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, April 24, 2015

Doing the Unthinkable: Giant Gas Pipeline to Flank a New York Nuclear Power Plant

A very large gas pipeline will soon skirt the Indian Point Energy Center (IPEC), an aging nuclear power plant that stands in the town of Cortlandt in Westchester County, New York, 30 miles north of Manhattan. The federal agencies that have permitted the project have bowed to two corporations - the pipeline's owner, Spectra Energy, and Entergy, which bought the Indian Point complex in 2001 from its former owner.

A hazards assessment by a former employee of one of the plant's prior owners, replete with errors, was the basis for the go-ahead. A dearth of mainstream press coverage leaves ignorant the population that stands to be most impacted by a nuclear catastrophe, which experts say could be triggered by a potential pipeline rupture. I urge Truthout's audience to read an earlier article by Alison Rose Levy, which includes details I haven't space to recap here.


Quebec City – As a member of the Lubicon Cree First Nation in northern Alberta – and a climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace – Melina Laboucan-Massimo has experienced the effects of tar sands devastation first-hand.

A few days before the last federal election four years ago, a massive pipeline spill dumped 4.5 million litres (28,000 barrels) of oil, leaving a huge swath virtually unrecognizable. The community wasn’t fully informed about the massiveness of the spill or its potential dangers until days later.

Laboucan-Massimo’s father, who grew up in Lubicon traditional territory hunting for his food, is now finding tumours in the carcasses of moose he hunts.

Canadians need 'conversation' about Indian residential schools: Murray Sinclair

The residential schools that scarred thousands of aboriginal children over seven generations were symptomatic of a larger Canadian attitude that treated indigenous people as ethnically inferior, says the head of a commission on the issue.

In an interview with the Citizen, Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) chairman Justice Murray Sinclair said he wants to kick-start a national debate about how to reconcile inequities that still remain between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians.

The TRC will release its report in Ottawa on June 2, just months before the federal election. Created in 2009, the commission heard from 7,000 people and is still receiving federal archival documents that Sinclair says tell an “astounding” story of what happened in the schools.

Did Insurance Giant Defraud Thousands of Mortgage Holders?

Allegations that insurance giant Manulife benefited from the sale of illegal mortgage insurance that defrauded thousands of Canadians have led to three class action lawsuits and questions in the B.C. legislature where opposition members claim that the province should have warned consumers.

The province last year fined three companies -- including Manulife Financial Corp., the Manufacturers Life Insurance Co., and Benesure Canada Inc. -- for breaking laws that govern British Columbia's insurance industry.

Survivors Say Hundreds Of Migrants Drowned When Their Boat Sunk In The Mediterranean

GENEVA, April 15 (Reuters) - Hundreds of people desperate to be rescued from a packed migrant boat in the Mediterranean pushed to one side when they saw a ship approach, capsizing the craft and pitching everyone into the sea where hundreds died, an official said on Wednesday.

Survivors' accounts suggested at least 500 people were on the boat when it sank on Monday evening, some 120 km (75 miles) off the Italian island of Lampedusa. With 145 people rescued that leaves at least 350 unaccounted for, probably drowned.

Elizabeth Warren Calls On Congress To Break Up The Big Banks, Change Tax Rules

WASHINGTON, April 15 (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday called on lawmakers to break up big banks and change tax rules that benefit Wall Street, part of an ongoing effort to advance a more populist agenda.

The Massachusetts Democrat and longtime consumer advocate has sought this year to draw public attention to what she sees as the unfinished job of revamping Wall Street oversight after the 2007-2009 financial crisis.

The True Cost of Gun Violence in America

It was a mild, crystal clear desert evening on November 15, 2004, when Jennifer Longdon and her fiance, David Rueckert, closed up his martial-arts studio and headed out to grab some carnitas tortas from a nearby taqueria. They were joking and chatting about wedding plans—the local Japanese garden seemed perfect—as Rueckert turned their pickup into the parking lot of a strip mall in suburban north Phoenix. A red truck with oversize tires and tinted windows sideswiped theirs, and as they stopped to get out, Rueckert's window exploded. He told Longdon to get down and reached for the handgun he had inside a cooler on the cab floor. As he threw the truck into gear, there were two more shots. His words turned to gibberish and he slumped forward, his foot on the gas. A bullet hit Longdon's back like a bolt of lightning, her whole body a live wire as they accelerated toward the row of palm trees in the concrete divider.

