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.]

Friday, March 13, 2015

Texas Bill Would Make Recording Police Illegal

A bill introduced to the Texas House of Representatives would make it illegal for private citizens to record police within 25 feet.

House Bill 2918, introduced by Texas Rep. Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) on Tuesday, would make the offense a misdemeanor. Citizens who are armed would not be permitted to record police activity within 100 feet of an officer, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Only representatives of radio or TV organizations that hold an FCC license, newspapers and magazines would have the right to record police.

Swedish Prosecutors Offer To Question Julian Assange In London About Alleged Sex Crimes

LONDON (AP) — Julian Assange and his supporters warily welcomed a surprise U-turn Friday by Swedish prosecutors, who now say they are willing to come to London to quiz the WikiLeaks founder over alleged sex crimes.

The reversal, however, doesn't mean the anti-secrecy activist will soon be leaving the Ecuadorean embassy in London, his home and prison for almost three years.

Harper has an ethics problem that just won’t go away

By any rational measure, the Diane Finley affair should be the boot that punts Stephen Harper’s sorry ass out of office.

This one’s a dead skunk in the middle of the road — or maybe a dead flounder on the Highway of Hypocrites. Here’s the bare-bones version:

A Jewish community centre in Markham applied for a federal grant from the federal Department of Human Resources to pay for an expansion to its facilities under the Enabling Accessibility Fund. Totally cool.

Raises for MPs and senators beat those offered to public service unions

MPs are in line for a 2.3-per-cent raise in pay, about five times the increase the Conservative government is offering employees in the public service.

Under legislation, MPs’ yearly salary increases are tied to the average wage settlements negotiated in private-sector companies that have more than 500 employees. That means they are automatically entitled to the average 2.3 per-cent wage hike private sector employers gave their employees in 2014.

The secretive Board of Internal Economy, a group of MPs who oversee the administration of the House of Commons, has been advised of the increase and it’s expected that all MPs will soon be notified of the raise, which kicks in April 1.

Bill C-51 committee hears monologues, but few questions

A lot can be inferred as to someone's leanings on a particular topic by the questions they ask.

In the first hour of testimony at Thursday’s review of the government’s anti-terrorism bill, Conservative MPs posed only one question.

"Are you fundamentally opposed to taking terrorists off the streets?" Conservative MP Rick Norlock asked Carmen Cheung of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association — an echo of former public security minister Vic Toews’s "stand with us or with the child pornographers" statement.


Sunday was International Women's Day, and all I got from Prime Minister Stephen Harper was a lousy media release.

Oh yeah, there was also the it-would-be-funny-if-it-weren't-so-blatantly-opportunistic tweet from Defence Minister Jason Kenney, who insinuated, complete with photos of Muslim women in chains, that ISIS would "enslave" all us ladies as soon as the terrorist menace reached our shores. That means "Be afraid, very afraid," and don't pay attention to that loss of civil rights hiding behind the curtain of the so-called anti-terrorism bill. Turns out the photos were from ceremonial processions symbolizing the prophet Mohammed's granddaughter, who was taken in chains to Damascus after her brother Hussein was beheaded.

Oklahoma Rep. Emily Virgin Suggests Businesses Post Notice Before Discriminating Against Patrons

A Democratic state representative in Oklahoma has offered up an unusual amendment to the state's Religious Freedom Act that would reportedly give businesses the option to discriminate based on their religious beliefs, but would require those establishments to be upfront about it.

In the amendment, Oklahoma Rep. Emily Virgin suggests that wedding-related companies "not wanting to participate" in a business exchange based on the "sexual orientation, gender identity or race of either party" shall "shall post notice of such refusal in a manner clearly visible to the public in all places of business, including websites," according to The Gayly Oklahoman.

The Security Intelligence Review Committee Is Not Doing the Job

If the prime minister thought public pressure to institute a more robust review system for national security would slowly die down, he has miscalculated.

Last week, a number of former prime ministers and Supreme Court justices penned an open letter calling for the government to keep a closer eye on federal intelligence activities. While certainly increasing the visibility of the issue, the letter was lacking as far as specific policy prescriptions.

There are a number of concrete steps the government should take to address the gap in national security accountability. Chief among those are improving the integrity of the application process for national security warrants, re-establishing the Office of the Inspector General of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, and expanding the Security Intelligence Review Committee's (SIRC) size, capabilities and mandate.

