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.]

Monday, August 31, 2015

Punishing birdwatching songwriter ensures 'Harperman' a place in Canadian folk canon

Tony Turner, who studies bird migrations in his day job, has been a fixture of the Ottawa folk community for years, writing and composing as a member of the songwriting collective Writer's Bloc since 1994. But recently, he's vaulted to national fame for "Harperman," a ditty that really does speak for itself. Go watch, and sing along with the chorus.
He's been suspended from his birdwatching activities (what is it with our overlords'fascination with birdwatchers, anyway?) and he's now under "investigation" by the commissars over at Environment Canada where he worked. The reason? He's been accused of breaching the public service Values and Ethics Code.

Carding and Toronto police practices called into question

Concerns continue to grow over carding practices in Toronto, specifically over how much data is being collected, and what this means for privacy, and how it is being used to disproportionally gather information on people of colour in Toronto.
On Tuesday September 1 a community consultation about carding practices will be held in Toronto as part of a provincial initiative to review policing practices.

If you get a call from the “Voter Outreach Centre," it's the Conservative party

Telephone solicitors working for the Conservative party are again identifying themselves with the generic-sounding name “Voter Outreach Centre” in calls to potential supporters.

Websites that track unsolicited calls list numerous accounts from people who received these phone calls from numbers in Saskatchewan, Ottawa, British Columbia and the suburban Toronto area since the campaign began.

The Rehabilitationists

IN NOVEMBER 2013, a who’s who of America’s conservative legal establishment descended on the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., for an annual meeting of the Federalist Society, the most influential conservative legal organization in the country. Current presidential candidates Scott Walker and Ted Cruz each made appearances, ingratiating themselves with the influence peddlers in attendance. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was a featured speaker at the event’s black-tie-optional dinner.

One of the biggest stars of the conference, however, was neither a Senate-confirmed official nor an elected politician, but a libertarian law professor at Georgetown named Randy Barnett. This wasn’t Barnett’s first turn as a Federalist Society eminence, but his reception that year was especially rapturous.

Why The Rentboy Raid Matters More Than The Ashley Madison Hack

The Justice Department took down what it called the largest “internet brothel” last week, arresting the CEO and six employees behind the online male escort service Rentboy.com. But there’s more to the raid of the eight-year old site than the narrative of the government conquering a thinly disguised prostitution enterprise.

Rentboy’s terms of service prohibited the exchange of money for sex, listing the site’s purpose as promoting male companionship through dates or paid escorts. Rentboy charged escorts a monthly fee ranging from $59.95 to $299.95, and the escorts set their own rates based on the level of service. According to the complaint, Rentboy had about 500,000 unique daily visitors with 70 percent residing in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security and the New York Police Department determined the site was simply a front for gay prostitution, where escorts would sometimes detail their penis size and sexual preferences.

The Gargoyle: Ottawa South Tory candidate invites media, refuses interviews

Conservative candidate Dev Balkissoon will be opening his campaign office on Aug. 30 at noon, but the Ottawa South hopeful will continue a trend of not addressing the media during the event.

Nearly a week after every Conservative candidate in the Ottawa area missed a meeting with Mayor Jim Watson, Balkissoon’s campaign staff will keep making him unavailable to questions from the media when they open his office on Lorry Greenberg Drive.

Canada To Get More Aggressive Collecting Student Loans, Documents Show

OTTAWA — Hundreds of thousands of university and college students walking onto campuses this week with help from federal loans could find themselves targeted harder than ever to repay billions of dollars in loans and grants.

Employment and Social Development Canada, which oversees the Canada Student Loans program, has set more aggressive collection targets after feeling pressure from its political masters to stem the rising amount of student debt the government must write off each year, an amount that topped $300 million just two years ago.

Jason Kenney Touts Broader Definition Of 'Recession'

Conservative candidate Jason Kenney laid the groundwork for a broader definition of "recession" just a few short days before GDP numbers for the second quarter of 2015 are set to be released.

"Most economists define a recession as a widespread downturn in the economy," Kenney told host Rosemary Barton on CBC News Network's Power & Politics on Sunday.

Harper's Newspeak

In 1995 the Italian writer Umberto Eco, who grew up in Mussolini's Italy, wrote an essay on the eternal threat of fascism for the New York Review of Books.

Eco explained that fascism, like any totalitarian system, depended on certain features to poison the political landscape.

It could sprout, warned Eco, like an invasive weed in any place where careless citizens let liberty erode.

