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.]

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Peeping Press: Understanding the Male Media Gaze

There comes a point in most women’s lives when you realize that you’re perceived as public property. Maybe it’s the first time you’re catcalled, or maybe it’s when a teacher tells you to cover up. The experience can come in an infinite number of iterations; the only sure thing is that the first time is never the last time. Walking around in a female body means you are constantly reminded that your value exists in the way that other people—men, especially—look at you.

Hard Right Rallies Against 'Amnesty' Outside Capitol

Halfway through a passionate speech Wednesday that railed against comprehensive immigration reform, Representative Michele Bachmann asked if every person under the age of 18, amidst the crowd of hundreds, could join her on the small stage outside the US Capitol.

A surprising number of kids rushed up to the makeshift platform, filling it to a somewhat alarming capacity. Bachmann had to ask some to stand on the grass nearby instead. “We don’t want to collapse. Like our economy,” she cracked.

Why Aiyana Jones Matters

The trial of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin will grab most of the major headlines this summer, but there is another trial involving the death of a black child that warrants our attention. Yesterday, June 18, a judge declared a mistrial in the case of Joseph Weekley, the Detroit police officer charged with involuntary manslaughter after shooting and killing 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones back in May 2010. Weekley was the lead officer in a raid on the home of Chauncey Owens, a suspect in the murder of a 17-year-old. The Special Response Team (Detroit’s version of SWAT) entered the home just after midnight, throwing a flash-bang grenade through the window and kicking down the unlocked door. Aiyana was asleep on the couch. Weekley fired a single shot that struck her in the head and killed her. The police entered on the first floor; Owens lived in the upstairs unit.

Pregnant Workers Face Routine Discrimination, Report Says

Heather Myers was fired over a bottle of water.

Myers was seven months pregnant back in 2007, working as a floor associate at a Walmart in Kansas, which meant she stocked shelves and cleaned aisles for minimum wage.

Breaking News: 34% of Your Fellow Citizens Want a Theocracy

It's been just over a year since the American public observed -- many of us with morbid fascination and increasing alarm -- the Republican primary debates of the last election. Bachmann, Cain, Gingrich, Perry and Santorum all pandered to their Teavangelical supporters and brought their religious and culture war agenda to the center of the national stage. With those debates fading from memory, it's tempting to conclude that this flexing of muscle by the religious right was an aberration, swept aside by President Obama's second victory.

But is that right? Have those passions faded? A YouGov Omnibus poll conducted this spring provides the answer: not at all. When asked whether they would favor or oppose establishing Christianity as the official state religion in their state, 34% of respondents were in favor (with 20% "strongly" in favor). You read that correctly: 34% in favor of establishing Christianity as the state religion, as in creating a theocracy. There's more: when asked whether they would favor an amendment to the U.S. Constitution making Christianity the official religion of the United States, 32% said yes. This was a national poll; imagine what the numbers must have been in Alabama, Kansas, and Oklahoma.

Brazilian Cities' Transport Fare Hikes Rolled Back

SAO PAULO — Leaders in Brazil's two biggest cities said Wednesday that they have reversed an increase in bus and subway fares that ignited protests across the nation.

However, many doubted the move would help abate the demonstrations that have moved well beyond the outrage over the fare hikes into communal cries against poor public services in Latin America's biggest nation.

Pioneering report suggests homelessness costs Canada $7B, affects 200,000 people a year

OTTAWA - Homelessness in Canada affects about 200,000 people every year and comes with a $7 billion price tag, the first-ever national report on the issue has found.

The results paint a picture of a disaster in communities across the country, said Tim Richter, one of the report's authors and the president of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness.

"In a natural disaster, the loss of housing or life happens because of a fire or flood or something like that," he said.

The Last Mystery of the Financial Crisis

What about the ratings agencies?

That's what "they" always say about the financial crisis and the teeming rat's nest of corruption it left behind. Everybody else got plenty of blame: the greed-fattened banks, the sleeping regulators, the unscrupulous mortgage hucksters like spray-tanned Countrywide ex-CEO Angelo Mozilo.

The 10 Dumbest Things Ever Said About Global Warming

A list of the dumbest things ever said about global warming is, sadly, almost impossible to curate in any comprehensive fashion. Politicians, talk show hosts, economists, pundits – people are saying dumb things about climate change all the time. But after much exhaustive research, we narrowed it down to 10 prize-winningly idiotic statements on this subject.

1. Carbon dioxide "literally cannot cause global warming."
People have tried to deny climate science in a lot of ways, but it's hard to beat a complete rejection of well-established atmospheric physics. Joe Bastardi, a meteorologist appearing on Fox News, argued that CO2 "literally" cannot cause warming because it doesn't "mix well in the atmosphere" (it does). He's also claimed that warming would violate the First Law of Thermodynamics, which states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. (In fact, global warming has nothing to do with newly created energy, but with the atmosphere trapping energy that's already around.)