Medical Marijuana User Arrested, Says New Health Canada Regulations Discriminate

HALIFAX - A medical marijuana user in Nova Scotia says he would rather go to jail than stop growing his own pot after changes to Health Canada regulations preventing cultivation at home.

Bob Dillman says he and his wife were arrested at their Halifax home on March 4 and charged with production and possession of marijuana after years of being permitted by Health Canada to grow it for medical purposes. They are due in court next month.

Husky Energy Unexpectedly Lays Off 1,100 Workers From Sunrise Project

Husky Energy Inc. has unexpectedly laid off 1,100 workers at its Sunrise oilsands project, as they reported oil has started to flow from the northeastern Alberta site.

Izzy Huygen, a representative of the Christian Labor Association of Canada, told Reuters the layoffs came as a shock to many of the workers, who expected their jobs to carry over into the summer months.

“Guys were just notified this morning as they woke up in camp,” Huygen said Wednesday.

Bill C-51: Environmental Activists, Aboriginals Fear Legislation Will Tread On Rights

OTTAWA - The federal government's assurances that its anti-terrorism bill will not be a licence to spy on activists have done little to calm the fears of aboriginal leaders, environmentalists and human rights advocates.

Several critics said Thursday they have reason to believe the legislation would be used to step up surveillance of protesters opposed to petroleum projects and other resource developments.

"We don't want to be labelled as terrorists in our own territories, our own homelands, for standing up to protect the land and waters," Assembly of First Nations national chief Perry Bellegarde told the House of Commons public safety committee.

Harper: Guns important for 'safety' in rural homes far from 'immediate police assistance'

When asked about new firearms legislation at an event in Saskatoon, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said there are too many restrictions on gun ownership, which he added is important for the livelihoods of rural people, recreation and personal safety.

“My wife’s from a rural area and obviously gun ownership wasn’t just for the farm, but was for a certain level of security when you’re a ways away from immediate police assistance,” he said during a question-and-answer session with the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities.

Move to deport Jahanzeb Malik is 'absurd,' lawyer says

The public should be outraged that Canada is planning to deport a Pakistani man accused of plotting mayhem in the heart of Toronto rather than prosecute him, his lawyer said Thursday.

Sending Jahanzeb Malik back to Pakistan is illogical and counterproductive given the accusation that he is an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) sympathizer who aimed to bomb the financial district and U.S. Consulate, lawyer Anser Farooq said.

"This is a phenomenally serious allegation and you're just going to send this guy away?" Farooq told The Canadian Press. "Isn't that more dangerous? It's absurd."

Before Canada goes too far into Iraq, remember Libya, Afghanistan

It is sobering to reflect that before our current mission in Iraq, the last two military operations undertaken abroad by Canada have been followed by the violent rise of the black flag of ISIS jihadism in these same conflict zones.

That's in both Libya and now, even, Afghanistan. Not an encouraging record.

It's another sign these days that Canada rarely seems to anticipate the depths of chaos that it's wading into when it unleashes our CF-18s and other combat units on far-flung wars and insurgencies we know very little about.

Here's How To Fix The CEO Pay Problem

We’re doing CEO pay wrong.

Incentive pay -- compensation based on verifiable performance measures like stock price -- is on the rise. It’s supposed to help align executives’ interests with those of shareholders. Instead, it leads corporate boards to pay executives more than necessary, and ultimately hurts shareholders and workers.

With incentive pay, the company could end up paying the CEO for something over which he had no real influence. Or the company could end up not paying the CEO for actions that were good for the company, but for some reason didn’t raise the stock price. Most likely, the CEO will single-mindedly pursue actions that will boost the metric he’s paid on, even if they only succeed in the short term. Over the longer term, paying your CEO a fantastic amount can hurt stock performance.

Does It Matter That Hillary Clinton Deleted Her E-Mails?

One of the big headlines to come out of Hillary Clinton’s press conference on Tuesday is that she deleted roughly half of the 60,000 e-mails she sent and received on her now-infamous private e-mail server while secretary of state. “At the end, I chose not to keep my private personal email,” Clinton said, revealing a theretofore unknown fact. “No one wants their personal emails made public, and I think most people understand that and respect that privacy.”

To be clear up front—Clinton didn’t break any laws or regulations by deleting this information. Federal officials are not obligated to preserve private communications.