First Nations bear the risks of oilsands development

The most direct and long-term effects of carving up the land, withdrawing immense amounts of water from rivers, discharging air- and water-borne waste, and the influx of thousands of construction workers — all part of the furious pace of oilsands development — have fallen on aboriginal people and the once-remote places that have been their homes for generations.

Nexen Ordered To Suspend Operations On 95 Pipelines By Alberta Energy Regulator

CALGARY — Alberta's energy regulator has ordered Nexen Energy to immediately cease operations of 95 pipelines in northeastern Alberta.

It issued the order late Friday due to what it calls non-compliance surrounding pipeline maintenance and monitoring in its Long Lake oilsands project.

Alberta Energy Regulator spokesman Bob Curran says every oil and gas company is required to monitor, inspect and maintain records for all of their pipelines.

Harper's economic plan: spin to win

One day over lunch in Ottawa, Ralph Goodale, the warhorse from the flatlands of Saskatchewan, was stomping all over the Conservative record on economic management. The battering the economy had taken in the early months of 2015 was further evidence for the steadfast Liberal that Canadians had been fooled all along into believing the Tories knew what they were doing.

The King of Mean: Harper’s reign of fear continues

Stephen Harper never surprises. He just keeps on getting worse.

Among other things, he proved this week that he is the king of pettiness. A federal scientist, Tony Turner, has been suspended for singing. Only Steve, it seems, can sing.

I still think Harper should be sued by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr for gross cruelty to iconic music. What is the greatest distance in the known universe? The expanse between the Beatles and Stephen Harper. That barfing unicorn on YouTube has a better sound than Steve and the Van Cats.

This Aboriginal Community Is Launching a Solar Project in the Heart of Canada’s Oil Sands

The Lubicon Lake Band in Little Buffalo, Alberta, is surrounded by fossil fuel extraction, and the province is lighting up with increasingly intense forest fires. A few years ago, the community experienced one of the largest oil spills in the province's history when 28,000 barrels of crude leaked onto their territory. A month ago, another pipeline burst, spurting 31,500 barrels of bitumen onto a nearby First Nation.

Inside the Most Expensive Nuclear Bomb Ever Made

Engineers at the United States' nuclear weapons lab in Albuquerque, New Mexico, have spent the past few years designing and testing the B61-12, a high-tech addition to our nation's atomic arsenal. Unlike the free-fall gravity bombs it will replace, the B61-12 is a guided nuclear bomb. A new tail kit assembly, made by Boeing, enables the bomb to hit targets far more precisely than its predecessors.

Dick Cheney: Iran Deal Will Lead To First Use Of Nuclear Weapon Since Hiroshima And Nagasaki

Former Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz Cheney launched a broad attack against President Barack Obama's foreign policy in an excerpt of a forthcoming book that was published in The Wall Street Journal on Friday.

Both Cheneys accused Obama of lying about the Iran nuclear deal and said that the agreement would lead to the first use of a nuclear weapon since 1945.

Chris Christie Wants To Track Immigrants Like FedEx Packages

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Saturday revealed a plan to curb unauthorized immigration: track anyone who enters the country from the time they receive their visa, like a FedEx package.

At a New Hampshire town hall, the presidential hopeful lamented that 40 percent of the undocumented immigrants in the United States entered on legal visas that they had overstayed.

Former Residents of New Orleans’s Demolished Housing Projects Tell Their Stories

Soon after Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans’s failed levees displaced 400,000 of the city’s residents, the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) made a move that would dramatically reduce the availability of public housing in the city. The plan, announced in early 2006, involved the demolition of the city’s four major public housing complexes, C.J. Peete, B.W. Cooper, Lafitte, and St. Bernard, known collectively as the Big Four.

Ontario mayor defends controversial tweets relating Harper’s security to Hitler

TORONTO — An Ontario mayor apologized to veterans on Saturday after comparing the Conservatives' decision to hire veterans as extra security during the federal election campaign that referred to protection measures used by dictators Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.

Oakville Mayor Rob Burton made the comments in response to a Canadian Press story about former members of the Canadian military acting as security guards at Stephen Harper's campaign events, on top of RCMP officers who are assigned to the prime minister's personal detail.

BC Minister Bennett's Visit Fails to Ease Alaskans' Mining Concerns

Promises of a closer relationship between B.C. and Alaska, and more consultation on B.C. mine applications are a good start, but so far, southeast Alaska has no more guarantees that those mines will not pollute salmon-bearing rivers than before last week's visit by B.C.'s Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett, say Alaskan fishing and conservation groups.