Raise Our Taxes. Please

Most Americans hate today. After all, it’s Tax Day—and no one likes seeing the federal government take a large chunk of their income. (Well almost no one.)
As the 2016 campaign gets underway, candidates, especially those on the right, will compete to see who can propose the largest tax cut. Senator Marco Rubio currently is in the lead with his recently released tax plan that would reduce government revenues by $4 trillion over the next decade. Senator Rand Paul has promised "the largest tax cut in American history." Senator Ted Cruz will surely try to top them both. On the left, Hillary Clinton will almost surely never endorse a tax hike. She may even follow in President Barack Obama’s footsteps and promise never to raise taxes on the middle class.

Scientists Peer Into Mysteries of Carbon Release From Permafrost

LONDON—Three sets of scientists in the same week have helped narrow the uncertainties about how the natural world will respond to extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

Carbon locked in the frozen earth will escape gradually as the Arctic permafrost melts—but the scientists say the process could accelerate.

Military Missions at Record High After U.S. Signs Deal to Stay in Africa for Decades

For three days, wearing a kaleidoscope of camouflage patterns, they huddled together on a military base in Florida. They came from U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and U.S. Army Special Operations Command, from France and Norway, from Denmark, Germany, and Canada: 13 nations in all. They came to plan a years-long “Special Operations-centric” military campaign supported by conventional forces, a multinational undertaking that—if carried out—might cost hundreds of millions, maybe billions, of dollars and who knows how many lives.

Canadian Bitumen Places High On Ranking Of Carbon Emissions

CALGARY - Some types of crude oil have a drastically bigger carbon footprint than others, according to a report that ranks some oilsands varieties among the highest emitters.

In "Know Your Oil: Creating a Global Oil-Climate Index," researchers from the University of Calgary, Stanford University and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace compared the greenhouse gas emissions of 30 varieties of crude from around the world.

Rejection of mandatory minimum law for gun crimes confirms Supremes’ politicization

You have to admire Beverley McLachlin’s sense of humour.

In his crusade against the long-gun registry, Stephen Harper used to say “you don’t prevent gun crimes in our cities by cracking down on duck-hunters.”

Now the Supreme Court of Canada has decided to strike down the government’s mandatory minimum sentencing legislation on gun crimes, on the grounds that it could side-swipe …. duck hunters.

Investor ​G3 Global Grain Group to take over wheat board

G3 Global Grain Group will invest $250 million to become the new majority owner of the CWB, formerly known as the Canadian Wheat Board.

The new Winnipeg-based partnership was selected to take over CWB's operations after a process set in motion when the Conservative government ended its marketing monopoly.

Farmers who sell their grain through the CWB can receive free units in an independently managed trust, which will hold the remaining 49.9 per cent interest in the CWB.

Corolla production leaving Canada; Toyota to refocus Ontario plants

Toyota will stop producing the Corolla in Canada within a few years but says it will continue to invest in its plants in Ontario as part of a shift in its global manufacturing operations.

Toyota Motor Corp. announced Wednesday it will invest US$1 billion in the plant in Guanajuato, Mexico, creating 2,000 jobs, to make the Corolla subcompact -- one of Toyota's biggest sellers.

Canadian workers are joining global action: The fight for $15 minimum wage

From Thunder Bay to Victoria, major protests will take place in Canada tomorrow as part of global Day of Action to demand higher minimum wages and decent working conditions. 
Scheduled for April 15 (4/15), the date echoes the demand of protesters in the United States and across Canada for a $15 minimum wage. 
Actions will take place across British Columbia and Ontario. The B.C. Federation of Labour has launched its own Fight for $15 Campaign, and in Ontario more than a dozen simultaneous actions will take place, including rallies outside of several McDonald's restaurants and the McDonald's Canada headquarters in Toronto.

Supreme Court rules against prayer at city council meetings

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled the municipal council in the Quebec town of Saguenay cannot open its meetings with a prayer.

In a unanimous decision today, the country's top court said reciting a Catholic prayer at council meetings infringes on freedom of conscience and religion.

The ruling puts an end to an eight-year legal battle that began with a complaint filed by atheist Alain Simoneau and a secular-rights organization against Saguenay Mayor Jean Tremblay.

Researchers find 7,300-sq-mile ring of mercury around tar sands in Canada

Scientists have found a more than 7,300-square-mile ring of land and water contaminated by mercury surrounding the tar sands in Alberta, where energy companies are producing oil and shipping it throughout Canada and the U.S.

