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 22, 2015

Girls Charged In Slender Man Attack Will Be Tried As Adults

WAUKESHA, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin judge ruled Monday that two 13-year-old girls accused of stabbing a classmate to please the online horror character Slender Man will stay in adult court, where they could face a sentence of decades in prison.

Waukesha County Circuit Judge Michael Bohren said he was worried that the girls would stop receiving mental health treatment and be released into the community with no supervision when they exited the juvenile system at age 18. Keeping them in the adult system would protect people longer, the judge said.

Ferguson Protesters DeRay Mckesson And Johnetta Elzie Arrested

ST. LOUIS -- Dozens of protesters were arrested Monday outside the U.S. attorney's office in downtown St. Louis during a demonstration against police brutality.

DeRay Mckesson and Johnetta Elzie -- prominent activists in the Black Lives Matter movement -- were among the 57 people detained during the sit-in. They were released after being issued a summons alleging obstruction of the courthouse doorways, U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan said in a statement.

Harper Gave A Much Different Answer On 'Good To Go' In 2013

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper may face more questions on the campaign trail this week about what was meant by "good to go."

Harper's former chief of staff Nigel Wright — who will be taking the stand Wednesday in Mike Duffy's criminal trial — suggested in emails in 2013 that he had received the prime minister's approval to resolve Duffy's expense issues and help sweep the embarrassing political matter under the rug.

Iraq: "A War Crime, Pure and Simple"

A dozen years after the US-led invasion of Iraq, that country, now effectively another Middle East failed state, remains a bloody, chaotic symbol of the failed US imperial project.

Margaret Griffis, a journalist who has been covering casualty numbers in Iraq since 2006 for, has published these recent headlines that give one an idea of how life is in today's Iraq:

Father Of Toddler Killed In West Bank Arson Attack Dies Of Wounds

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) -- The father of a Palestinian toddler killed in a firebomb attack blamed on Jewish extremists died Saturday of the wounds he suffered in the assault.

In the pre-dawn attack on July 31, assailants hurled firebombs into a bedroom of the Dawabsheh family's home in the West Bank village of Duma. Ali Dawabsheh, 18 months, perished in the flames, while his 4-year-old brother and parents were seriously hurt.

Miguel Angel Jimenez, Activist Who Helped Search For Mexico's Missing Students, Shot And Killed

ACAPULCO, Mexico Aug 9 (Reuters) - At least fifteen people were killed during the weekend in the southwestern state of Guerrero, including an activist who helped lead efforts to find 43 students who disappeared and were presumed murdered last year, according to Mexican officials.

Ten of the murders took place in the resort city of Acapulco, which is packed with tourists due to summer vacations, local police said.

Carly Fiorina Promises To Cut Federal Jobs, Just Like She Did At HP

Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO now seeking the Republican presidential nomination, was grilled Sunday by Fox Chris Wallace about her record of laying off about 30,000 employees over her tenure. Fiorina suggested she would bring the same job elimination approach as president.

Wallace noted to Fiorina that Democrats had successfully defeated former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) in 2012, in part, by highlighting his record of layoffs over his time at Bain Capital and asked how she would avoid the same fate if she were the nominee.

Anti-Abortion Activists Trying To Pretend Women In Texas No Longer Have Right To Choose

Even if you don’t pay much attention to reproductive rights, it’s hard to avoid news about Texas. Over the past several years, the Lone Star State has made national headlines for passing particularly harsh restrictions on abortion that have shuttered dozens of clinics, sparking a complicated legal battle that threatens to make its way up to the Supreme Court.

This rapidly changing landscape isn’t just confusing for media outlets, which are constantly re-tallying the number of clinics that remain open depending on the latest court decision. It’s also created a serious knowledge gap among the real people who live in one of the country’s most expansive states.

Tories announced $14-billion in spending in six weeks before election call, 670 announcements

Cabinet ministers, backbenchers, and Senators announced $14.09-billion in federal government spending between June 23 when the House rose and Aug. 2 when the federal election was called, according to the 670 announcements.