Bennett, accompanied by senior civil servants from the ministries of Energy and Mines and Environment, took a conciliatory tone as he met with state officials, policy-makers and critics of what is seen as an aggressive push by B.C. to develop mines in the transboundary area, close to vitally important salmon rivers like the Unuk, Taku and Stikine.

Return of Rebekah Brooks is 'two fingers up to British public' – shadow minister

The return of Rebekah Brooks to run Rupert Murdoch’s UK newspaper operation has been described as “two fingers up to the British public” by the shadow culture secretary, in a strikingly aggressive intervention.

Chris Bryant, who has personally clashed with Brooks in the past, condemned the apparent reappointment of Brooks as chief executive of News Corp’s UK operations – a year after she was cleared of all charges related to the phone-hacking scandal.

Corbynmania is ‘Alice in Wonderland’ politics, says Tony Blair in final plea

A defiant Tony Blair has dramatically re-entered the debate over Labour’s future with an 11th-hour appeal to party members to come to their senses and reject the “Alice in Wonderland” politics of Jeremy Corbyn.

The former prime minister and winner of three general elections says Corbyn’s supporters are operating in a “parallel reality” which rejects evidence and reason, and says their leftwing choice for leader will be an electoral disaster.

Why Social Security's Complexity is a Strength, Not a Weakness

Dodd-Frank. ObamaCare. And most recently, Social Security, on the occasion of its 80th birthday this month. All have been blasted of late, if not since inception. And in each case, the charge is the same: Complexity. Overcomplexity - an accusation also leveled at the tax code, the criminal code, and just about every set of US government rules. Too complicated, we're told; impossible to understand without expert guidance, such as I and my co-authors provided earlier this year with the bestseller Get What's Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security.

Video Shows Texas Police Shoot Man With His Hands Up

After a tense confrontation Friday, sheriff’s deputies responding to a domestic disturbance near San Antonio shot and killed a man seconds after he appeared to raise his hands in surrender.

Video recorded by a student named Michael Thomas and aired in part by a local ABC News affiliate shows a pair of deputies and a shirtless man moving about the front yard of a home in Bexar County, Texas. Thomas was too far away for his camera to pick up any of what was said between the three men. KSAT12 News decided to freeze the video just before the deputies fired two fatal shots.

Canadian Fighter Pilots Accused Of Killing Civilians

The Globe and Mail says Canadian fighter pilots have been accused of killing civilians in a January air strike in Iraq, though it's unclear who is making the allegation.

The Canadian Armed Forces told The Globe that they have found no evidence to support the allegation, but encourage anyone with information to come forward.

The military tells the newspaper that the accusation was made by someone who "heard of these potential casualties through a second-hand account," but gives no further details.

Canada's CF-18 Hornets have been involved since late last year in a U.S.-led air bombing campaign to help Iraqi troops reclaim ground captured by extremists.

Canadian fighter aircraft also began air strikes in Syria in April.

Original Article
Source: huffingtonpost.ca/
Author: CP

Bryce Casavant, Conservation Officer Who Saved Bears, Ousted From Department

VANCOUVER — A conservation officer who defied his bosses and refused to euthanize two orphaned bear cubs is being pushed out of his job, says the union that represents him.

Bryce Casavant won the hearts of animal lovers when he opted not to shoot the baby bears in July after their mother was destroyed for repeatedly raiding homes near Port Hardy, B.C.

Casavant sent the cubs to a wildlife refuge instead.

The Ojibwe Take A Stand For Treaty Rights, Hoping To Defeat A Pipeline

About 40 members of several Ojibwe communities in Minnesota staged a protest this week over their right to hunt, fish and harvest wild rice off the reservation, seeking to provoke a peaceful confrontation with law enforcement.

The protesters, who have organized themselves as the 1855 Treaty Authority, intentionally violated Minnesota state laws and regulations that prohibit the Ojibwe from harvesting wild rice off-reservation. The protest on Thursday and Friday took place on Hole-in-the-Day Lake and Gull Lake, near Nisswa in central Minnesota.

Unions Plot Major Push After Landmark Labor Ruling

Aug 28 (Reuters) - U.S. union leaders said on Friday that a landmark U.S. labor board ruling on companies' obligations toward contract and franchise workers would help them organize manufacturers and e-commerce companies as well as fast food chains.

On Thursday the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled the owner of a California recycling plant was a "joint employer" with the contractor that hired workers at the plant, essentially forcing both to bargain with the union together or risk violating U.S. labor law.

What Are the US's Real Plans for Guantánamo?

