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.]

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Early election call is a cynical political ploy

It should come as absolutely no surprise that the Harper Conservatives began the 2015 federal election campaign just as they have governed for the past nine years – with a cynical move calculated entirely to wring maximum partisan advantage from the situation.

By calling the election on Sunday – fully 79 days before the long-designated voting day on Oct. 19 – the Conservatives guarantee two things:

First, that the campaign will be the longest in modern Canadian history – more than twice as long as the past two contests, which clocked in at just 37 days apiece.

And second, that they are giving themselves a big advantage over both major opposition parties.

UN Human Rights Committee criticizes Harper government BY

On July 20, 2015 the United Nations Human Rights Committee, in its seven-pageConcluding Observations Report, adopted a number of critical observations of Canada's human right practices, treatment of Indigenous people and criticized Harper's policies on immigration and treatment of refugees. The Report was termed "A wake up call" on Canada's human rights performance.
Many years ago, my father and I were watching the "Tonight Show" in the Johnny Carson era. A guest that evening was one of my favorite actors, Peter Finch. During the interview, my father, a physician, said plainly, "that man is going to have a heart attack." He noted that Finch was fidgety, was sweating from his brow, and was breathing in a labored way. I didn't think much of his remark until the next day, when on the evening news it was announced that Peter Finch had died that morning. Of a massive heart attack.

Petronas's Silence on BC LNG Act Sends Disquieting Signal

As the British Columbia legislature passed its "historic" Liquefied Natural Gas Project Agreements Act on July 21 after a lively eight-day debate, the most important player for which the special summer session of Parliament was convened kept an aloof -- and worrying -- silence.

Petronas, the Malaysian state energy firm with a 62 per cent stake in a consortium proposing to build a US$36-billion LNG project near Prince Rupert, did not offer a public thank you or congratulatory statement to the B.C. government of Premier Christy Clark for its efforts and hard-earned legislative victory.

Stephen Harper, Serial Abuser of Power: The Evidence

Stephen Harper and his Conservatives have racked up dozens of serious abuses of power since forming government in 2006. From scams to smears, monkey-wrenching opponents to intimidating public servants like an Orwellian gorilla, some offences are criminal, others just offend human decency.

To spare you abuse fatigue, we've divided our list into two parts. The second one runs Thursday. Please help us out. As you read, if any abuses we've forgotten come to mind, either make a note in the comments thread after this piece or send us an email at, subject line Harper Abuse List. We will fold what we get into a final version as a handy reference for the campaign.

Should web content be censored without a judicial process?

You don't have to look far these days to discover new threats to the free and open Internet we all rely on. In just the past few weeks, OpenMedia has helpedfight off a costly new "Link Tax," mobilized supporters against a reckless spying law, and ran high-impact bus adsagainst the Trans-Pacific Partnership's Internet censorship plan.
Over the past year, however, a new threat has arisen from an unusual source. In May 2014, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that a Spanish man, Mario Costeja González, had the right to have links to a 1998 Spanish newspaper article about him removed from search engines.

Black Lives Matter Organizers Labeled as "Threat Actors" by Cybersecurity Firm

Documents from a "crisis management" report produced by the cybersecurity firm ZeroFox indicate that the firm monitored Black Lives Matter protesters during the Freddie Gray protests in Baltimore earlier this year. The documents, which surfaced online last Wednesday, also state that the firm "protected" the online accounts of Maryland and Baltimore officials and members of the Baltimore Police Department and Maryland National Guard.

The War on Planned Parenthood Is Also an Assault on Poor Women of Color

Our elected representatives have taken to the airwaves to proclaim they are extremely concerned with the fate of discarded fetal tissue; the fate of the health of poor women? Not so much.

Conservatives have again vowed to defund Planned Parenthood, now with even more gusto, following a strategically edited sting video suggesting the organization somehow exploits inanimate post-abortion fetal tissue to do scandalous things, like facilitating biomedical research.

The New Climate "Normal": Abrupt Sea Level Rise and Predictions of Civilization Collapse

We know things are a bit "off" when a rainforest is on fire.

Over 400 acres of the Queets Rainforest, located in Olympic National Park in Washington State, nearby where I live, have burned recently, and it is continuing to burn as I type this. Fires in these rainforests have historically been rare, as the area typically receives in excess of 200 inches of rain annually.

