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, September 16, 2014

Sweden Election Results Offer Uncertain Future For Austerity

STOCKHOLM, Sept 14 (Reuters) - Sweden's center-left Social Democrat leader Stefan Lofven emerged as victor in Sunday's general election after a voter backlash against tax cuts and trimmed welfare by a center-right government, but he fell short of a parliamentary majority.

The Nordic region's biggest economy and one of the few star performers in Europe now faces a weak minority government with a possible political impasse as the anti-immigrant far right emerged as the third biggest party to hold the balance of power.

How First Nations in Canada Are Winning the Fight Against Big Oil

If it wasn’t for the cannons, the pond might be a tranquil sight: its rippling surface reflects the blue of the sky, diffusing the harsh midday light. But the cannons fire sporadically, a warning to migrating ducks not to land in this toxic soup of arsenic, mercury and carcinogenic hydrocarbons—1,600 ducks died after landing in one of these tailings ponds in 2008.

This is the epicenter of the Athabasca Tar Sands operation in northeastern Alberta, Canada, just outside the oil boomtown of Fort McMurray. It’s the third-largest proven deposit of crude oil and the largest industrial project on earth—so costly and environmentally destructive that it’s considered a frontier resource, viable only because conventional oil sources are in decline. I visited in late June as part of the Tar Sands Healing Walk, in which First Nations activists led 250 participants on a fourteen-kilometer loop of the oil producer Syncrude’s operations there. The air was noxious and the scale of the destruction nearly impossible to take in, but the Dene drummers steadied us with their constant beat.

Push To Impose Extra Fees On Solar Customers Draws Outrage In Wisconsin

A recent move by Wisconsin utility We Energies to not only raise electricity rates on all consumers but also to add an additional charge on those who produce their own energy and sell it back to the grid has sparked outrage within the state and beyond. The plan would raise the “fixed charge” on all customers’ electric bills from $9 to $16 a month, as well as reduce net metering — a policy that enables customers with solar panels or other forms of distributed generation to sell their excess electricity back to the grid — and add a new charge on these electricity-generating customers.

The Business of America is Dirty Tricks

Any glance at the inert state of political progress in our market-addled age has to leave even the most dogged investigator a bit bewildered. We live, after all, in an era of economic and ideological drift—of street occupations and ballot-box insurgencies. Yet our institutions of national government remain in shameful fealty to a laissez-faire fantasy. With metronomic predictability, the wise men of Washington preach austerity amid a raging jobs recession and wish away the bulwarks of economic security that make life in these United States (barely) tolerable for fixed-income retirees and poor people who have had the unpardonable bad taste to fall ill. As major manufacturing metropolises go bankrupt, as wages continue to go south while productivity climbs, as mortgages and pension plans are pillaged by the bailed-out banking class, we are trapped in a political consensus that urges government continually to shrink and depicts tax increases on the rich as an unholy abomination against the market’s righteous will. Why, for God’s sake?

Soldiers on Viagra part of a list of secrets held by Harper government

OTTAWA - Sexual dysfunction in the Canadian military is such a sensitive topic for the Harper government that federal officials have stamped all information related to it as a cabinet secret, something not to be revealed to the public.

And there are other subjects the federal Conservatives don't want to talk about: Why their planned $2-billion purchase of armoured vehicles was cancelled, for instance. Or how Canada feels about the proliferation of chemical weapons. Or what Transport Canada thought about rail safety criticism from the auditor general.

Those are just a few subjects on a growing list of seemingly routine reports, memos and documents caught up in an enhanced dragnet of so-called cabinet confidences — imposed, The Canadian Press has learned, by way of a stealthy Treasury Board directive in the summer of 2013.

Controversial natural gas rule changes came after B.C., oil lobby met

In January of this year, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers made a presentation to high-ranking officials in British Columbia's Environment Ministry, outlining changes they wanted to environmental review rules for natural gas projects.

Those changes became law on April 14, but they didn't stay that way for long.

‘Go to hell,’ Doug Ford tells autistic son’s dad after integrity complaint

Responding to an integrity complaint by the father of an autistic son, Councillor Doug Ford said the man should “go to hell” and accused him of being part of a “jihad.”

The man, Tommy Lenathen, is a 35-year city employee who sits on the executive board of Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 416. He filed the complaint with the city’s integrity commissioner after Ford said an Etobicoke home for teenagers with autism has “ruined the community” and suggested, with no evidence, that the teenagers are criminals.

"We Will Not Be Silenced": Students Denounce Rape at Columbia as Schools Face Scrutiny for Inaction

Hundreds of students turned out for a rally at Columbia University in New York City on Friday bearing mattresses and chanting “carry that weight,” a reference to the emotional burden they say all survivors must shoulder each day. Some wore red tape over their mouths to symbolize the harms done by Columbia’s bureaucratic handling of sexual assault. Earlier this month, Columbia University senior Emma Sulkowicz announced she would carry a dorm room mattress with her everywhere on campus until her rapist is expelled or leaves campus on his own. We play excerpts from Friday’s rally and speak to Sulkowicz and fellow Columbia University senior Zoe Ridolfi-Starr. She was also sexually assaulted at Columbia in 2012. She is the lead complainant in a federal complaint against Columbia over its handling of sexual assault.