Just as the United States and Cuba open diplomatic relations, the Obama administration has simultaneously unveiled a plan to shut down Guantánamo. President Obama's plan to close Guantánamo does not entail shutting down the entire base or rejecting the policies of indefinite detention and military commissions. While marketed as "change," the United States' plan to shut down the Guantánamo prison - and even its new diplomatic rapprochement with Cuba - are a continuation of US hegemony in the region.

In July, the Obama administration announced its plan for closing the Guantánamo Bay detention facility. At the Aspen Security Forum, Lisa Monaco, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, said that of the current 116 detainees, some will be transferred to a prison somewhere in the United States. The 52 who are eligible for transfer will be released to other countries. Those considered too difficult to prosecute but "too dangerous to release" will be subject to periodic review boards to determine whether they are fit for release.

Kenney ‘not made aware’ of Iraq air strike allegations against Canadian fighter pilots

Defence Minister Jason Kenney says the military never told him Canadian fighter pilots had been accused of killing civilians when they bombed an Islamic State fighting position on Jan. 21.

It’s a startling admission from the Conservative minister because the Harper cabinet member is effectively saying the Forces kept him out of the loop.

Parm Gill Supporter Denies Wrongdoing After Liberal's Donation Given To Tories

A Tory supporter who used to collect donations for the Liberal party is expressing indignation at suggestions that he has done something wrong.

Etobicoke, Ont., resident Harbhajan Singh previously raised funds for a Liberal MP in Scarborough–Agincourt but now works with Conservative Parm Gill, the incumbent MP for Brampton North.

This week, a man from Brampton, Ont., Jagdish Singh (no relation) accused him of processing donations to the Gill camp without his authorization.

Harper Sneaks In Some Partisan Messaging On Campaign 'Down Day'

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Stephen Harper's speech to a large Muslim conference on Friday was billed as prime ministerial, not political, but he still managed to squeeze in some Conservative messaging on Canada's fight against terrorism.

The Conservative leader did not do any formal campaigning Friday, choosing instead to address to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at, Canada's largest national Islamic convention, which kicked off a three-day conference in Mississauga.

Ohio Cop Pulls Over Black Man Who 'Made Direct Eye Contact' With Him

Earlier this month, a police officer in Dayton, Ohio, tailed a man by the name of John Felton for two miles, then pulled him over for failing to use a turn signal 100 feet prior to making his turn. To be clear: Felton used a turn signal, but he apparently didn't put it on early enough.

Only after handing over a written warning did the officer acknowledge the real reason he'd pulled over Felton, a black man who was driving a car with out-of-state plates: He had "made direct eye contact" with the officer.

Rebekah Brooks Returning To News Corp After Phone-Hacking Scandal

LONDON, Aug 28 (Reuters) - Rebekah Brooks will return to her old job heading Rupert Murdoch's British newspaper division, according to the Financial Times and New York Times, just over a year after being cleared of criminal charges in a phone-hacking scandal.

Her return to News Corp could be as soon as early September, the Financial Times said on Friday, citing people familiar with the matter.

The Pacific Coast Farm-Worker Rebellion

A burned-out concrete blockhouse—the former police station—squats on one side of the only divided street in Vicente Guerrero, half a mile from Baja California’s transpeninsular highway. Just across the street lies the barrio of Nuevo (New) San Juan Copala, one of the first settlements of migrant farm workers here in the San Quintín Valley, named after their hometown in Oaxaca.

Behind the charred stationhouse another road leads into the desert, to a newer barrio, Lomas de San Ramón. Here, on May 9, the cops descended in force, allegedly because a group of strikers were blocking a gate at a local farm. A brutal branch of the Mexican police did more than lift the blockade, though. Shooting rubber bullets at people fleeing down the dirt streets, they stormed into homes and beat residents.

Judges Give NSA More Time to Suck Up Your Data

A federal appeals court in Washington, DC, on Friday tossed out an injunction over the National Security Agency's bulk collection of millions of American's phone records, but left open the question of whether the program itself is legal.

Alberta’s oilsands trade-off

It’s the biggest energy project in the world. Millions of barrels of thick tarry bitumen otherwise known as the Alberta oilsands are being dug up or melted with injected steam every day and shipped out as fast as a runaway train.

There have been significant layoffs in the past several months and, according to the Alberta government, the number of jobs could decline by 25 per cent if the oil price doesn’t recover soon. But thousands of workers have already moved to Alberta or commute across the country to get in on the high wages.

