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.]

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Austerity In The United Kingdom Leaves Disabled In Fear For Their Lives

LONDON -- “The big problem for me is fear,” said Lisa Egan.

Since birth, the 33-year-old has dealt with a rare genetic disorder called osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as brittle bone disease. The condition has caused more than 60 fractures in Egan's lifetime, including five separate breaks in 2011.

“I once broke my back sleeping in an awkward position,” she said. Because her disease is “wearing out her joints,” doctors told Egan to use a wheelchair.

Vast F.D.A. Effort Tracked E-Mails of Its Scientists

WASHINGTON — A wide-ranging surveillance operation by the Food and Drug Administration against a group of its own scientists used an enemies list of sorts as it secretly captured thousands of e-mails that the disgruntled scientists sent privately to members of Congress, lawyers, labor officials, journalists and even President Obama, previously undisclosed records show. 

What began as a narrow investigation into the possible leaking of confidential agency information by five scientists quickly grew in mid-2010 into a much broader campaign to counter outside critics of the agency’s medical review process, according to the cache of more than 80,000 pages of computer documents generated by the surveillance effort.

Ed Gillespie: Mitt Romney 'Retired Retroactively' From Bain Capital

WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney adviser Ed Gillespie said Sunday that the candidate "retired retroactively" from his job at Bain Capital, which Romney maintains that he left in 1999 despite evidence suggesting he remained involved with the company until 2002.

Gillespie said Romney may have been listed as "part-time" after 1999, but that he had no role in the firm's day-to-day affairs, a point the campaign has attempted to make repeatedly in order to separate him from Bain's activity related to outsourcing during that period. Romney has said he left the company completely in 1999 when he started working to plan the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Nikki Haley Slashes Support for Violence Victims Just When They Need It Most

Late last week, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley vetoed eighty-one items in the 2012–13 state budget sent to her by lawmakers. Beyond eliminating the state’s arts commission, she also managed to cut $453,680 in funding for the South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (SCCADVASA). If her veto isn’t overridden, “rape crisis centers will lose 37% of their current state funding, which will drastically reduce their ability to respond to victims and provide prevention education,” SCCADVASA’s Executive Director Pamela Jacobs told the Palmetto Public Record. 

South Carolina was already failing women when it comes to preventing violence against them. Its rape rate has exceeded the national rate since 1982. It also holds the extremely dubious honor of being number seven in the country for the number of women murdered by men.

This Week in Poverty: Houston Janitors' Strike Goes Citywide

Governor Mitt Romney got all the press at the NAACP convention in Houston on Wednesday, but janitor Alice McAfee got a standing-o. She spoke to a packed auditorium about her plight and that of over 3,000 fellow janitors in the city.

The Houston janitors are currently paid an hourly wage of $8.35 and earn an average of $8,684 annually, despite cleaning the offices of some of the largest and most powerful corporations in the world—Chevron, ExxonMobil, Wells Fargo, Shell Oil, JPMorgan Chase and others in the “City of Millionaires.” They are asking building owners and cleaning contractors for a raise to $10 an hour over the next three years; the counter offer is a $0.50 pay raise phased in over five years, virtually guaranteeing that the janitors continue to live in poverty.

Obamacare(s) for Women

In this March 23, 2010 file photo, President Barack Obama signs the health care bill in the East Room of the White House in Washington. A federal appeals court panel struck down the requirement in President Barack Obama's health care overhaul package that virtually all Americans must carry health care insurance or face penalties. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

These days the only progressives who aren’t declaring Obama a huge disappointment are the ones who insist they never believed him in the first place. I wish I had a dollar for every woman who blames Obama for giving lip service to women’s rights while throwing them under the proverbial bus whenever convenient. (I shared some of that outrage in numerous columns here, so I guess I’d be paying one of those dollars to myself.) He made noted sexist Larry Summers director of the National Economic Council and invited the even more sexist Rick Warren to preachify at his inauguration. He compromised abortion care right out of healthcare reform. When HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius rejected her medical committee’s recommendation that Plan B (emergency contraception) be sold over the counter, the reaction from feminists (including me) was instant and ferocious. It didn’t help that Obama called it a “common-sense” law that he supported “as the father of two daughters.” If he’d been the father of two sons, would he have wanted condoms available to those 16 and under only by prescription?