The department that made the most spending announcements was Infrastructure Canada, followed by Western Economic Diversification, and then the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, according to review of all press releases over those 40 days. Infrastructure Canada had the highest, with more than $3.6-billion ($3,641,326,306).

Linda McQuaig is right: Leave the oil in the soil

"Oil has become the elephant in the room," Linda McQuaig wrote in It's the Crude, Dude: Greed, Gas, War and the American Way. Turns out it's the Canadian way as well. As Toronto Centre NDP candidate, McQuaig stated a simple fact on CBC's Power and Politics: "a lot of people recognize that a lot of the oil sands oil may have to stay in the ground if we're going to meet our climate change targets."

There is nothing funny about Donald Trump. And he is dangerous as hell.

There is nothing funny about Donald Trump.
While many are seeing his run as the joke that just keeps giving up new punchlines, his run for presidential office should be taken deadly seriously for the tremendous danger it represents and the type of personality-cult strongman politics that lie behind it.

I think many Americans -- as well as onlookers internationally -- are simply assuming that, each time he goes "too far" in one outrageous statement or policy pronouncement after another, at some point he will come crashing down and that his run for the most powerful office in the world will finally come to an end. 

Canadian Province Pulls the Plug on Renewable Energy Program

LONDON—The Canadian province of Nova Scotia, on the country’s Atlantic seaboard, has ended a programme which gave citizens an incentive to produce renewable energy.

The decision, which will initially mean lower prices for energy users, is at odds with widespread warnings that renewable energy must rapidly replace fossil fuels.

One Nova Scotian told the Climate News Network the government’s decision was a backwards step: “They have not only cut the legs out from under independent energy developers…they have stolen citizens’ right to access ownership of energy.”

Stephen Harper Denies He Said 'Good To Go' To Nigel Wright About Mike Duffy Cheque

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper is denying he told his former chief of staff Nigel Wright he was “good to go” with a $90,000 payment to embattled senator Mike Duffy.

Harper, who was campaigning in Ottawa Sunday, was asked about Duffy’s fraud, breach of trust and bribery trial resuming this week.

Harper Great and Powerful looking ever more like the cowardly lion

Okay, even the Kool Aid drinkers have to be gagging on the gag order.

It is all beginning to unravel like a cheap suit.

Look no further than John Robson, former champion Kool Aid drinker of the Conservative Party who drove more wooden stakes through the heart of Karl Marx and Ed Broadbent than Barry Goldwater. I have crossed swords with Robson many times but never once doubted his intellectual honesty. And that honesty is what compelled him to write a column in the National Post advising the Tory faithful to abandon the current leadership in this election.

Federal prosecutor fired for seeking NDP nomination without permission

Federal prosecutor Emilie Taman has been fired for abandoning her job when she took an unauthorized leave to seek the NDP nomination in the riding of Ottawa-Vanier for the federal election.

Taman, a prosecutor with the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC), confirmed she had received a long-expected termination notice last week — a month after she handed over her files and took a leave to run for the NDP nomination despite the objections of the watchdog overseeing the neutrality of the public service.

5 Women Accused Of Being Witches Beaten To Death In India

PATNA, India (AP) — Dozens of villagers in eastern India beat to death five women Saturday, accusing them of practicing witchcraft and blaming them for a series of misfortunes in the village, police said.

Residents of Kinjia village in Jharkhand state dragged the women out of their homes and beat them with sticks and iron rods, said Arun Kumar Singh, a deputy inspector-general of police in Ranchi, Jharkhand's capital.

The Rise of Big Generic: Why Knockoff Prescriptions Now Cost $1,200

Not that long ago, the generic drug industry was the ugly stepchild of the Big Pharma family - the uncomely domain of penny pills and piffling profits. The big names in pharma preferred to hawk Prozac, Viagra and other brand-name elixirs at five and 10 dollars a pop, leaving smaller firms that had all the prestige of Kmart to scramble over the nickels and dimes to be had off generics. It was, however, a good era for anyone who needed a cheap generic, as a majority of Americans did (and still do) each year. But times have changed, and decidedly not for the better.

