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, July 01, 2013

Phil Kent, Georgia GOP Appointee, Ready For 'Cultural War' Following DOMA Ruling

Phil Kent, a Republican appointed to the Georgia Immigration Enforcement Board by Gov. Nathan Deal (R), dismissed same-sex couples seeking marriage equality as "sob stories" on Sunday.

"It's a sad day in America because this does dynamite the foundations of our Judeo-Christian system," Kent said Sunday on the local Fox program "The Georgia Gang," referring to the Supreme Court's recent decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act. "It's going to be a cultural war in Georgia and every other state to try to undo this wrong."

Poverty in America: Half-Forgotten or Totally Forgotten?

Successful progressive politics require widespread popular support for progressive programs, and there is no way in which that support can be created without those programs being fully and regularly explained. But on so many important issues, that is simply not happening right now. True, the scale of unemployment is periodically decried by politicians on both sides of the aisle, but normally only when the monthly jobs figures first appear. The housing burdens created by the foreclosure crisis are now treated by them as largely a thing of the past; and when "the problem of debt" is discussed in Washington DC, it is invariably federal debt which is prioritized, not consumer debt and only occasionally student debt. That's normally in July. And poverty? The plight of the American poor would appear to be entirely off the political radar screen in today's Washington. It is as though the American poor do not exist; or if they do, that nobody else cares.

Guantanamo Bay Prisoners Ask To Halt Force Feeding Practices

MIAMI — Prisoners at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are asking a federal court to halt the force-feeding that is intended to prevent prisoners from starving to death during a hunger strike that has dragged on for more than four months.

A motion filed on behalf of four prisoners argues that the military's practice of using a nasogastric tube to involuntarily feed striking prisoners with a liquid nutrient mix is inhumane and violates medical ethics. They also say it will prevent them from observing the traditional fast during the upcoming Muslim holy period of Ramadan, depriving them of the right to practice their religion as guaranteed by the Geneva Conventions.

Dark Money Group Spent On House Race, Then Told IRS It Didn't

Shortly before Election Day last year, mailers went out to Texas voters featuring pictures of a Democratic congressional candidate and a rare species of spider, whose discovery had forced stoppage of an important highway construction project.

"The same left-wing extremists who support Pete Gallego want more burdensome regulations that put the interests of spiders above our need to create more jobs," the flier declared, referring to discovery of the endangered Braken Bat Cave meshweaver. "The best way to stop left-wing extremists from killing jobs is to vote against their hand-picked candidate Pete Gallego."

George W. Bush Defends PRISM: 'I Put That Program In Place To Protect The Country'

Former President George W. Bush defended PRISM, the Internet spying program that began under his administration but remained secret until The Washington Post and The Guardian revealed its existence last month.

"I put that program in place to protect the country. One of the certainties was that civil liberties were guaranteed," Bush told CNN in an interview airing Monday. "I think there needs to be a balance, and as the president explained, there is a proper balance."

Why I don't celebrate Canada Day and never have

I don't celebrate Canada Day, never have.  Political protests that talk about "taking back Canada" make me uncomfortable.  "We," the people who live here, have never had Canada,  Even if some people's romantic idea of what Canada was in some distant past when Tommy Douglas was standing for medicare or when Pierre Elliot Trudeau was unwilling to see homosexuality be illegal, I still wouldn't celebrate Canada.  July 1 was the day that Canada was formed. In essence. it was based on a deal between Upper and Lower Canada, the British colony and the French one.  It was an unequal deal  that we have been paying for ever since but more importantly both were based on the annihilation of most and marginalization of the rest of First Nations.

Was Benghazi Killing of Ambassador Stevens, 3 Others "Blowback" for Secret U.S. Assassinations?

A new book on last year’s Benghazi attack in Libya concludes the killing of U.S. Ambassador Christoper Stevens and three others was in part blowback for a secret assassination operation run in North Africa by the Joint Special Operations Command and John Brennan, President Obama’s then-counterterrorism adviser, now director of the CIA. According to "Benghazi: The Definitive Report," President Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, and JSOC commander, Admiral Bill McRaven, were running "off the books" unilateral operations in North Africa that were not coordinated through the Pentagon or other governmental agencies, including the CIA. Ambassador Stevens was reportedly never informed about these operations. We’re joined by the book’s authors, Brandon Webb and Jack Murphy, both veterans of U.S. special operations. Last week they published the contents of Ambassador Stevens’ diary from the days before the Benghazi attack on their website,

Author: --

Vladimir Putin: Edward Snowden Must Stop Harming US If He Wants To Stay In Russia

MOSCOW, July 1 (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that Russia would not hand former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden over to the United States but that if Snowden wants to stay in Russia he "must stop his work aimed at harming our American partners".