But this is all changing now.

The Restrictions Journalists Agreed To In Order To Attend The Koch Brothers’ Conference

This weekend, Charles and David Koch’s Freedom Partners hosted five Republican presidential hopefuls and hundreds of top conservative donors at the St. Regis Monarch Beach luxury resort in California. The tax-exempt organization, which has been dubbed the Koch Brothers’ “secret bank,” allowed nine news organizations to cover parts of the conference.

The New York Times highlighted these invitations last week as evidence of the Kochs’ attempt to change their image as a “secretive” network with a “culture deeply allergic to the spotlight.” But in reality, those reporters who covered the event were subject to numerous restrictions — restrictions one media ethics expert called “outrageous.”

The Way Bill Cosby's Lawyer Talks About Assault Is Peak Rape Culture

In a 52-minute interview on July 31, Bill Cosby's lawyer Monique Pressley continuously dismissed the more than 40 women who have come forward with allegations against 78-year-old.  "Either you get your day in court or you move on," Pressley told HuffPost Live host Marc Lamont-Hill.
Pressley is media-trained; she's poised and she deftly side-stepped Lamont-Hill's most damning questions. But her (sanitized, well-planned) comments offered chilling insight into the way rape culture works. They also brought into sharp relief our collective desire to assume the worst of women who "tarnish" the image of our cultural heroes. 

After Approving Spy Gear For Egypt, Obama Admin Cozies Up To Regime

WASHINGTON -- Top Obama administration officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, met with their Egyptian counterparts in Cairo on Sunday for high-level talks, the latest sign that the White House is seeking to move on from its previous criticism of Egypt's autocratic regime.

The meeting came just weeks after the State Department approved the controversial sale to Egypt of a sophisticated, military-grade mobile surveillance system that Egyptian activists fear may be used against the country's citizens.

Chris Christie Said He Thinks Teachers Unions Deserve A Punch In The Face

Presidential candidate Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) lambasted teachers unions on Sunday.

"At the national level, who deserves a punch in the face?” CNN's Jake Tapper asked the New Jersey governor during an interview. The question was a callback, he said, to Christie's affinity for saying during his first term that "you can either sidle up to [bullies] or you can punch them in the face."

Report: U.S.-Led Strikes In Iraq And Syria Killed Hundreds Of Civilians

BAGHDAD (AP) — U.S.-led airstrikes targeting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria have likely killed at least 459 civilians over the past year, a report by an independent monitoring group said Monday. The coalition had no immediate comment.

The report by Airwars, a project aimed at tracking the international airstrikes targeting the extremists, said it believed 57 specific strikes killed civilians and caused 48 suspected "friendly fire" deaths. It said the strikes have killed more than 15,000 Islamic State militants.

Harper, the federal election, and the future of the CBC

Stephen Harper is already notorious for his obsession with information control and for avoiding contact with Canadian media, especially experienced political reporters, regardless of their political sensibilities.
And if the Conservatives win the election this October, we may never get the straight goods again about what’s going on in Canadian public affairs.

'Perfect Storm' Engulfing Canada's Economy Perfectly Predictable

Economists, an irrational tribe of short-sighted mathematicians, are now calling Canada's declining economic fortunes "a perfect storm."

It seems to be the only weather that complex market economies generate these days, or maybe such things are just another face of globalization.

In any case, economists now lament that low oil prices have upended the nation's trade balance: "Canada has posted trade deficits every month this year, and the cumulative 2015 total of $13.6 billion is a record, exceeding the next highest, in 2009, of $2.95 billion."

Harper’s Kingdom: Home of the Whopper

Those who live by the whopper should always remember that they can die by the whopper.

True to form, Conservative leader Stephen Harper began the 2015 election campaign with a cascade of factual deficiencies. Harper said he was calling the election early because the campaigns should be paid for by political parties and he had noticed the other parties had already started their campaigns.

Reality check? His own re-election campaign, using public money, began in 2011. The early election call will add millions of dollars to the $375 million that a 37-day campaign would have cost — and the taxpayer will be paying for all of it. Harper just wants to suck a ton more public money into the whole exercise, not less.