What a Week of Extremist Violence Reveals About Israel

Duma, West Bank–Eman and Mamoun Dawabsheh’s five children might have burned to death in the early morning hours of July 31, when Israeli settlers snuck into Duma, the West Bank village where they live, and tossed firebombs into their home. Fire entirely decimated the room where the boys usually sleep. The heat of the blaze melted the television that 17-year-old Moatasem sometimes falls asleep watching. Fortunately, the family was in Nablus.

“We had been planning to come home [the night of the fire] but my husband had another [construction] job, so he said, ‘Let’s stay in Nablus another week,’” Eman said.

Wynne Makes Historical Jab Against Harper During Liberal Campaign Event

TORONTO — Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne continued to weigh in on the federal election campaign Saturday, this time reaching into the history books to attack Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Wynne compared the Conservative leader to Canada's first prime minister, implying that the transcontinental railway never would have been built if Harper had been in charge back then.

Toronto NDP candidate’s oilsands remarks provoke Alberta politicians

EDMONTON — A comment by a prominent Toronto NDP candidate Friday on Alberta's oilsands touched off a political storm on Saturday with the other parties and one provincial politician chiming in.

Linda McQuaig, a well-known author and journalist, was quoted as saying during a CBC television panel discussion on Friday that "a lot of the oilsands oil may have to stay in the ground" if Canada is to meet its climate change targets.

Election 2015: A decade of change under Harper

OTTAWA—Shortly after the Conservatives defeated the Paul Martin-led Liberals at the polls on the night of Jan. 23, 2006, a triumphant Stephen Harper stood before a cheering crowd of supporters in Calgary.

“Tonight, our great country has voted for change, and Canadians have asked our party to take the lead in delivering that change,” said the man who was soon to be sworn in as prime minister.

7 times Stephen Harper misled Canadians during the debate

If you thought there was a lot of truthiness flying around at the first debate of the election, you are not alone.

Participants at Conservative events must agree to gag order

Members of the public who attend Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s campaign events are being required to agree to a gag order before they can walk through the door, iPolitics has learned.

While attendance is by invitation only, and attendees are vetted by the Conservative Party before receiving a ticket, those who want to attend a campaign event in person are also being asked to agree to a number of conditions including not to transmit any description of the event or any images from it.

Donald Trump Captures the Hearts of Young Republicans

Donald Trump says he hates our “stupid” political establishment. But even in the heart of Washington, DC, among the Beltway’s young urban professionals, there was a genuine outpouring of love for The Donald as he took the stage for the first GOP primary debate Thursday night.

“Go Donald!” a man shouted as he was introduced at the beginning of Fox News' broadcast. The debate-watching party was sponsored by the DC Young Republicans, the Log Cabin Republicans, a women’s GOP group, and the District’s own Republican Party—hardly the contingent of the party hungry for red-meat.

Anti-War Donors Pledge To Withhold $8.3 Million In Potential Donations From Schumer, Iran Deal Opponents

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) preserved support from his hawkish pro-Israel base with his promise to vote down the Iran nuclear deal on Thursday night -- but will now have to answer to a group of anti-war liberal advocacy organizations who claim that Schumer’s opposition to the diplomatic accord with Iran renders him unfit for the role of the party’s leader in the Senate.

EPA Accidentally Spills Millions Of Gallons Of Waste, Turning River Orange

DENVER (AP) — The mustard-colored muck that spilled from a Colorado mine and surged into a river contains heavy metals including lead and arsenic, federal environmental officials confirmed Friday, but they didn't immediately discuss amounts in the water or health risks.

The spill also contained cadmium, aluminum, copper and calcium, the Environmental Protection Agency said. During a public meeting in Durango, EPA Regional Director Shaun McGrath did not mention whether the elements posed a health hazard but said local authorities were right to close the Animas River to human activities.