Government scientists are preparing to publish a report that found levels of mercury are up to 16 times higher around the tar-sand operations — principally due to the excavation and transportation of bitumen in the sands by oil and gas companies, according to Postmedia-owned Canadian newspapers like The Vancouver Sun.

Leading House Democrat Will Oppose TPP Fast Track

As legislation to fast-track congressional approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership gets ready to finally make its debut in Congress this week, a top Democratic member of the House announced he would oppose the bill.

Representative Chris Van Hollen, the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, wrote in a letter to Representative Sandy Levin, the ranking member of the House Ways & Means Committee, that he would oppose fast-track authority, also known as Trade Promotion Authority or TPA. The letter was obtained by The Nation and its authenticity was confirmed by an aide to Van Hollen.

Two Scientists Resign Over Lack Of Women Nominations For Hall Of Fame

Two female researchers tasked with helping to recognize the top scientists in the country have stepped down from their duties to protest lack of recognition for other women in the field.

Judy Illes and Catherine Anderson resigned from the selection committee of the Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame this month after realizing that no women had been nominated for induction two years in a row.

Clayton Goodwin, Veteran Turned Medicinal Pot Activist, Seeks Meeting With O'Toole

OTTAWA - Former soldiers who want timely access to medical marijuana say they are undeterred despite having been denied a meeting with Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O'Toole.

Retired corporal Clayton Goodwin, who represents a group known as Veterans for the Use of Medical Marijuana, was shut out of O'Toole's stakeholder meeting Tuesday at the Canadian War Museum.

A spokesperson for the minister said Veteran Affairs staff have spoken with Goodwin and are setting up a one-on-one meeting.

Harper Government Claims 'Exemplary Record' Of Environmental Performance

OTTAWA - The Harper government is moving to embrace provincial climate change actions even as it distances itself from carbon-pricing policies that will soon cover much of the country.

The tortuous, election-year dance was in full evidence Tuesday as Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford delivered the Conservative energy gospel to a business audience in New York while provincial and territorial leaders talked climate policy in Quebec City.

Five better options for Harper than dangerous balanced budget legislation

Next week the Harper government is going to push forward with its at best redundant and at worst disastrous balanced budget legislation.
Legislation dictating and limiting the choices of future governments is a peculiar and, some would say, perverse notion. 
Most governments leave their successors to their own devices, choosing to focus on what they can reasonably accomplish during their own time in office.

The Scary Law That Allowed Pharmacists to Deny This Woman the Drugs She Needed After Her Miscarriage

When Brittany Cartrett lost her pregnancy in March, her doctor prescribed Misoprostol to help her complete the miscarriage. The drug, which would allow her to avoid a more invasive surgical procedure, is the same one used to induce many abortions. Which is why, Cartrett suspects, two different pharmacies in central Georgia refused to fill her prescription.

Cartrett slammed one of those pharmacies, the Walmart in Milledgeville, Georgia, in a Facebook post published last week. When she asked the pharmacist why she wouldn't fill her prescription, Cartrett claims, "She looks at me over her nose and says, 'Because I couldn't think of a reason why you would need that prescription.'" Cartrett says she then explained that she'd had a miscarriage, and the pharmacist replied, "I don't feel like there is a reason why you would need it, so we refused to fill it."

The War on Terrorism Targets Democracy Itself

George Orwell's nightmarish vision of a totalitarian society casts a dark shadow over the United States. The consequences can be seen clearly in the ongoing and ruthless assault on the social state, workers, unions, higher education, students, poor people of color and any vestige of the social contract. Free market policies, values and practices with their emphasis on the privatization of public wealth, the elimination of social protections and the deregulation of economic activity now shape practically every commanding political and economic institution in the United States.

Supreme Court deals new blows to mandatory-sentencing rules

The Supreme Court struck down a signature law of the Conservative government, ruling Tuesday that mandatory minimum sentences of three years for gun possession, and five years for possession by repeat weapons offenders, are cruel and unusual punishment.

The case turned not on the circumstances of the men accused in the two cases – neither even argued those minimum terms were unfair to them – but on “reasonable hypothetical” cases. From the earliest years of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Supreme Court has said it is the nature of the law that matters, not simply the individual case. And so the court’s majority created hypothetical cases in which otherwise law-abiding gun owners stored their licensed guns in the wrong dwelling, or a spouse finds herself with her husband’s gun, in breach of the rules.

Premiers Clark, Prentice, MacLauchlan and McNeil to skip Quebec Climate Summit

B.C. Premier Christy Clark and Alberta Premier Jim Prentice said they won't be attending the talks at the Premiers' Summit on Climate Change in Quebec City tomorrow. Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil has also said he would not be attending, but said he will send Environment Minister Randy Delorey. Prince Edward Island Premier  H. Wade MacLauchlan is absent for the meeting.