Charles Koch Blasts Subsidies & Tax Credits, But His Firm Has Taken $195 Million Worth of Them

Billionaire Charles Koch told a gathering of conservative donors Saturday that politicians must end taxpayer-funded subsidies and preferential treatment for corporations. That message, though, came from an industrialist whose company and corporate subsidiaries have raked in tens of millions of dollars worth of such largesse.

The Koch-organized conference at a luxury resort in Southern California reportedly attracted roughly 450 conservative donors who have committed to spending nearly $900 million on the 2016 presidential election. The event also is scheduled to include Republican presidential candidates such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

The Jihadist of Copenhagen

AT APPROXIMATELY 3:30 P.M. on February 14, Omar El-Hussein cut down a back street in Østerbro, a quiet neighborhood near the center of Copenhagen. Dressed in a bulky black parka, the 22-year-old strode purposefully toward to the Krudttønden cultural center. As he approached, he withdrew an M95 assault rifle from a bag.

Inside, a panel discussion was under way on blasphemy and freedom of expression. It featured Lars Vilks, a Swedish cartoonist who had been living under police protection since 2007, when he published cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad with the body of a dog. Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, now the self-proclaimed caliph of the Islamic State, had announced a bounty of at least $100,000 on Vilks’s head (more if he were to be “slaughtered like a lamb”). Earlier in the day, the café had been swept for explosives, according to an official Danish Ministry of Justice report. A heavy security detail–two Swedish bodyguards, two uniformed cops, and three agents from Denmark’s security and intelligence service (PET)—scanned the guests as they arrived.

Canada Election 2015: 11 Things That Changed Since 2011's Vote

If a week is a long time in politics, imagine how much changed since Canadians last voted on May 2, 2011.

It's a whole new ball game: The turf, the rules and some of the players have changed. And so has the electorate.

Harper Frames Re-Election Pitch On Economy, Security, And Leadership

Stephen Harper's Conservatives set out on the campaign trail Sunday with a goal to frame their re-election pitch to voters on three pillars — leadership, national security and the economy.

In his first public comments of the campaign, Harper hit all three notes, then hit the road in a campaign bus emblazoned with a slogan that drives home the message: "Proven leadership for a safer Canada/stronger economy."

Stephen Harper, The No Surprises Leader, Playing To Win Yet Again

If Stephen Harper's rivals want to do some game analysis of what they're up against on the campaign trail, they should review the footage of his late May visit to Nova Scotia.

Here was the consummate politician — relaxed, funny, and self-assured as he paid tribute to Justice Minister Peter MacKay.

"I'm here in a reflexive state of mind," Harper confided to the crowd, before MacKay formally announced he wouldn't be running again.

Anti-Harper Protesters Demonstrate Outside Montreal Rally, 1 Man Arrested

MONTREAL -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper launched his quest for re-election Sunday night inside a Montreal hall by boasting how the values of his Conservative Party mesh with those of Quebecers.

But his speech to a room of cheering supporters stood in contrast to an earlier scene outside, where demonstrators slapped anti-Harper stickers on a Tory campaign bus and one man was arrested for uttering threats.

Wynne flexes Ontario’s electoral muscle, calls for defeat of Harper government

OTTAWA - Kathleen Wynne wasted no time Sunday flexing Ontario's electoral muscle, wading into the federal election on Day 1 of the marathon campaign to call for the defeat of Stephen Harper's Conservative government.

The Liberal premier of Ontario — home to more than one third of the 338 seats up for grabs on Oct. 19 — said Canada needs to replace Harper with a prime minister who will work collaboratively with the provinces.

"I have said for some time and I will continue to say that we really need a change," Wynne said in a phone interview.

Federal Election 2015: Costly Campaign All About Saving Taxpayers' Money, Harper Says

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper says a desire to save taxpayers’ money motivated his decision to call an 11-week campaign that will actually cost taxpayers millions of dollars more.

Outside Rideau Hall on Sunday, Harper said it was “essential” to start the campaign in the first week of August ahead of a vote on Oct. 19. The 78-day campaign will be the longest in more than a century and, almost certainly, the costliest in Canadian history.

The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion

This piece first appeared at Web of Debt.
“My father made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. Luca Brasi held a gun to his head and my father assured him that either his brains, or his signature, would be on the contract.”                                                                                                — The Godfather (1972)
In the modern global banking system, all banks need a credit line with the central bank in order to be part of the payments system. Choking off that credit line was a form of blackmail the Greek government couldn’t refuse.