Why A Victory For The Voting Rights Act In Texas Feels More Like A Defeat

It was trumpeted as a victory for voting rights, but this week's ruling that Texas’ restrictive voter ID law violated the Voting Rights Act -- on the eve of the act’s 50th anniversary -- was actually something of a defeat. And Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg saw it all coming.

Planned Parenthood Is Way More Popular Than All The Republican Candidates For President

Planned Parenthood was a favorite target for GOP attacks in Thursday night’s Republican debates. Candidates focused on the untrue claim that Planned Parenthood’s program donating tissue from aborted fetuses to medical research equals “selling aborted baby parts,” plus their general opposition to abortion rights and women’s reproductive health care, to say Planned Parenthood should be investigated and defunded.

Watchdog Group Sues US for Access to Shell Oil's Safety Plan for Arctic Drilling

Shell Oil's recently approved exploration in the Arctic Chukchi Sea is one of the most highly scrutinized drilling operations in the world, but, a watchdog group claims, the company has nevertheless managed to keep many of its plans hidden from view.

The watchdog group, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), claims that Shell and its government regulators have failed to share much of the information on the safety and reliability of the operation with the public.

"Oppressed People Are Everywhere": A Year After Ferguson, a Conversation With One of the Protests' Organizers

When Michael Brown was shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9, 2014, and the city made international headlines for the militarized response to the largely peaceful protests sparked by his death, Johnetta Elzie was was right on the front lines. Her livestreamed video of the demonstrations earned her a massive social media following, and she quickly assumed a role as one of the protests' lead organizers.

In the year since the Ferguson protests, police treatment of African Americans has come under intense scrutiny. Numerous police killings of unarmed black men in New York, Baltimore, North Charleston, and elsewhere have drawn national attention. And across the country, activists and community leaders have demanded accountability from officers and reforms from lawmakers. These efforts already have had some results. Still, police are on track to kill more people this year than last year—upwards of 1,000 by year's end. Black people are more than twice as likely to be killed than white people.

The debate: Too much caution, not enough fight

It was hardly an item for pay TV. The Maclean’s debate that kicked off the 2015 election brought all the major contenders into the ring. Two hours later they ducked back under the ropes without a scratch, let alone a bruise, a welt or a black eye.

There were no knockdowns, no heavy punches and no rubbery legs. In the end, it was a fight fan’s worse nightmare: a draw.

Campaign Notebook: Inside Harper’s Canadian Election Bubble

Stephen Harper was late, but the crowd waited. After all, it was a friendly room of Conservative Party loyalists, staff, lawmakers and security -- a quasi-private campaign event at Deer Creek, a Toronto-area golf course.
“Please, everyone have a seat,” the Canadian Prime Minister said after taking the stage more than an hour late on the second day of the campaign. “We’re going to be here awhile.”

Canadians 'Ripped Off' by Drug Costs? No Kidding

One way of looking at the current election is to see it as a massive civic literacy test, not just for those who actually intend to vote but for those who mistake cynicism for sophistication and stay glued to their iPads instead. As David Akin of the Toronto Sun once said, "Bad governments are elected by good folks who don't vote." While every election can be seen in this light, the level of deception and manipulation characterizing the Harper government demands that we be especially vigilant.

What Would the GOP Do Without Donald Trump?

Cleveland—What would the Republican Party do without Donald Trump?  Although he sucks up all the air in the room, the angriest white man on the planet also turned what would otherwise have been the deadliest two hours on television into an electrifying illustration of the effect of celebrity in politics.  From the very first question, when moderator Brett Baier, in a butter-wouldn’t-melt tone, asked any candidate who refused to pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee to hold up his hand, and Trump, to resounding boos, raised his aloft, it was clear that Trump was off the leash and intended to remain that way.

Capping oil well blowouts within 24 hours too expensive, says Ottawa

The federal government says it is agreeing to an offshore drilling plan that would allow up to 21 days to bring in capping technology for a subsea well blowout, because requiring a shorter response time would be too expensive for Shell Canada Ltd.