How the rich got richer and you got the shaft

Economists have been scratching their heads for some time now, asking themselves why the economy has been so weak for so long. They've come up with all sorts of theories to explanation the situation: Automation, globalization,fiscal policy, secular stagnation, financialization, etc.
But what if the answer is much simpler than that? What if the biggest problem is income inequality?

Unist'ot'en Camp on "high alert" under rumours of police raid

Policers officers have not directly confirmed or denied rumours of an impending raid of the Unist'ot'en Camp in northwestern B.C., which has long been on their radar for repeatedly denying the oil and gas industry access to its territory.

Corporal Janelle Shoihet, a media relations officer in Surrey, said a press release issued by the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) outlining the "mass arrest operation" is currently under review and no police action has been taken yet.

Most Americans Have No Idea How Easy It Is For Police To Take Your Money

A new poll shows that the overwhelming majority of Americans aren't familiar with civil asset forfeiture, a controversial law enforcement practice that allows officers to seize a person's property -- including cash, cars, jewelry and houses -- without obtaining a conviction or even charging the owner with a crime.

The HuffPost/YouGov survey, released Thursday, shows that 72 percent of Americans have never heard of the term "civil asset forfeiture." The poll also suggests that a majority of Americans are unaware that police and other federal law enforcement agencies use the process in ways that routinely violate the rights of innocent property owners, according to critics.

On 'Dumbing Down' the Democratic Debate

There are two stories about why Washington doesn't work. One blames a corrupted process. The other blames Republicans.
Corrupted process sorts point to the grotesque inequality that has developed within our political system -- an inequality that makes Congress ripe for capture by special interests, by giving the funders of campaigns unprecedented power. Four hundred families, the New York Times reports, have given half the money that has been raised in this election cycle so far. That extraordinary concentration makes it trivially easy to block reform of every sort, as candidates for every office bend over backwards to please their funders.

Europe's Migrant Crisis Brings New Death By Land And Sea AP

VIENNA (AP) -- Death and desperation mounted in Europe's migrant crisis Friday as Austrian police said 71 people appeared to have suffocated in the back of an abandoned truck, while an estimated 200 people were feared drowned off Libya when two overloaded boats capsized.

More than 300,000 people have sought to cross the Mediterranean Sea so far in 2015, up from 219,000 in all of last year, as European authorities grapple with the largest influx since World War II.

Hawaii’s Going 100 Percent Renewable, And It’s Not Using Natural Gas As A ‘Transition’

Hawaiian Gov. David Ige said this week he opposes plans to use liquefied natural gas as a “transitional fuel” for the island state as it moves to 100 percent renewable electricity. Ige said investment in infrastructure for LNG — or any fossil fuel — was misplaced, and he expressed doubt that there would be any monetary benefits to LNG proposals.

A Debt Ceiling Showdown Between Republicans Comes Into Focus

At a certain point during the middle of the summer, Republican operatives began worrying that the party was flirting dangerously with self-immolation, though not for the reasons many suspected.

Yes, Donald Trump launched a presidential campaign by calling Mexican immigrants illegally crossing the border “rapists.” And yes, another Republican presidential candidate accused President Barack Obama of shepherding another Holocaust with his Iran nuclear deal. But those were viewed as rhetorical flourishes from the campaign trail – potentially damaging but not necessarily self-destructive.

Novak: 'I did not know that Mr. Wright was going to cut that cheque'

The prime minister’s chief of staff Ray Novak says he did not know that his predecessor, Nigel Wright, was going to give Mike Duffy a personal cheque for $90,000 to repay questionable Senate expenses.

CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife spoke Friday morning with Novak, who has been out of the public eye for more than a week. Fife caught up with the PM’s aide as he made his way to the Conservative campaign office, and asked him whether he knew about the $90,000.

OTTAWA — "We all know what has happened there — the massive fall in global energy prices. But, you know, 80 per cent of the economy is actually growing." — Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

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When asked to explain why he thinks Canada is not currently in a recession, Stephen Harper blamed the falling price of oil, China's declining growth and the European Union's debt crisis. And he said that Canada's situation — its banking and financial sector — was otherwise basically solid.

Young black man jailed since April for alleged $5 theft found dead in cell

A young black man arrested by police in Portsmouth, Virginia, has been found dead in jail after spending almost four months behind bars without bail for stealing groceries worth $5.

Jamycheal Mitchell, who had mental health problems, was discovered lying on the floor of his cell by guards early last Wednesday, according to authorities. While his body is still awaiting an autopsy, senior prison officials said his death was not being treated as suspicious.