The announcement comes on the heels of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announcement of a plan for a cap and trade agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As of 2012, Alberta and Saskatchewan were the only provinces with rising carbon emissions due to growing oil production.

Former Coast Guard commander casts doubt on 'excellent' spill cleanup claim

Retired Commander Frederick E. Moxey said based on his experience, government claims of having contained "80 per cent" of the English Bay spill were likely false.

“I’ve been in hundreds of spills and never seen an 80 per cent recovery," Moxey said. "Usually you recover 30 per cent at most, more like 10, and that’s with an immediate response and a trained crew with sponges and straw pulling the oil out by hand.”

Ukraine Violence On The Rise Despite Ceasefire In War-Torn East

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — Fighting has picked up in eastern Ukraine after more than a month of relative calm, as diplomats gathered in Berlin on Monday to discuss the country's crisis.

Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said Sunday that its mission observed an intense clash with the use of tanks and heavy artillery as well as grenade launchers and mortars in the north of the rebel stronghold of Donetsk.

Family Killed By Concrete Slab That Fell From Highway Overpass

BONNEY LAKE, Wash. (AP) — A Washington state couple who died when a large concrete slab fell from a highway overpass onto their pickup truck were youth ministers in their 20s and parents to a 6-month-old baby also killed in the freak accident.

Josh and Vanessa Ellis and their baby, Hudson, died Monday when a chunk of concrete weighing thousands of pounds fell onto the cab of their truck as they drove underneath the span, said James Ludlow, their pastor at EastPointe Foursquare Church.

Bob Corker Says Iran Bill Can Withstand Obama Veto

WASHINGTON -- Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said Monday he's confident his bill to restrict President Barack Obama's ability to reach a nuclear agreement with Iran can survive a threatened presidential veto.

"Look, I don’t ever want to overcommit and under-deliver,” Corker told reporters Monday evening. “We are moving in a very positive direction, and we’ve worked through some issues that I think have given me a lot of hope. ... I think that this weekend has been very productive.”

Report Shows US Invasion, Occupation of Iraq Left 1 Million Dead

A recently published report has revealed that the US invasion and occupation of Iraq was responsible for the deaths of approximately 1 million Iraqis, which is 5 percent of the total population of the country. The report also tallies hundreds of thousands of casualties in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Authors of the report, titled "Body Count: Casualty Figures After 10 Years of the 'War on Terror,'" have told Truthout that other casualty reports, like the often-quoted Iraq Body Count (IBC), which has a high-end estimate at the time of this writing of 154,563, are far too low in their estimates, and that the real numbers reach "genocidal dimensions."

Will Hillary Rodham Clinton Deliver on Her Promise to Be a ‘Champion’ for ‘Everyday Americans’?

It’s a paradox.

Almost all the economic gains are still going to the top, leaving America’s vast middle class with stagnant wages and little or no job security. Two-thirds of Americans are working paycheck to paycheck.

Meanwhile, big money is taking over our democracy.

If there were ever a time for a bold Democratic voice on behalf of hardworking Americans, it is now.

Will Ukraine’s New Anti-Communist Law Usher in a Free-Speech Dark Age?

Including “Communist” in the name of a political party, selling a Soviet-flag souvenir or even singing the Soviet hymn would be punishable by up to 10 years in prison, according to a new law passed by Ukraine’s parliament.

The law “on the condemnation of the Communist and National Socialist (Nazi) totalitarian regimes in Ukraine and ban on the propaganda of their symbols” is ostensibly supposed to prevent the recurrence of Soviet-style repressions, but critics say it would limit free speech and marginalize the already embattled left. Although President Petro Poroshenko has yet to sign the law against communist propaganda, the bill received 254 votes and was sponsored by members of his own party, among others.

Original Vancouver Oil Spill Estimate Was 'Conservative': Officials

VANCOUVER - Investigators say mechanical problems with valves and pipes aboard a grain carrier were partly to blame for a spill into Vancouver's English Bay of about 2,700 litres of bunker fuel, saying that's a "conservative" estimate.

Transport Canada spokeswoman Yvette Myers said investigators have also found another unrelated problem on the MV Marathassa contributed to the spill but declined to provide details because of an ongoing investigation.

