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, May 24, 2011

Canada Post blasts union demands

Canada Post has rejected its union’s latest contract proposal, calling it “a step backward” and warning it would add $1.4 billion in overall costs.

“We were surprised. We were disappointed after eight months of negotiating,” said Canada Post spokesman Jon Hamilton. “The costs would have to be either passed on to customers through higher rates, or taxpayers through a request for government support.

“That’s not acceptable,” he said.

Negotiators for the 48,000 members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers are now examining the company’s counter-offer.

In an interview before receiving management’s response, national president Denis Lemelin said the union is concerned about creating a two-tier system. Workers now earn about $24 an hour, and Canada Post has proposed $18 an hour for new employees, Lemelin said.

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Patriot Act Extension Moves Forward In Senate

WASHINGTON — A tight deadline looming, the Senate on Monday advanced a four-year extension of the Patriot Act, the controversial law that governs the search for terrorists on American soil.

Lawmakers voted 74-8 to debate and vote the legislation this week, before key provisions expire on Friday. President Barack Obama was in Europe, so any extension must pass the House and Senate, then be flown overseas and signed into law before the three provisions expire.

That would require uncommon speed for the deliberative Senate, where one member can delay or block legislation. And there were opponents: Senators of both parties said the law, designed after the September 2001 terrorist attacks, would give the government too much power.

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Tennessee Anti-Gay Bill Puts Big Business In A Tough Spot

WASHINGTON -- Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) must decide by June 1 whether to sign legislation prohibiting cities in the state from passing anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT individuals. But the ones feeling the most heat on the issue are a group of national corporations under pressure from gay rights activists to convince the governor to veto the measure.

The bill, HB 600/SB 632, would bar local governments from instituting anti-discrimination policies that are stricter than the ones in force at the state level. Under state law, it is not illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. But in Nashville, it is. The new legislation's immediate effect would be to void Nashville's strong civil rights ordinance.

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Is the World Too Big to Fail?

The democracy uprising in the Arab world has been a spectacular display of courage, dedication, and commitment by popular forces—coinciding, fortuitously, with a remarkable uprising of tens of thousands in support of working people and democracy in Madison, Wisconsin, and other US cities. If the trajectories of revolt in Cairo and Madison intersected, however, they were headed in opposite directions: in Cairo toward gaining elementary rights denied by the dictatorship, in Madison towards defending rights that had been won in long and hard struggles and are now under severe attack.

Each is a microcosm of tendencies in global society, following varied courses. There are sure to be far-reaching consequences of what is taking place both in the decaying industrial heartland of the richest and most powerful country in human history, and in what President Dwight Eisenhower called "the most strategically important area in the world"—"a stupendous source of strategic power" and "probably the richest economic prize in the world in the field of foreign investment," in the words of the State Department in the 1940s, a prize that the US intended to keep for itself and its allies in the unfolding New World Order of that day.

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The Right-Wing Network Behind the War on Unions

Inspired by Ronald Reagan and funded by the right's richest donors, a web of free-market think tanks has fueled the nationwide attack on workers' rights.

— By Andy Kroll

From New Hampshire to Alaska, Republican lawmakers are waging war on organized labor. They're pushing bills to curb, if not eliminate, collective bargaining for public workers; make it harder for unions to collect member dues; and, in some states, allow workers to opt out of joining unions entirely but still enjoy union-won benefits. All told, it's one of the largest assaults on American unions in recent history.

Behind the onslaught is a well-funded network of conservative think tanks that you've probably never heard of. Conceived by the same conservative ideologues who helped found the Heritage Foundation, the State Policy Network (SPN) is a little-known umbrella group with deep ties to the national conservative movement. Its mission is simple: to back a constellation of state-level think tanks loosely modeled after Heritage that promote free-market principles and rail against unions, regulation, and tax increases. By blasting out policy recommendations and shaping lawmakers' positions through briefings and private meetings, these think tanks cultivate cozy relationships with GOP politicians. And there's a long tradition of revolving door relationships between SPN staffers and state governments. While they bill themselves as independent think tanks, SPN's members frequently gather to swap ideas. "We're all comrades in arms," the network's board chairman told the National Review in 2007.

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A Louisiana lawmaker introduces the country's most extreme anti-abortion measure

Anti-abortion lawmakers in state legislatures around the country have already drawn national attention—and outrage—for pushing bills that would drastically limit access to abortions. But in Louisiana, one "unapologetically pro-life" lawmaker wants to go even further. State Rep. John LaBruzzo, a Republican from Metairie, has introduced a bill that would ban all abortions in his state—with no exceptions for rape, incest, or the life of the mother—and charge women who seek abortions and the doctors who perform those abortions with "feticide."