How open is Ottawa's new 'open data' website?

Maybe you need some demographic information before you start a small business. Or maybe you have to finish a high school project on Canadian immigration trends. Or perhaps you want to make a map showing pollution across the country.

Any of those projects could get a little bit easier after Tuesday's launch of the federal government's revamped portal.

Valerie Plame: Edward Snowden Deserves Thanks, 'Will Be Abused,' Clapper Should Resign

Former CIA agent Valerie Plame said Wednesday that she views NSA leaker Edward Snowden as neither a hero nor a traitor, but that Americans should be grateful that he brought the conversation about liberty and security to the national forefront.

"I don't think [Snowden's] a hero, I don't condone what he did. At the same time he's certainly not a traitor as he was called by Dick Cheney," Plame told HuffPost Live host Mike Sacks. "In a way, we as U.S. citizens owe Edward Snowden a thank you for having brought this issue to the forefront and so that we can begin to have a serious and genuine conversation about these issues."

FBI's Robert Mueller: Drones Are In Use In America

WASHINGTON -- FBI Director Robert Mueller revealed Wednesday that the bureau uses drones to conduct surveillance on U.S. soil.

Asked by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) if the FBI was following in the footsteps of the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in pursuing the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, Mueller said yes. The vehicles are used in very narrow circumstances for surveillance, he said.

Wearing a mask at a riot becomes a crime today Maximum 10-year prison term for conviction of new offence

A bill that would ban the wearing of masks during a riot or unlawful assembly and carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence with a conviction of the offence is scheduled to become law today.

Bill C-309, a private member's bill introduced by Conservative MP Blake Richards in 2011, passed third reading in the Senate on May 23 and is expected to be proclaimed law during a royal assent ceremony in the Senate this afternoon.

Climate Change-Poverty Link Highlighted In World Bank Report

STOCKHOLM -- The World Bank says it will increasingly view its efforts to help developing countries fight poverty through a "climate lens."

In a report released Wednesday, the international lending institution warned that heat waves, rising seas, more severe storms and other impacts of climate change will trap millions of people in poverty.

Barack Obama Justifies Prism NSA Surveillance Programme, Saying It Has Saved Lives

Barack Obama has sought to justify the controversial Prism spying programme insisting it was necessary, targeted and had disrupted at least 50 terrorist plots.

Speaking at a press conference in Germany - one of the most monitored countries under Prism - he acknowledged he had a "healthy scepticism" of surveillance programmes when he first became president.

Bill Ayers: Obama Should Be Tried For War Crimes

Bill Ayers, former University of Illinois professor and co-founder of the violent anti-war group Weather Underground, said Tuesday that President Barack Obama should be put on trial for war crimes, according to RealClearPolitics.

"Every president in this century should be put on trial," Ayers told Charlie Stone on RealClearPolitics' "Morning Commute." “Every one of them goes into an office dripping with blood and then adds to it. And, yes, I think that these are war crimes. I think that they’re acts of terror.”

Brazil to deploy National Security troops against protesters

The Brazilian government will deploy National Public Security Force in five cities hosting the FIFA football tournament in an effort to contain the ongoing protests across the country.

The announcement by the Brazilian Justice Ministry comes after a day of violent clashes between protesters and riot police.

The ministry decided to deploy the joint federal police force on Wednesday in response to violent rioting across the country. The troops will reportedly be tasked with mediating the conflict, rather than punishing protesters.

Brazilian Military Police Officer Pepper-Sprays Woman During Rio De Janeiro Protests

As nationwide protests continue in Brazil, local news media estimated that approximately 240,000 people took to the streets Monday to voice their frustration over issues ranging from poor access to services and the high cost of the upcoming World Cup, to heavy-handed policing.

While many of the protests were peaceful, a few in Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte on Monday were marred by looting and clashes with police. Images from the protests have proliferated on social media, making headlines around the world. One particularly jarring photo has defined the protests for an international audience.

Walmart PAC, Walton Family Political Contributions Favor Conservatives: Report

Walmart's PAC and the heirs to the company's fortune are spending millions to influence the political process -- and their money is often going to boost conservative candidates and causes, according to claims by a union-backed coalition pushing for more rights for Walmart workers.

The Walmart Political Action Committee spent more than $2 million influencing federal elections in three of the last five federal election cycles, according to a report released Tuesday by Making Change at Walmart, a group of advocates, Walmart workers and others aimed at transforming the company. The report also said that members of the Walton family, the billionaire heirs to the Walmart fortune who own over half of Walmart common stock and hold three seats on the company's board, spent more than $1.3 million on federal elections last year, along with hundreds of thousands more at the state and local level.

The Minimum Wage Is Worth $2 Less Today Than It Was In 1968: Study

The federal minimum wage of $7.25 is worth $2 less today than it was in 1968 when adjusted for inflation. That's one of the findings in a June study by the non-partisan Economy Policy Institute on the economic position of Blacks in America.