Shrinking Airline Seats Draw Attention Of U.S. Transport Committee

The rapidly shrinking airline seat may be profitable for the carriers, but the discomfort for passengers has drawn the attention of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
An advisory committee will hear testimony today from expert witnesses, including the Federal Aviation Administration Civil Aerospace Medical Institute, the Centers for Disease Control, and the inventor of the Knee Defender, a gadget designed to prevent airline seats from reclining.

At issue is the move by many carriers toward higher density aircraft. Airlines around the world, including American Airlines, KLM, Air France and Emirates among others, are expanding their high-cost, high-margin first and business class sections, but they don't want to cut back on the number of paying passengers in economy. So they're installing lighter, narrower seats and squeezing rows closer together.

McEwen Mining Chief Sorry For Saying Mine Has 'Good Relationship' With Criminal Cartels

TORONTO - The head of a mining company robbed of $8.5 million in gold in Mexico is apologizing for a statement he made in a television interview following the theft.

Rob McEwen, president and chairman of Toronto-based McEwen Mining Inc.(TSX:MUX) told Business News Network last week that the company has had "a good relationship" with the cartels in the region.

Joe Oliver is pitching a balanced-budget law. That’s hilarious.

Nobody ever gives Joe Oliver credit for his sense of humour. But the speech he gave to the Economic Club of Canada last week has to rank among the best stand-up routines in Canadian comedy history.

The punchline, of course, was the Finance minister’s vow to introduce balanced budget legislation, to fulfil a commitment made in the September 2013 throne speech. It’s a bad, bad idea — but that’s not what made it funny.

Tom Mulcair's 'Dutch disease' diagnosis was poor politics, but sound economics

The latest national job numbers came as a great surprise.

Great because they were up — a surprise because analysts were predicting the numbers would be down.

The top-line numbers, however, mask the hollowing out of a portion of the Canadian economy.

According to the Labour Force Survey, 1,688,300 Canadians were employed in the manufacturing sector in March, a drop of 1.8 per cent from the previous month.

Is Harper's last day coming?

There is a website selling buttons that celebrate, in advance of course, "Harper's Last Day"; which they claim will be coming October 19, 2015. The buttons are available in "ironic blue" or in the colours of the three mainstream progressive parties: the Greens, the Liberals and the NDP.
While to most on the left these buttons express a (no doubt) deeply desired outcome, they also embody the contradictions that face Canadian "progressives" in the upcoming election.

Meeting Castro: Harper fails history, feigns support for democracy

Stephen Harper met Cuban President Raúl Castro at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City last weekend. Officials called it a "pull aside" to signify it was not a formal sit-down meeting, but the prime minister still described it as "a long and detailed" conversation.
If Stephen Harper has gotten his way, Cuba would still be uninvited to the regular get-togethers of heads of government, held under the auspices of the Organization of American States (OAS).

Private Clean-up Firm Defends Oil Spill Response

The private firm which spent an entire night attempting to contain a heavy oil spill in English Bay last week has defended the length of time it took to arrive at the accident -- about 80 minutes -- as "an incredible response time."

However, Michael Lowry, a spokesman for Western Canada Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC), suggested the longer delay came after the Canadian Coast Guard alerted British Columbia's network of emergency management partners that a spill had occurred.

It took that group nearly three hours -- from 5:14 p.m. to 8:06 p.m. -- to notify WCMRC that a serious spill had occurred. WCMRC is the oil-industry owned consortium responsible for spill clean up on the West Coast.

Albertans Have Plenty of Reason to Norwail

What do the right-wing pundits of Canada have against Norway? Lately we have seen a rash of commentary from Maclean's, and Alberta Oil Magazine pooh-poohing comparisons between the trillion-dollar Norwegian oil economy and the economic disaster of Alberta. The Twittersphere even coined the new pejorative "Norwailing" to dismiss such troublesome arguments.

As perhaps the original Norwailer, I am happy this obvious comparison is finally being noticed by the mainstream media. On March 23, CBC's The National broadcasted a documentary on the Norwegian oil industry, which they said was "without a doubt... our most-read story of the week." The Alberta Federation of Labour is also inviting Rolf Wiborg, an outspoken Norwegian oil engineer whom I profiled on The Tyee, to address its convention in Calgary on April 17.

Ukraine crisis: Canada sending 200 trainers for Ukraine military

Canada will join a training mission to help Ukraine's military in its struggle against Russian-backed rebels, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Tuesday, following months of requests for assistance from Ukraine's government.

Starting this summer, roughly 200 troops will be deployed, until March, 2017, to help develop and deliver training for Ukrainian forces personnel.