Video
Source: democracynow.org
Author: --

The Name of the Fight

“Mr. President, everybody is asking in this country, are we or are we not at war?” a reporter asked Harry Truman at a White House press conference on June 29, 1950. It was a reasonable question: two days earlier, in response to a swift, unexpected advance of North Korean troops, Truman had ordered American forces to South Korea. In keeping with the rules of the time, the reporters asked the President for permission to print his answer verbatim. “The Chief Executive responded that he would allow the news men to use in quotes: ‘We are not at war,’ ” the Times noted. One of the reporters then asked if “police action under the United Nations” would be a more appropriate phrase. Truman said that that sounded right. The “police action” lasted three years (or longer, by some measures; there are still American troops in South Korea), and the term was eventually retired as a label for what Presidents don’t want to call wars.

Justin Trudeau says abortion rights trump MPs' freedom to vote their conscience

Women’s reproductive rights trump the freedom of Liberal members of parliament to vote their conscience on abortion, Justin Trudeau said, adding that it’s time that his party “actually defended rights.”

“I have had a lot of Liberals come up to me and say, 'I don’t quite understand, isn’t the Liberal party about freedom and about defending people’s rights?'" Trudeau said in an interview with CBC’s The Sunday Edition with Michael Enright.

Harper OKs potentially unconstitutional China-Canada FIPA deal, coming into force October 1

It's official: Prime Minister Stephen Harper has approved the controversial Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) today.

In a short, two-paragraph news release, International Trade Minister Ed Fast said the deal was now ratified. It will come into force on October 1, 2014, and will be effective for 31 years, until 2045.

Doug Ford’s Duck Dynasty

Wow, this city just experienced its own version of the Ole Political Sibling Switcheroo, a move more familiar in monarchies and fascist or communist dictatorships where the notion of divine rule is generally reinforced by bullets not ballots. Variations on the theme include the father-son and husband-wife swap in places like Pyongyang and Buenos Aires but not, until now, Toronto.

Contractors Ready to Cash In On ISIS War

Obama pledged that the war against ISIS won’t be fought with U.S. ground troops. He didn’t say anything about contractors, who see this as “the next big meal ticket.”

America’s rapidly-expanding war against ISIS won’t involve large numbers of U.S. troops on the ground, President Obama is promising. And it’s clear that airstrikes alone won’t beat back the extremist group. Which means that if the President wants to have any hope of meeting his far-reaching goal of destroying ISIS, he’s going to have to rely on private military contractors.

War Is Not the Answer

That was a bumper sticker Sojourners published at the outset of the Iraq war more than a decade ago. American church leaders had not only opposed the war but offered an alternative: "An Alternative to War for Defeating Saddam Hussein, A Religious Initiative." We not only presented it to Colin Powell's personal council and Tony Blair, but also printed full-page ads in every major British newspaper the day before their Parliamentary debate and vote on the war. The U.K.'s Secretary of State for International Affairs, Clair Short, told me the only real alternative on the table in their Cabinet meetings was "The American church leaders' plan," which, she said, was seriously discussed. U.S. and U.K. leaders showed they were drawn to an alternative plan to war that would remove any weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein might have had (which he did not) and even to ultimately remove him from power but without going to war. Pope John Paul II was also opposed to the potential war. Both the Vatican and the American church leaders warned that the potential costs of a war in Iraq could include increasing the scope and threats of international terrorism. ISIS is that sad prophecy come true; the habit of war prevailed.

Tavis Smiley: 'Black Americans Have Lost Ground Under Obama'

Tavis Smiley’s relentless criticism aimed at President Barack Obama has made dozens of headlines throughout the commander-in-chief’s presidency. And though, some may have questioned the political commentator’s motive behind his personal analysis, he recently insisted during an interview on HuffPost Live that his commentary is rooted in holding Obama accountable as the nation’s president.

“I don’t have a monopoly on the truth. There is the truth, and then there is the way to the truth. And I’m always on that route to the truth. I don’t have a monopoly on it. I tell the truth as best as I see it, try to hold folk accountable, and do all that in love,” he admitted to host Marc Lamont Hill. “You will never find a tape anywhere of me being derisive, demeaning, derogatory, or demonizing about the president.”

U.S. Scientists See Long Fight Against Ebola

The deadly Ebola outbreak sweeping across three countries in West Africa is likely to last 12 to 18 months more, much longer than anticipated, and could infect hundreds of thousands of people before it is brought under control, say scientists mapping its spread for the federal government.

“We hope we’re wrong,” said Bryan Lewis, an epidemiologist at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech.