Meanwhile, the most recent U.S. ruling in Alaska — where Shell wants to conduct an exploratory drilling project — requires a capping stack to be on hand for a blowout within 24 hours.

Snubbing youth voters is nothing new

The decision by Justice David Stinson to not allow voter information cards in the next federal election shouldn't be a surprise. Of course, it's hard to believe that any law in a democratic country, let alone one called the Fair Elections Act, would intentionally raise voting barriers for at least 400,000 citizens who used voter information cards in the 2011 federal election.

The Obama Administration Will Force Companies to Show How Out of Touch CEO Pay Really Is

Soon, you will be able to see just how bad income inequality is within major US companies.

On Wednesday, the Securities and Exchange Commission finalized a long delayed rule that will force all publicly traded companies to publish a ratio between the amount it pays its CEO and the median salary at the company. The rule was finalized by a 3-2 vote. Companies will need to start revealing this information starting in 2017. "After too much delay, the Securities and Exchange Commission did the right thing today," Jim Lardner, a spokesperson for the liberal Americans for Financial Reform, said in a statement Wednesday.

The FBI Built a Database That Can Catch Rapists, but Almost Nobody Uses It

QUANTICO, Va. — More than 30 years ago, the Federal Bureau of Investigation launched a revolutionary computer system in a bomb shelter two floors beneath the cafeteria of its national academy. Dubbed the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program, or ViCAP, it was a database designed to help catch the nation’s most violent offenders by linking together unsolved crimes. A serial rapist wielding a favorite knife in one attack might be identified when he used the same knife elsewhere. The system was rooted in the belief that some criminals’ methods were unique enough to serve as a kind of behavioral DNA — allowing identification based on how a person acted, rather than their genetic make-up.

Stop burning fossil fuels now: there is no CO2 'technofix', scientists warn

German researchers have demonstrated once again that the best way to limit climate change is to stop burning fossil fuels now.

In a “thought experiment” they tried another option: the future dramatic removal of huge volumes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This would, they concluded, return the atmosphere to the greenhouse gas concentrations that existed for most of human history – but it wouldn’t save the oceans.

Schools as Punishing Factories: The Handcuffing of Public Education

The Nobel Prize-winning author Ngugi wa Thiong'o has insisted rightfully that "Children are the future of any society," adding, "If you want to maim the future of any society, you simply maim the children." (1)

The Mistreatment Of A Dying Gay Man In Texas Goes ‘A Step Beyond Even Westboro Baptist Church’

Half a year ago, John Allen Stone-Hoskins returned home to discover that his husband had hung himself, a tragedy that may have occurred after a medication that Stone-Hoskins’s husband James was taking triggered a psychotic episode. What followed was a series of cruelties that, as the Dallas Voice noted, “may have gone a step beyond even Westboro Baptist Church.”

Though the two men lived together in Texas, James wished to be buried next to his father at a cemetery in Mountain Home, Arkansas. Yet, when John contacted two local churches to ask if they would perform funeral rites for his late husband, he says that he was told that they would not conduct a funeral for someone who was gay. After John found a friend who was willing to say James’s last rites, several members of one nearby anti-gay church attended the funeral. At the service, two of these church members passed out envelopes to John, James’s mother and to the chaplain. They each contained “18 pages of hate-filled rhetoric telling the dead man’s friends and loved ones they’re going to hell.”

Israeli President Rivlin: Netanyahu's Anti-Iran Drive Isolates Israel

JERUSALEM, Aug 6 (Reuters) - Israel's president suggested on Thursday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been overzealous in opposing the Iran nuclear deal, opening a "battlefront" with Washington and isolating his country.

Reuven Rivlin, who holds the largely ceremonial head of state post, argued in three separate newspaper interviews that Netanyahu's vigorous campaign against last month's nuclear deal between world powers and Iran could ultimately hurt Israel.

'It's getting worse': China's liberal academics fear growing censorship

It has been a year since Qiao Mu last set foot in the classroom; a year since officials banished the outspoken journalism professor to the library of the Beijing university where he had taught for more than a decade.