The Libor Scandal and Capitalism's Moral Decay

Maybe the acronym at the heart of the scandal is too confusing. Or Americans are simply tired of hearing about greedy bankers. By any measure, though, the Libor bank scandal is an extraordinary example of the 1 percent stealing from the 99 percent - and our crumbling ethics.

If an organized crime group was accused of breaking into the Nassau County Treasurer's Office on New York's Long Island and stealing $13 million, outrage would be widespread. And if the same group was accused of stealing millions from the City of Baltimore and other struggling municipalities, they would emerge as an issue in the presidential campaign.

Iraq-Iran Ties Grow Stronger As Iraq Rises From The Ashes

WASHINGTON -- In the run-up to the war in Iraq, neoconservative hawks in and out of the Bush administration promised that the U.S. invasion would quickly transform that country into a strong ally, a model Arab democracy and a major oil producer that would lower world prices, even while paying for its own reconstruction.

"A new regime in Iraq would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom for other nations in the region," President George W. Bush told a crowd at the American Enterprise Institute in 2003, a few weeks before he launched the attack.

LIBOR Investigation: Justice Department Building Criminal Cases Against Barclays, Others

WASHINGTON, July 14 (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department is building criminal cases against several financial institutions and their employees related to the manipulation of interest rates, The New York Times reported on Saturday.

Citing government officials close to the case who spoke on condition of anonymity, the Times said traders at Barclays Plc were among the individuals against whom Justice was building cases. Authorities expect to file charges against at least one bank later this year, the newspaper reported.

Calgary Stampede Met With Protest Over Rodeo After Chuckwagon Horse Deaths

CALGARY - Animal rights activists set up cardboard tomb stones and held up placards across the road from the Calgary Stampede grounds on Saturday — two days after three horses died at the chuckwagon races.

A few dozen protesters chanted slogans like "Stampede OK, rodeo no!" and "tradition is no excuse for abuse" at the side of a busy thoroughfare, at times arguing with passersby on their way into Stampede Park.

It's time for Harper to call off the NDP attack-ad dogs

Thomas Mulcair is the national leader of the New Democratic Party in Canada and leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition in the House of Commons in Ottawa. It is a position he can be expected to hold for the next few years, barring unforeseen circumstances.

It's an enviable position in a way, because he can fire unrestricted pot shots across the Commons' floor at Prime Minister Stephen Harper, while making endless and often wild, impossible-to-fulfil recommendations for social reform. Unfortunately for Mr. Mulcair, that's all he can do. Across the floor, protected by the majority of votes granted him by the people, sits the untouchable, benign in appearance, ruthless in practice, prime minister and lawmaker-in-chief.

Teen gets removed while asking immigration minister a question during Tory BBQ

EDMONTON - A protester who made it into a Conservative party barbecue in Edmonton says he was dragged out of the event and arrested by police when he tried to ask Immigration Minister Jason Kenney a question.

Bashir Mohamed, 17, planned to confront Kenney about the federal government's cuts to refugee health care.

Mohamed said he was born in a refugee camp in Kenya and came to Canada with his parents when he was three.

Forgive us our debts, dammit

If you’d like a titillating read this summer, let me propose Debt: The First 5000 Years, by David Graeber. It’s a book that dares to question “the very assumption that debts have to be repaid.” In all honesty, did you not just feel a shudder of moral revulsion at the thought along perhaps with the thrill of the forbidden? That’s what’s titillating. Graeber, an economist/anthropologist, asks how debt managed to become “the most profound moral obligation in our reality.” People are readier to condone and forgive — or at least consider doing so — murder, theft, betrayal; how on earth did that happen? To find an answer he goes back five millennia and advances stealthily toward the bizarre present.

Chuckwagon carnage: Calgary Stampede blames the horse!