Cruz the Politician Champions the Death Penalty. Cruz the Private Lawyer Did Something Else.

In December, when a mentally ill Texas man convicted of murder was poised to be executed—and a number of prominent conservatives were calling to postpone the killing—Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) declined to criticize the pending execution. "I trust the criminal-justice system to operate, to protect the rights of the accused, and to administer justice to violent criminals," Cruz declared. This was not shocking. As a politician and public officeholder, he has long supported capital punishment. While running for Senate in 2012, Cruz repeatedly mentioned his win as Texas solicitor general in a case before the Supreme Court that preserved the death penalty for a Mexican citizen convicted of raping and murdering two Houston teenage girls.

Number of foreign workers in Canada tripled between 2002 and 2012: PBO

OTTAWA - The number of foreign workers in Canada tripled between 2002 and 2012 — although they still made up less than two per cent of the overall labour force, the parliamentary budget office reported Thursday.

It said more and more foreign workers are filling skilled positions today as the percentage of low-skilled jobs has declined.

The PBO study looked at the role foreign workers played in the economy between 2002 and 2012.

Foreign workers can enter the labour market through either the international mobility program or the temporary foreign worker program, which came under fire last year after allegations surfaced about some employers — particularly restaurants — abusing the program.

Bill C-51: Privacy watchdog Daniel Therrien blocked from committee witness list

The Commons public safety committee isn't planning to give the federal privacy watchdog the opportunity to share his concerns publicly with MPs over sweeping new information-sharing powers that would be given to national security agencies under the government's proposed anti-terror bill.

"At this point, we have not been invited," a spokeswoman for Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien told CBC News Wednesday.

Cutting the crud: Debunking five Big Oil myths

The Harper government and Big Oil have been spouting some colourful myths about how vital the tar sands industry is for Canada. The jobs! The money! The environment!
Can't we just cut the crud and get down to the dirty truths? Why yes we can.
Let's debunk the five biggest myths about the tar sands.

Harper's hypocrisy and the niqab

It was almost enough to warm the cockles of this old feminist's heart. Imagine, my prime minister standing up in the House of Commons to speak out against the niqab as being anti-women and anti-transparent.

The big bogeyman in Canada right now is terrorism and the scapegoat seems to be Muslims. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper stood up in the House to defend his government's stance on banning the niqab, ostensibly during citizenship ceremonies.

Chris Christie Maintained State Pension Investments In Prudential After Top Official Gave Contributions By

Republican Gov. Chris Christie's administration has over the past five years paid at least $6.5 million in taxpayer fees to Prudential Financial to manage New Jersey pension funds, even after company officials made substantial contributions to Christie's 2009 gubernatorial campaign, International Business Times has learned. One of the Prudential officials was Christie's top fundraiser, adviser and donor. Christie appointees nonetheless maintained investment contracts with Prudential despite state rules that require such contracts to be canceled when executives at firms managing pension money donate to or raise money for state lawmakers.

Democrats See No Choice but Hillary Clinton in 2016

They shrug off questions about Hillary Rodham Clinton’s email habits. They roll with the attacks on her family’s foundation, the big checks from foreign governments, the torpid response of her not-yet-campaign.

They have little choice: As Mrs. Clinton prepares to begin her second presidential campaign amid a froth of criticism and outrage, Democrats are not just Ready for Hillary — as supporters named one pro-Clinton “super PAC” — they are desperate for her.

Income, Not Culture, is What Divides America Now

On rare occasions, a book frames an issue so powerfully that it sets the terms of all future debate.
Robert Putnam’s Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis may do just this for the growing gulf between America’s rich and poor.
I was a member of Putnam’s research team for Our Kids during my studies at the Harvard Kennedy School, where Putnam is a professor of public policyso I can offer some insights into the research, and explain why the team is optimistic about its impact.

NFU Report Warns Of Dire Consequences Of Rampant Corporate Farming

SASKATOON - A board member for the National Farmers Union says without laws that support decent farm livelihoods, Canada could lose its next generation of farmers.

Matt Gehl, board member for Saskatchewan, says the country could end up with something like "the serfdom many of our ancestors tried to escape."

Alberta's Dam Network Not Properly Regulated: Auditor General

EDMONTON - Alberta's environment minister says despite a scathing report from the auditor general on dam oversight, the province's barriers are safe.