“They didn’t give me any reason,” said Qiao, who believes the move was a form of punishment for his support of ideas such as multi-party democracy and freedom of speech.

Government is now abusing its own rules to make its own laws

The last act of Canada’s 41st Parliament is the story of the Harper government in a nutshell. The government broke Parliamentary rules to pass a bill that is widely viewed as unconstitutional and a gross violation of Canadians’ privacy. The bill’s passage leaves Canadians questioning the role of the Senate in a 21st century democracy. But the story of Bill C-377 serves as a warning to those who advocate for abolishing Parliament’s second chamber.

BC Gov't Could've Published Withheld Reports, Privacy Office Finds

The British Columbia government is wrong to use the province's laws on freedom of information and protection of privacy as an excuse to avoid publishing embarrassing reports on the Internet.

That's how Vincent Gogolek, the executive director of the Freedom of Information and Privacy Association advocacy group, interprets a July 30 letter from the office of Elizabeth Denham, B.C.'s Information and Privacy Commissioner.

TPP Leaks Reveal Blows to Creative Freedom: Filmmaker

Most people's experience with copyright begins and ends with the FBI warnings that play before movies on a DVD. But for those who make a living from creative work, copyright is an everyday reality. It's both a mechanism to help a creator get paid, and a framework that allows them to include the creativity of others within their own work.

In the digital age, being creative is increasingly an act of copying -- whether that is sampling music, quoting an article in an online publication, or including a photo or moving image in a YouTube video.

Stephen Harper, Serial Abuser of Power: More Evidence

The previously published first half of this omnibus of Stephen Harper's sins listed 31 instances of laws broken and ethics pummeled. Some happened during elections. Others were in relentless service of policing and polishing the Harper "brand."

Today we focus on how Harper has willfully misgoverned -- 28 ways the PM and his team have lied, flouted rules and stymied democracy to achieve political and ideological ends.

Officers Who Killed Homeless Man On Video Cleared Of Manslaughter

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- A New Mexico judge on Wednesday dismissed involuntary manslaughter charges but retained murder counts against two Albuquerque police officers who shot and killed a homeless man last year.

Judge Neil Candelaria said the manslaughter counts were not applicable.

However, he denied a motion by defense attorneys at the preliminary hearing to dismiss murder, aggravated assault and aggravated battery charges.

Rejecting The Iran Deal Means War: 'Those Are The Dictates Of Cold Hard Logic'

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama has been getting pushback from opponents of the Iran nuclear deal for arguing that opposition to it is tantamount to support for war. Not true, they say. The opponents just want "a better deal."
 "The alternative to this deal was never war; it was greater pressure on Iran and insistence on a better agreement," Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in a joint statement.

Harper ignores cities at Canada's peril

Few Torontonians will shed tears when Prime Minister Stephen Harper is finally turfed from office on Oct. 19. His indifference to this and every other city in the country has made his term among the worst for urban Canada.

Indeed, Harper’s brand of conservatism is notable for its rabidly anti-urban stance. The fact that most of us inhabit cities and towns puts him and his minions at complete odds with the vast majority of Canadians.

Canada election 2015: Why Stephen Harper is battling it out with Wynne and Notley

A political spat that erupted this week between Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and the Alberta and Ontario premiers is being seen by some as a calculated move on Harper's part to shore up his traditional party base.

"In the Canadian politics playbook, attacking premiers in the middle of a federal election campaign is unusual," said Cristine de Clercy, ​associate professor of political science at Western University.

#HarperBlamesAlbertans Takes Off After Harper Calls Alberta NDP Government A 'Disaster'

Stephen Harper took an online lashing from Albertans after making a dig at the province’s NDP government this week.

During a campaign stop in Laval, Que., the Conservative leader addressed an audience in French and criticized the Alberta government's decision to delay the release of its provincial budget until October.

“We have an experiment like this going on in Alberta right now,” Harper said.