Donald Trump On Black Lives Matter: ‘We Have To Give Power Back To The Police’

Asked about growing concerns over police brutality toward black Americans, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said on Sunday that more power should be given to the police.

“It’s a massive crisis,” Trump said on Meet the Press, when asked about the concerns of the Black Lives Matter movement. “Some horrible mistakes are made. At the same time, we have to give power back to the police, because crime is rampant.”

Israel Approves Jailing Jewish Militants Without Trial

JERUSALEM, Aug 2 (Reuters) - Israel's security cabinet approved on Sunday the detention of citizens suspected of waging violence against Palestinians without trial in a crackdown aimed at capturing the perpetrators of a lethal West Bank arson attack blamed on Jewish militants.

The extension to Israelis of so-called "administration detention," a practice commonly applied to Palestinian militant suspects and condemned internationally, laid bare authorities' frustration at failing to curb Jewish ultra-nationalist attacks.

Memphis Police Officer Fatally Shot During Traffic Stop

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee police officials on Sunday identified a suspect in the fatal shooting of a Memphis police officer, and an intense search for the man is underway.

Tremaine Wilbourn, 29, faces a first-degree murder charge in the death of Officer Sean Bolton, 33, on Saturday night, Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong said at a news conference.

Armstrong said Wilbourn was a passenger in a 2002 Mercedes Benz that was parked illegally in a southeast Memphis neighborhood on Saturday night. Armstrong said Bolton saw the car and shined his squad car's spotlight on the vehicle.

Journalists Attend Private Koch Brothers Gathering, But Agree Not To Name Donors

NEW YORK -- Several news organizations gained rare access Saturday into a private gathering of influential Republican donors hosted by Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, a nonprofit organization backed by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch.

But journalists covering the three-day event, held at a luxurious California resort, had to agree to an unusual restriction. They weren’t allowed to report the names of any of the 450 donors attending without the individual’s permission.

Cheat to win, the Harper electoral game plan

Canada's 42nd federal electionkicked off Sunday August 1 with a difference. This campaign will be about twice as long as usual before Canadians vote on October 19.
A long, drawn-out campaign fits the profile Stephen Harper has built for himself in politics. His goal is not to win a fair fight. This prime minister wants to destroy his opponents. A long, expensive campaign is how he plans to do it.

It's Time for Shell to Abandon Its Irresponsible Arctic Drilling Plans

At this moment, the damaged Fennica icebreaker is entering the water in my home of Portland, OR, in what could be a make-or-break moment for our environment and our future climate.

Here's the background: In 2008, President George W. Bush not only lifted the executive ban on Outer Continental Shelf drilling, but also leased parts of the Arctic's Chukchi Sea to Shell for oil and gas exploration.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton Indicted

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) has been indicted by a grand jury, multiple outlets reported on Saturday.

The indictments were handed up on Tuesday and will be unsealed Monday. Paxton faces three felony charges: two counts of first-degree securities fraud and a third-degree charge of failing to register with the state securities board, The New York Times reported.

Ben Carson Says The ‘Black Lives Matter’ Movement Is ‘Silly’

Since the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in New York, Trayvon Martin in Florida, and countless others, “Black Lives Matter” has become a rallying call for a group of Americans unfairly targeted by police. Taking the message from protests to politicians, the movement has mounted pressure on 2016 presidential candidates to recognize the need for policies to address the disproportionate risk black Americans face of death in the hands of police.

Family members of toddler in critical condition after West Bank arson attack

The three family members of a toddler burned alive in a West Bank arson attack on Friday are still in a critical condition with life-threatening injuries in a hospital near Tel Aviv.

The fatal arson attack that left 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh dead, believed to be carried out by Jewish settler extremists on Friday morning, has been called “terror” by both Israeli and Palestinian officials.

Canada's Ebola Vaccine: 5 Facts You Should Know

TORONTO — A team of international researchers has reported an Ebola vaccine developed at Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg works.

In a study in Guinea, the vaccine protected 100 per cent of the people who got it from infection with the deadly virus.