Today, the minimum wage, which hasn't increased since 2009, falls short of a living wage. According to the EPI study, a full-time worker would need to earn $11.06 an hour in 2011 to keep a family of four out of poverty.

U.S. Companies Lobbying Furiously To Save Corporate Tax Loopholes: Study

Corporate America worked hard to build massive loopholes into the tax code for itself, and by golly it is working just as hard to keep them.

U.S. companies, along with their lobbyists and trade groups, are treating Washington, D.C., like a big, swampy strip club, showering it with cash in an effort to fight tax reform laws that might put hundreds of billions of dollars back into government coffers. The seamy details of this lobbying effort are found in a new study by the reform advocacy group Public Citizen. It is arguably one of the least-surprising studies in the history of studies, right up there with research confirming that popes tend to wear large hats. But it makes for depressing, eye-opening reading nonetheless.

National Mortgage Settlement Monitor Finds Few Flaws As Consumer Advocates Cry Foul

The government-appointed monitor overseeing mortgage practices as part of last year’s robo-signing settlement between five big U.S. banks and dozens of government agencies found few violations after grading the banks’ compliance with ambitious new standards, according to court documents filed Tuesday.

The finding of just three audited failures by Joseph Smith, the government-appointed watchdog heading the Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight, may prompt criticism by borrower advocates, consumer attorneys, and members of Congress after numerous reports by state attorneys general and housing advocates of pervasive noncompliance with the new mortgage servicing rules the banks agreed to implement as part of the 2012 settlement.

Canada's Richest People Saw Wealth Grow 6.8 Per Cent In 2012, RBC, Capgemini Say

It's a good time to be rich in Canada. Then again, it's always a good time to be rich ... anywhere.

All the same, 2012 was a particularly good year to be rich. The stock markets came roaring back after a shaky 2011, and so did the wealthy. Canada’s high net worth individuals (those with liquid assets of $1 million or more) saw their wealth grow 6.8 per cent last year, according to a new report from RBC and Capgemini.

Ontario Power Plant Cancellations: Many reasons to delete documents, says former McGuinty chief of staff

There are “at least 99 different reasons” political staff and bureaucrats must delete documents, Dalton McGuinty’s former chief of staff said Tuesday at a combative hearing into the gas plant scandal.

Testifying under oath to MPPs probing the cancellations of two power plants before the 2011 election to save five Liberal seats, Chris Morley said he has no additional documents or notes on the decisions that have dogged the minority Liberal administration.

'Rosa Luxemburg? You're not boarding that plane' -- An ASSÉ activist goes to New York

"Did you know the Bolsheviks murdered Rosa Luxemburg?"

Until a recent trip to the United States, I never expected this question to play a role in border security.

June 6, 2013. I head to New York City to speak on a panel about student struggles and debt at the Left Forum, a gathering of progressives from across North America. Waved over to U.S. officials at the Pierre-Elliot Trudeau airport in Montreal, I expect the usual questions and prepare myself for the usual answers. If "Socialism 2012" didn't raise an eyebrow, why should the "Left Forum 2013" get me into trouble?

Refugee lawyers: Cuts to Interim Federal Health Program are 'wrong and illegal'

Good morning, Thank you all for being here and we all know why we are here.

On behalf of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers -- our friends call us CARL, Jason Kenney calls us self-interested militant leftists -- I am here, actually, we are here, because there are many CARL members, lawyers and law students, who are here today to support Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care and all health care workers who have shown up here on Parliament Hill and in cities across Canada to tell the government that cuts to refugee health care are wrong.

Washington's obsession with leakers

Once again, the powerful organs of U.S. state security have gone to war.

And once again, they seem to have the backing of a complacent American public, a sympathetic Congress and some national media outlets that were tamed long ago.

The justification for the offensive is, once again, protecting Americans from terrorists.

Half of First Nations kids living in poverty, new study finds

Half of Canada’s First Nations children are living in poverty, triple the national average, according to a new analysis of census statistics that pegs the cost of easing the problem at $580-million a year.

The study by the left-leaning Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives being released Wednesday also paints a grim picture of Métis, Inuit, and non-status Indian children, as well as of children of immigrants and visible minorities.

Tories stumble and bumble without Nigel Wright

OTTAWA—Exactly one month since Prime Minister Stephen Harper was forced to accept the resignation of his chief of staff in the Senate expenses scandal, the effects of Nigel Wright’s loss are becoming evident within the Conservative government.

Before Wright wrote a cheque to cover the repayment of ineligible expenses that Senator Mike Duffy claimed, the Bay St. business veteran was praised for bringing a level of quiet professionalism to the prime minister’s operations.

Tory Senators balk at union-disclosure bill

A Conservative bill that would force unions to open their books to the public is running into resistance from an unlikely source: Conservative senators.

Senate sources say between 15 and 25 Conservative senators are leaning toward supporting amendments to the bill, a move that would have the effect of preventing it from becoming law before the summer recess.