"Autopsy shows lead horse in chuckwagon accident died of ruptured aortic aneurysm," shouts a headline in yesterday's Calgary Herald.

So… what? The Calgary Stampede's going to blame the chuckwagon crash that killed three horses Thursday night on "equine error"? Shoulda seen a vet, that dumb hoss…

Have you noticed that in such situations it's usually the driver that gets blamed? If a passenger jet skids off the runway with fatal results, it's pilot error. If a bus plunges into a ravine, it's the driver’s mistake. If a kid piles an ATV into a tree, well, he was inexperienced and wasn't wearing a helmet. Not our fault! It's reassuring to consumers, and, more important, may limit the liability of the company that serviced the jet in China, sold the ATV, or whatever.

Politics, science . . . coincidence?

There are many coincidences in life. Every day -- in a world with billions of things happening --there are bound to be events that just seem to be related. There are also deliberate acts that seem to be coincidence.

As consumers of news it’s our job to read between the lines and decide for ourselves what’s coincidence and what’s deliberate.

Two things happened yesterday:

1) Hundreds of lab-coated scientists marched on Parliament Hill proclaiming the death of evidence (a nice play on the Death of Innocence because there really has been a change in Ottawa where facts and figures no longer play a role in policy formulation); and

2) The Harper government announced Health Canada would study the (already well-studied) health effects of living near wind turbines.

Wonky parliamentary rules keep MPs blind to government spending

OTTAWA - A new report says arcane rules are keeping MPs in the dark about the billions in government spending they should be scrutinizing.

Members of Parliament receive conflicting, outdated information about how billions of tax dollars are being spent each year, and get little opportunity to review fiscal plans.

Doctors' protest interrupts Pan Am Games event in Toronto

Doctors concerned about the Harper government's recent cuts to refugee health benefits have disrupted another public appearance by a cabinet minister.

Amateur Sport Minister Bal Gosal was speaking at a promotional event for the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto when he was interrupted by four doctors wearing their white coats who approached the stage yelling.

"What about health care for refugees? What about medications for our patients?" yelled the protesters.

In Canada's Tar Sands, a Dante's Hell Threatens People Nearby and Across the Globe

In Canada's western province of Alberta, Melina Laboucan-Massimo’s community—the Lubicon Lake Nation—has endured a withering toxic tar sands oil assault, an Armageddon against nature few Americans are fully aware of. Here in the once pristine sub-Arctic, tar sands mining operations level vast swaths of boreal forests near native lands, as pipelines burst and spew corrosive chemical-laced tar sands oil into rivers and lakes.

Correcting Canada’s democratic deficit

The PR people come straight for you at public events. They aren’t easily deterred. They have an evangelical quality. I don’t mean Public Relations people; they’re shy and retiring by comparison. I mean the Proportional Representation people. They know the answer to our democratic deficit. They’re true believers.

I confess I was once among them. After all, it’s been the only serious form of democratic reform on offer here. (OK, Senate reform, too; I’ll get to that.) PR would make a real difference in how we vote and how governments are created. At the least, if Canadians got a chance to vote on PR, I felt, they’d embrace it. It was a no-brainer.

Battle for the Pacific: Naval arms race in the China Sea

ABOARD THE USS CARL VINSON—U.S. navy Capt. Rick Labranche streaks across the horizon at 1,000 kilometres an hour in his F-18 Hornet strike fighter.

It has been 12 minutes since a catapult slung Labranche’s plane from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and Labranche is preparing to drop a pair of 225-kilogram bombs into the Indian Ocean’s two-metre swells.

Toronto’s priority neighbourhoods: Money to stem poverty, violent crime about to dry up

In the seven years since Toronto’s deadly summer of the gun, an estimated $210 million has poured into 13 priority neighbourhoods across the city.

Violent crime is down.

Kids are picking up basketballs instead of guns and community hubs are built or planned in eight of the neighbourhoods.

Champions of Toronto’s strong neighbourhoods strategy are adamant it has sparked change and laid the groundwork for the future.