Confused facts, misdirected rants: Salutin attacks Chow on child-care

In an op-ed article in the pages of The Toronto Star on July 30, 2015 (and reprinted subtitled, "How can Chow frame herself as a champion of affordable child care, when hers was the party that killed that dream 10 years ago?"  Rick Salutin makes about as ridiculous a political assertion as possible; one at complete variance with history, reason and, indeed, common sense (see: The irritating way Olivia Chow took the plunge).  Salutin writes
"The NDP’s Olivia Chow took the plunge in a particularly irritating way this week when she announced she’s running against Liberal MP Adam Vaughan in a downtown Toronto riding. It felt like a bad omen for an election that hasn’t even begun and will drone on for over twice as long as usual.
"But then she based the core of her appeal on her lifelong "passion" for child care. "We’re on the edge of having a government that will finally build affordable child care for kids across this country," she said. … We were on that edge 10 years ago; in fact we were past it when her party, led by her husband, Jack Layton, voted to bring down a Liberal government which had put exactly such a program in place - giving us instead nine years of a Harper government that immediately cancelled the program."

Looting Turns Deadly In Venezuela Amid Severe Food Shortages

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- A man was killed and dozens were arrested Friday as a mob looted a supermarket and other shops in an industrial Venezuelan city, Bolivar state authorities said.

In announcing the looting, Gov. Francisco Rangel pushed back against opponents of Venezuela's socialist government who attributed the unrest to widespread scarcities of basic goods across the oil-rich nation.

How China's Stock Market Volatility Undermines the Communist Party's Authority

HONG KONG -- At the very beginning of the Chinese stock market crisis in late June, many investors felt there were problems mostly related to liquidity issues. But gradually the concerns have grown to encompass more than the market itself. People have begun to talk about whether the government is capable of handling the stock market crisis, and whether this may end up as a broader crisis of governance.

Oaxaca, Mexico, Faces Police Militarization as Governor Acts to Preempt Education Protests

Thousands of federal and state police troops were dispatched in mid-July to the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico to guard strategic buildings, patrol the skies and ensure that protesters cannot take over local radio stations.

The aim of this heightened police militarization? To prevent protesting teachers from exerting pressure on the administration of Gabino Cué Monteagudo, the current governor of Oaxaca, in their efforts to resist nationally imposed education reforms.

A Slack Lifeline for Drowning Homeowners

After Lucy Circe became disabled and could no longer work, she applied to Bank of America for a mortgage loan modification on her Vermont home. Over more than two years, starting in 2012, the bank repeatedly requested copies of documents that had already been provided, asked for proof that she was no longer married to a man she did not even know, and made other errors, like asking why Ms. Circe had indicated that she didn’t want to keep her property when she had actually told the bank she did.

Oligarchy Of Super PAC Megadonors Have Conquered American Politics

WASHINGTON -- A new oligarchic era of American politics came into full view on Friday, as super PACs disclosed fundraising details showing billionaires bankrolling the 2016 presidential race to an unprecedented degree.

The unlimited-money super PACs account for one-third of all federal election funds raised in the first half of 2015 -- up from 4 percent at this time in the last presidential election. Three-quarters of all super PAC money came from more than 500 wealthy donors, corporations and unions in contributions above $100,000. More than half the money in the presidential race so far -- to super PACs and to campaigns -- came from donors who have given at least $100,000.

The HPV Vaccine Prevents Cancer. So Why Aren't Most Teens Getting It?

According to latest National Immunization Survey, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Thursday, around 60 percent of teenage girls and 78 percent of teenage boys haven't received all three of the recommended doses of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which helps prevent reproductive cancers and genital warts caused by the virus.

As Site C Breaks Ground, Linked Union Declares Opposition

The union representing many British Columbia government workers has taken a position against building the Site C dam, a project some of its members are working on and that other unions support.

"This was a membership driven motion," said Stephanie Smith, the president of the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union. "We have 68,000 members and there is a diversity of interests."

Smith said the motion was brought forward by the union's environment committee and passed unanimously. There was no debate even though Smith invited discussion, she said.

Canadian Wheat Board Sold To G3 Global Grain Group, Becomes G3 Canada

EDMONTON — The federal government has closed the book on the agency that once marketed almost all the grain produced by western Canadian farmers.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says Ottawa has finalized the sale of the Canadian Wheat Board to G3 Global Grain Group.