate employers, the more "balanced" it is -- an absolute inversion of reality.
This is no surprise because, no matter what the subject, Fraser Institute "research" always lines up precisely with the agenda of its corporate financiers.

A Big Summer Story You Missed: Soaring Oil Debt

Some of the summer's biggest news stories took place in the bombed schools of Gaza, the abandoned hospitals of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the wheat fields of eastern Ukraine and the bloody mountains of northern Iraq.

But one of the most important made virtually no headlines at all, and seemed to only appear on the website of the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

First Nations renew protests over building on ‘sacred’ Grace Islet

SALTSPRING ISLAND — The sharp roar of saws and a generator coming from a construction site on Grace Islet Tuesday morning was too much for Tseycum Chief Vern Jacks.

After paddling in the Cowichan Tribes big canoe over to the small island, where a luxury home is being built over a First Nations burial ground, he stood on the shore and yelled to the workers: “You would never do this to your ancestors. Think about your kids, your family.”

Elizabeth Warren Defends Israeli Shelling of Gaza Schools, Hospitals

The Israeli military has the right to attack Palestinian hospitals and schools in self defense if Hamas has put rocket launchers next to them, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said last week at a local town hall, according to the Cape Cod Times.

Warren, in defending her vote to send funds to Israel in the middle of its war with Hamas, said she thinks civilian casualties are the "last thing Israel wants."

"But when Hamas puts its rocket launchers next to hospitals, next to schools, they're using their civilian population to protect their military assets. And I believe Israel has a right, at that point, to defend itself," she said.

Bill C-304: Hate Speech Clause's Repeal Gives White Supremacists Rare Moment Of Glee

A Conservative private members’ bill that repeals part of Canada’s hate speech laws has passed the House of Commons with scant media attention, and even less commentary. But it's being cheered by many Canadian conservatives as a victory for freedom of speech. And it's being cheered most vocally by another group: White supremacists.

The Koch Brothers And Republican Party Have Just Joined Forces To Track Voters

A secretive data and technology company linked to conservative oil billionaires Charles and David Koch has reached an agreement to share its information with the “voter file and data management company” that holds an exclusive agreement with the Republican National Committee. This will allow the Republican Party full access to voter data collected by the Koch’s Freedom Partners entities and clients — and entrenches the Kochs’ network even deeper into the GOP.

Tory Fundraising Email Says 'Media Elite' Mobilizing To See Party Defeated

With a federal election just a year away, Conservatives are warning supporters that the media is "mobilizing" to boot the party from power.

And Tories are increasingly hinting "elites" want to seize control.

On Tuesday, the Tories sent a fundraising email with the subject line "Just disgusting," railing against a recent column from the Toronto Star's Heather Mallick extolling what she sees as the virtues of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau while heavily criticizing Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Condo Fraud: Meerai Cho, Toronto Condo Lawyer Representing Centrium, Faces 75 Charges

Toronto police continue to investigate the disappearance of millions of dollars in down payments from hopeful condo buyers, as the provincial government stepped in Wednesday to say it will be conducting a review of the situation.

Lawyer Meerai Cho, who represented a developer of the now-cancelled Centrium condo project, is facing 75 charges and has been temporarily suspended by the Law Society of Upper Canada. Police raided a building Wednesday that once held the developers' offices, but it was not immediately clear what, if anything, was found.

Foreigners Are Taking Over Canadian Real Estate Definitely Maybe

The housing market is so inflated that the international community warns of a bubble ready to burst and locals fret that soaring prices have pushed the dream of home ownership forever out of reach.

Some weary house hunters have turned wary as reports circulate about an influx of wealthy foreign buyers, particularly from China, buying up the housing stock.

This isn’t Vancouver. Or Toronto. Or anywhere in Canada.

This is the scene in Sydney and cities across Australia where, similar to Canada, low interest rates have sparked a years-long rush into the market amid cries of overvaluation and deteriorating affordability.