Kyle Fawcett said dams identified as having potential for "very high" or "extreme" consequences are inspected annually.

"Albertans can feel confident that dams in their province are built, maintained and operated in a manner that is aligned with national and international standards," Fawcett told reporters Wednesday.

Diane Finley, PMO Under Fire For $1-Million Violation Of Conflict-Of-Interest Rules

OTTAWA — Opposition parties demanded to know Wednesday why the Prime Minister’s Office influenced a $1 million funding decision that the ethics watchdog said broke conflict-of-interest rules.

“What was Nigel Wright doing in the approval process?” NDP leader Thomas Mulcair asked Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the Commons.

Policy Allows Families on Welfare to Keep More Cash

The British Columbia government this week announced a change to welfare policy, which it said would help more than 10,600 families. But within hours of the announcement, more detailed figures from a government staffer showed that the number of families that stand to gain is fewer than 600.

"There'd be about 10,600 individuals who will benefit from this change," Michelle Stilwell, the minister of social development and social innovation, told reporters Tuesday while announcing an increase to the earnings exemption limit.

Earnings exemptions allow a person receiving income assistance to earn and keep a certain amount of money before the government begins reducing their welfare payment.

Is a Labour War Brewing on the Peace River?

Relationships, whether labour or romantic, are always complicated, and last week the longstanding romance between B.C.'s building trades unions and the BC Liberals seemed to hit the rocks. The organization that represents unionized trades workers announced it was headed to court to fight a set of anti-labour policies that BC Hydro wants to implement at the Site C dam on the Peace River.

The Crown corporation plans to make Site C an "open site" for both unionized and non-unionized contractors, and had for some time insisted on language that would have prohibited union organizing on the job site itself. That language has since been removed at Premier Christy Clark's request.

Facebook Hired Temporary Foreign Software Engineers in Vancouver

The Canadian government gave Facebook the green light to hire 93 temporary foreign workers in its Vancouver offices, federal documents reveal.

The company would not speak on record about its successful 2013 applications or confirm that each of the 15-month contract positions were filled. A Facebook Canada spokesperson said the jobs were among roughly 150 at an engineering office opened in Vancouver, one of only five worldwide that hosted engineers at the time.

According to federal Labour Market Opinions issued by Employment and Social Development Canada, Facebook successfully applied for 88 software engineers and four production engineers -- both jobs requiring only a bachelor's degree and English proficiency -- as well as one position of "Audience Researcher, Vertical Measurement" which required a PhD.

Born Slaves: Child Labor in an ‘Adultocratic’ World

“Well, my papa hit me with a board if I didn’t bring 20 bundles of firewood, which he sold in town. I was about 8 years old, and this is how I became a man—pure punches.”

Rafael is 28 years old and is incarcerated in a Chiapan jail in southeast Mexico for running a child-panhandling network. For him, child labor is part of life, part of poverty. The use of violence to control children is normal for Rafael. He forced the children to beg for eight to 10 hours a day from tourists and locals in San Cristóbal de las Casas in southern Mexico, and he took a large percentage of the earnings they received.

Ted Cruz: Same-Sex Marriage Rulings Are 'A Real Danger To Our Liberty'

Court rulings upholding marriage equality are "a real danger to our liberty," Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said in a radio interview Monday.

In response, Cruz told WHO radio host Jan Mickelson, he plans to introduce a constitutional amendment to allow states to ban same-sex marriage.

Wall Street Bonuses Rise 2 Percent Even As Profits Fall

NEW YORK, March 11 (Reuters) - The average bonus on Wall Street rose 2 percent last year to $172,860, even as pre-tax profits at the broker-dealer operations of NYSE member firms fell 4.5 percent to $16 billion, New York state's budget watchdog said on Wednesday.

"Industry profits were lower because of weakness in fixed income and commodities trading, higher capital reserve requirements and the continued cost of legal settlements," said the report by New York state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. (Reporting by Edward Krudy; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Original Article
Author: Reuters

Despite Uptick in Prisoner Release, Injustices Persist at Guantanamo

In the wake of the US Senate's scathing report on the CIA rendition, detention and interrogation (RDI) program, the military commission system is grappling with influence by outside government agencies, calling the entire process into question.

At the end of February, just as the most recent military commission pretrial hearing in the 9/11 case began, US Army military judge Col. James L. Pohl quickly called for recess after defendants claimed they recognized a courtroom translator as a former CIA employee from the secret prisons in which they were detained.