Louisiana state law calls for jail sentences of up 15 years, with hard labor, for the unlawful killing an unborn child. LaBruzzo told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that the inclusion of the line subjecting women to "feticide" prosecution for seeking abortions was a "mis-draft," and including it "would make [the bill] too difficult to pass." He promised the provision will be removed from the bill before it goes to a committee vote. But while LaBruzzo doesn't expect to punish women who seek abortions, he would still like to see doctors working on the chain gang for providing a constitutionally protected medical procedure.

Full Article

Republicans: Let's Cut Social Security, Too

For all the drastic spending cuts in GOP Rep. Paul Ryan's proposed 2012 budget, there's one major government program that it barely touches: Social Security. Now Republicans in both houses of Congress are preparing to dig into that sacrosanct entitlement as well.

On Wednesday morning, shortly before Obama's big deficit speech, three Republican senators unveiled a plan to cut $6.2 trillion by paring back Social Security over the next two decades. Under a proposal unveiled by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Mike Lee (R-Utah), the qualifying age for Social Security would rise from 67 to 70 by 2032, while benefits for everyone earning more than an average of $43,000 over their lifetime would be reduced. Graham took pains to explain that he wasn't pushing for privatization but also slammed any tax increases to shore up Social Security, saying such a move would "destroy America." "It's much better to give up benefits on the end side than pay taxes now," he explained.

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Only Little People Pay Taxes

"We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes," billionaire hotelier Leona Helmsley famously (and allegedly) sniffed. She wasn't entirely correct: The superrich do still pay taxes. The wealthiest 1 percent of taxpayers pay 32 percent of all income tax collected by the federal government.

But the superrich don't pay as much as they used to—and thanks to a combination of tax cuts and preferential tax policies, their tax obligations can be less demanding than the so-called little people's. In fact, the very wealthiest Americans' tax burden has been steadily dropping for years, even as they've enjoyed astounding income growth not seen by the vast majority of Americans.

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The Tea Party Wants to Teach Your Kids About the Constitution

Come September, public schoolkids could be receiving a tea party-fueled tutorial in the Constitution—or at least, the movement's version of it.

In 2004, at the urging of the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), Congress required any school accepting public money to teach students about the Constitution during the week of September 17. Most people are unaware of this "Constitution Week" requirement, and few schools have apparently complied with the mandate.

Enter the Tea Party Patriots, one of the nation's largest tea party umbrella groups, which has seized on this obscure congressional mandate, urging its members to "adopt a school" during Constitution Week. The group recently blasted out an alert to supporters that included instructions on how to pressure school officials to follow the congressional requirement. If they refuse, TPP advocates staging a protest and alerting the media to the school's failure to adhere to the law. "Patriots should not have to remind schools to teach the history of the most important document in our country," TPP's leaders write on the group's website explaining the new campaign. "That we have to do so is an indication of how awful the public school system has become with regard to teaching U.S. history."

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The Democrats' Medicare Problem

Democrats have had a field day attacking Republicans for supporting Paul Ryan's drastic plan to voucherize Medicare. Now Republicans are starting to push back—and their counterattacks could highlight some of the Democrats' own vulnerabilities on the popular entitlement program for seniors.

Republicans have already launched an ad against Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Ca.), a Democrat representing a Northern California swing district, Politico reports. In the television ad, Republicans claim that "McNerney and President Obama's Medicare plan empowers bureaucrats to interfere with doctors, risking seniors' access to treatment. Now, Obama's budget plan lets Medicare go bankrupt: That'd mean big cuts to benefits. Tell McNerney to stop bankrupting Medicare."

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The Last Mountain

The film chronicles the fight against coal mining across Appalachia and Massey Energy’s devastating practice of mountaintop removal to extract layers of coal. "They have to break the law to do this. They cannot survive in the marketplace without violating the law. They violate labor laws. They violate health and safety laws. And by their own records, they’ve had some 67,000 violations of just one of the environmental statutes," says Kennedy of the coal giant that has tremendous political influence at the state and federal level. “It’s not just about the environmental destruction, it’s also about subverting democracy.”


CEOs Who Got Rich By Squeezing Workers

Corporate profits grew 38.8 percent in 2010, the biggest increase since 1950. But while CEOs earned an average of 20 percent more last year, many Americans continued to lose their jobs and benefits. The insecurity of the middle class has a lot to do with how executives are paid. Bonuses pegged to stock prices encourage CEOs to mercilessly outsource and downsize, slashing costs to boost profits. The result is that more corporate leaders are getting paid at the expense of average workers.

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