Snowden "is not a Russian agent", Putin said, repeating that Russian intelligence services were not working with the fugitive American, who is believed to remain in the transit area at a Moscow airport eight days after arriving from Hong Kong.

He said Snowden should choose his final destination and go there. (Reporting by Alissa de Carbonel; Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Douglas Busvine)

Original Article
Author: Reuters

The Color of Law

On February 18, 1965, a civil-rights worker named James Orange was arrested in Marion, Alabama, on charges of disorderly conduct and contributing to the delinquency of minors, and was thrown into the local jail. Orange had organized a march by young people (“minors”) in support of a voter-registration drive being run by several groups, including the one he worked for, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, whose president was Martin Luther King, Jr.

That night, four hundred people gathered in Zion’s Chapel Methodist Church, in Marion, and prepared to walk to the jail, about a block away, and sing freedom songs. They left the church at nine-thirty and ran into a police blockade. Ordered to disperse, they were attacked by fifty or more state troopers and other law-enforcement officials wielding clubs. Street lights had been turned off or shot out; white vigilantes were on the scene; reporters were attacked and cameras were smashed. No photographic record of the night survives.

Buried Secrets -- How an Israeli billionaire wrested control of one of Africa’s biggest prizes

One of the world’s largest known deposits of untapped iron ore is buried inside a great, forested mountain range in the tiny West African republic of Guinea. In the country’s southeast highlands, far from any city or major roads, the Simandou Mountains stretch for seventy miles, looming over the jungle floor like a giant dinosaur spine. Some of the peaks have nicknames that were bestowed by geologists and miners who have worked in the area; one is Iron Maiden, another Metallica. Iron ore is the raw material that, once smelted, becomes steel, and the ore at Simandou is unusually rich, meaning that it can be fed into blast furnaces with minimal processing. During the past decade, as glittering mega-cities rose across China, the global price of iron soared, and investors began seeking new sources of ore. The red earth that dusts the lush vegetation around Simandou and marbles the mountain rock is worth a fortune.

Paid via Card, Workers Feel Sting of Fees

A growing number of American workers are confronting a frustrating predicament on payday: to get their wages, they must first pay a fee.

For these largely hourly workers, paper paychecks and even direct deposit have been replaced by prepaid cards issued by their employers. Employees can use these cards, which work like debit cards, at an A.T.M. to withdraw their pay.

But in the overwhelming majority of cases, using the card involves a fee. And those fees can quickly add up: one provider, for example, charges $1.75 to make a withdrawal from most A.T.M.’s, $2.95 for a paper statement and $6 to replace a card. Some users even have to pay $7 inactivity fees for not using their cards.

War On the Unemployed

Is life too easy for the unemployed? You may not think so, and I certainly don’t think so. But that, remarkably, is what many and perhaps most Republicans believe. And they’re acting on that belief: there’s a nationwide movement under way to punish the unemployed, based on the proposition that we can cure unemployment by making the jobless even more miserable.

Consider, for example, the case of North Carolina. The state was hit hard by the Great Recession, and its unemployment rate, at 8.8 percent, is among the highest in the nation, higher than in long-suffering California or Michigan. As is the case everywhere, many of the jobless have been out of work for six months or more, thanks to a national environment in which there are three times as many people seeking work as there are job openings.

Texas Special Session Beginning With Abortion Fight

AUSTIN, Texas — Round two of Texas' fierce ideological battle over abortion limits began Monday, with demonstrators filling the state Capitol and riot police on standby less than a week after a Democratic filibuster and hundreds of raucous protesters threw the end of the first special session into chaos.

The Legislature's Republican majority has vowed to pass wide-ranging abortion restrictions quickly and easily this time, even as opponents mobilize for more protests.

Ohio Abortion Restrictions: Gov. John Kasich Signs New State Budget Containing Anti-Abortion Measures

With the passage of Ohio's new state budget, women in that state have lost access to low-cost family planning services, access to public hospitals during a health emergency and their right to privacy.

On Sunday night, Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed House Bill 59, the new $62 billion state budget that includes a $2.7 billion tax cut and increases the sales tax rate from 5.5 percent to 5.75 percent, reported.

The Student Loan Debt Crisis in 9 Charts

Update (6/29/2013): Congress didn't even come close to agreeing on new student loan rates, so interest rates doubled July 1 for students taking out one common federal loan. After the July 4 recess and before most students take out new loans for college in August, Congress will have a window to fix the loan rate. Senate Democrats are now pushing for a temporary fix, a one-year extension of the low 3.4 percent interest rate that would give Congress time to hammer out a long-term solution. According to the Hill, they have scheduled a vote on the proposal for July 10, though others (including House Republicans and even some fellow Democrats in the Senate) may not be on board.