Winds of War in Gaza

GAZA — IT is winter in Gaza, in every wretched sense of the word. Six months after the latest war, the world has moved on, but tens of thousands remain homeless — sometimes crammed into the rubble of bombed-out buildings. Children are dying of the cold, according to the United Nations.

Rabah, an 8-year-old boy who dreams of being a doctor, walked barefoot in near-freezing temperatures with his friends through the rubble of one neighborhood. The United Nations handed out shoes, but he saves them for school. For the first time in his life, he said, he and several friends have no shoes for daily life. Nearly everyone I spoke to said conditions in Gaza are more miserable than they have ever been — exacerbated by pessimism that yet another war may be looming.

Republican Amendment Could Force Underage Trafficking Victims To Carry Their Pregnancies To Term

A bipartisan bill aimed at aiding victims of human trafficking is in peril now that Democrats have learned it contains an anti-choice provision to restrict funding for abortion. Democratic lawmakers say they were not aware of the abortion-related language and have accused Republicans of sneaking it in.
The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015, which would establish a fund to raise money for victims from the fees charged to traffickers, wasn’t supposed to be controversial. It has supporters on both sides of the aisle and easily passed the House earlier this year. Both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) have urged members of their parties to support the legislation.

Catholic Church Claims It Can Refuse To Pay Victims Of Sex Abuse Because Of Religious Freedom

The Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee sought to insulate $55 million of its funds from lawsuits brought by victims of priestly sex abuse, according to a letter penned by then-Archbishop of Milwaukee Timothy Dolan, so it transferred those funds into a separate trust set up to care for the archdiocese’s cemeteries and mausoleums. Once the sexual abuse victims sought those funds in a bankruptcy proceeding, however, the archdiocese claimed that it had a religious liberty right not to use that money to compensate victims of abuse.

Why Are US Taxpayers Subsidizing Right-Wing Israeli Settlers?

A few weeks before Benjamin Netanyahu's delivered his controversial address to Congress, the Jerusalem Post reported that the Israeli Prime Minister was considering a campaign trip to Hebron, a right-wing settler community in the Israel-occupied West Bank. The proposed March 10 trip to Hebron, which would have been the first by an Israeli PM in more than a decade, raised eyebrows among Israel's political class and inflamed tensions with Palestinian groups. Last week, Netanyahu called it off, citing security threats.

Bill C-51: Labour must confront radical legislation with radical action

In 2002, Canadian citizen Maher Arar was deported to Syria. He was held until October 2003 and was tortured. An inquiry later found that information shared by the RCMP was used to enable his deportation and detention.
When Université Laval studentAhmed Abassi was celebrating his marriage in Tunisia in 2013, his student visa was cancelled abruptly and without explanation. He was then entrapped by an undercover FBI agent, arrested on suspicion of terrorism and detained in the U.S. for nearly a year. Abassi charges that this could have only happened if Canadian officials shared information with American officials. Abassi can't return to Canada to finish his studies even though all terror-related charges have been dropped.

Bill C-51 wants you to stop protesting in support of Palestinians

One of the less discussed questions of the Harper government's anti-terror bill, Bill C-51, is whether Palestinian rights advocates and advocates of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) will be targeted by CSIS agents armed with new powers to target and disrupt, courtesy of a judicial warrant.
Admittedly, the legislation and its intended objects are vague, except that what constitutes "terrorism," seems to be broadening beyond wanton acts of violence.

Utah Lawmakers Vote To Allow Execution By Firing Squad

Utah's state Senate voted Tuesday to allow execution by firing squad in instances where lethal injection drugs are not available.

The bill, which passed by a vote of 18-10, would call for the use of a firing squad if lethal drugs could not be obtained at least 30 days in advance of a scheduled execution.

The state's House of Representatives passed the legislation last month. The measure now heads to Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R), who has not said whether or not he will sign the bill into law.

Kochs Say No To Dems' Probe Into Climate Research Funding

WASHINGTON (AP) — The industrial conglomerate run by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch is refusing to provide Democratic lawmakers with information on whether it has paid for climate change research.

Last month, three Democratic senators sent 100 letters to an assortment of fossil-fuel companies and organizations seeking information on whether they have backed research into global warming and other environmental topics.