Both the time the model says it will take to control the epidemic and the number of cases it forecasts far exceed estimates by the World Health Organization, which said last month that it hoped to control the outbreak within nine months and predicted 20,000 total cases by that time. The organization is sticking by its estimates, a W.H.O. spokesman said Friday.

Child Poverty Is a Canadian Problem

Hundreds of thousands of Canadian children are growing up without enough.

UNICEF'S most recent report on child well-being in rich countries ranked Canada 17 out of 29 countries assessed, scoring 27th in child obesity, 22nd in infant mortality and 21st in child poverty rates. Sadly, this isn't news. The House of Commons resolved to eradicate child poverty in 1989, but in late 2013, Statistics Canada reported that 967,000 children in this country still lived in low-income homes.

Obama Strategy Stumbles Over Conflicting Interests of Allies

President Obama has announced a strategy for fighting ISIS that, in many respects, is at odds with the interests of the allies in the Middle East whose support he is seeking. Trying to keep his allies happy and in line with the new ISIS battle has trapped the U.S. in a policy full of contradictions.

Any effective strategy to stabilize the Middle East instead of accelerating its disintegration must first of all recognize that all the problems in the region are tied together. A piecemeal instead of a comprehensive approach is destined not just to fail, but also to deepen the chaos.

Ferguson tragedy becoming a farce

What happened in Ferguson, Mo., last month was a tragedy. What’s on course to happen there next month will be a farce.

October is when a grand jury is expected to decide whether to indict the white police officer, Darren Wilson, who killed an unarmed black teenager by firing at least six bullets into him. It’s a good bet the grand jurors won’t charge him, because all signs indicate that the St. Louis County prosecutor, Robert McCulloch, doesn’t want them to.

U.S. Uses State Secrets Law To Intervene In Iran-Related Lawsuit

NEW YORK, Sept 12 (Reuters) - The U.S. government has moved to invoke a powerful national security law to dismiss a private lawsuit against a non-profit group, United Against A Nuclear Iran, on grounds that the case could reveal state secrets, according to a court filing on Friday.

Lawyers for the government argued that proceedings in the private dispute between a Greek businessman and U.S.-based UANI could "cause harm to national security" if they are allowed to continue. The document in federal court in New York said the secrets were "properly classified national security information" which would be described in another filing that would not be made public.

Russia Denies Ukraine War Role As Soldiers Return In Coffins

MOSCOW, Sept 12, 2014 (Reuters) - Late last month Yelena Tumanova was handed the body of her son in a coffin at her home in Russia's Western Volga region. Anton Tumanov was 20 and a soldier serving in the Russian army in the North Caucasus region of Chechnya.

The documents Yelena Tumanova was given with the body raised more questions than they answered - questions about how her son died and about the Russian government's denials that its troops are in Ukraine. The records do not show Anton Tumanov's place of death, said human rights activists who spoke to his mother after she got in touch with them.

California School Cops Received Military Rifles, Grenade Launchers, Armored Vehicles

School police in several California public school districts are ready for anything -- including, apparently, a small invasion.

The open news website MuckRock found through a recent Freedom of Information Act request that not only are California state and local police departments receiving military-grade equipment from the Department of Defense, but several school police departments are as well.

The Apple Watch Could Be Used As A Surveillance Device, Thanks To This Feature

There’s a scary feature on the Apple Watch that no one seems to be talking about.

In its elaborate press conference on Tuesday, complete with an announcement from U2 and a slew of celebrity guests, Apple unveiled its first line of wearable technology. The Apple Watch, which has plenty of apps that can monitor your fitness and even act as a credit card, has one feature that could pose some serious privacy concerns.

One of the watch’s features allows users to display a live preview of what your iPhone is shooting in real-time. Although the preview could be useful when snapping a posed photo with a friend, it could easily serve as a surveillance device if the subject is unaware of the iPhone filming them.

Original Article
Source: huffingtonpost.com/
Author: HuffPost Live

Who’s Paying the Pro-War Pundits?

If you read enough news and watch enough cable television about the threat of the Islamic State, the radical Sunni Muslim militia group better known simply as ISIS, you will inevitably encounter a parade of retired generals demanding an increased US military presence in the region. They will say that our government should deploy, as retired General Anthony Zinni demanded, up to 10,000 American boots on the ground to battle ISIS. Or as in retired General Jack Keane’s case, they will make more vague demands, such as for “offensive” air strikes and the deployment of more military advisers to the region.

European Commission rejects citizens' initiative on CETA

The European Commission -- the executive arm of the European Union tasked with negotiating trade agreements, including the Canada-EU CETAand the US-EU TTIP -- rejected a European-wide citizens' initiative on the controversial trade deals.
The European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) against the TTIP and CETA, which was supported by 230 organizations from 21 EU member states called on the European Commission "to recommend to the Council to repeal the negotiating mandate for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and not to conclude the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)."