Conservatives greenwash record on environment

The world is hotter. The warmest thirteen years of recorded average global temperatures have all occurred in the sixteen years since 1997.

A warming planet means disappearing glaciers and sea ice, especially in the Arctic, where the extent and thickness of summer sea ice has shown a dramatic decline over the past thirty years. A 2011 article in the prestigious journal Nature showed that the duration and magnitude of the decline may be unprecedented in the last 1,450 years.

Scientists and economists are enormously concerned about these changes. In the future, climate change is expected to increase precipitation and further melting of glaciers, and perhaps alter the 'ocean conveyor belt'.

Burtynsky takes on oil in breathtaking, stark photography exhibit

The federal government should be playing a role in setting policies to change Canadians’ behaviour when it comes to using fossil fuel and start looking toward alternatives, says award-winning photographer Edward Burtynsky, whose photographic exhibition Oil is currently running at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa until Sept. 2.

“I think the government’s role is to set a level playing field and set policies that begin to allow us to look toward alternatives. I wish the American politicians were able to do that as well, but there seems to be a lot of very powerful interest groups that are firmly planted around the powers that be that ensure that any kind of policies that interrupt the flow of oil seem to be loudly shouted down,” said Mr. Burtynsky, a native of St. Catharines, Ont.

Experts want next LAC boss to have archive experience, headed in "disastrous direction" in last four years

Canada's librarian and archivist communities say they want the next leader of the Library and Archives Canada to have more professional knowledge than former head Daniel Caron, who resigned this spring after it was revealed he made inappropriate personal charges to taxpayers, but interest groups have little hope that the policies they say are destroying the library will be reversed under Mr. Caron’s successor.

“They should be looking for someone who has substantial and senior experience as a librarian, or archivist, or as an historian,” said James Turk, executive director at the Canadian Association of University Teachers, and a former Canadian Studies professor at the University of Toronto.

Stephen Harper, governing alone

GATINEAU, QUE.—The most disconcerting thing about Prime Minister Stephen Harper is that no one knows—no one can even reasonably guess—what he will do next.

He doesn’t tell ministers about new policy directions until after the press release is written. He doesn’t consult his caucus, unless forced to by negative public reaction to some leaked proposal. And he isn’t exactly a font of insider gossip, or musings on the meaning of life, with the national media. With Nigel Wright gone, he doesn’t even have an adult chief of staff with whom he can deliberate.

Conservatives fight with Elections Canada, can't follow election spending rules, say Liberals

The Conservative PArty and some of its MPs have had run-ins with Elections Canada because they are not following the rules, say federal Liberal political players.

Since the Conservative government took over in 2006, the party or its MPs have had a dozen run-ins with Elections Canada. While those Conservatives affected say the elections agency has a vendetta specifically against them, Liberals say the Tories are not victims.

North America isn’t ready for climate change, say experts

Climate change means extreme weather hazards like the flooding in Alberta will be more common than ever, and Canada isn’t prepared to protect itself and prevent future disasters, say leading scientists.

“We plan cities around one-in-a-hundred-year floods. We should now be planning for one-in-a-thousand-year floods,” said David Schindler, noted ecologist at the University of Edmonton.

Julian Assange: ‘No Stopping’ Release of Additional NSA Secrets

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange said this morning in an exclusive interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” that there is no stopping the release of additional NSA secrets obtained by Edward Snowden, a former contract employee of the organization.

“There is no stopping the publishing process at this stage.  Great care has been taken to make sure that Mr. Snowden can’t be pressured by any state to stop the publication process.  I mean, the United States, by canceling his passport, has left him for the moment marooned in Russia.  Is that really a great outcome by the State Department?  Is that really what it wanted to do?” Assange said, speaking from the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Big Brother's power is building, warns George Orwell biographer

Earlier this month, the most talked about novelist in the English language wasn’t Dan Brown, Stephen King or George R. R. Martin and his Game of Thrones series. It was George Orwell, whose most famous novel, 1984, saw its sales spike by a reported 7,000 per cent.

Of course, this happened after Edward Snowden pulled back the curtain on a massive surveillance program in which the U.S. National Security Agency could scour the data on the cellphone and internet activity of U.S. citizens. Terms like Orwellian and Big Brother became ubiquitous in the media and everyday conversation.

That came as no surprise to Michael Shelden, a professor of English at Indiana State University and the author of Orwell: The Authorized Biography.

Canada’s new immigration law will ‘tear families apart’

Lourdes Octaviano Tolentino’s eyes welled up with tears when she learned about Ottawa’s plan to change the definition of “dependent child” in immigration law.

The live-in caregiver left her only son behind in the Philippines to look after other people’s children so she could give him a better life and eventually have him join her in Canada.