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 07, 2014

The Most Partisan Supreme Court Justice Of All

In mid-November of 2012, hundreds of tuxedo-clad Republican lawyers gathered at a hotel ballroom in Washington, DC. They were a mix of heads hung in dejection and chests puffed out in compensatory bluster. Less than two weeks earlier, they’d seen President Obama vanquish his opponent at the polls. Their last chance to knock a hated president out of office — and their last real chance to halt that’s president’s even more hated health reforms — ended in failure. They and their allies had made their best case that liberalism was a path to economic ruin, and the American people had lined up at their polling places to pull the lever for liberalism.

On Israel-Palestine and BDS

The misery caused by Israel’s actions in the occupied territories has elicited serious concern among at least some Israelis. One of the most outspoken, for many years, has been Gideon Levy, a columnist for Haaretz, who writes that “Israel should be condemned and punished for creating insufferable life under occupation, [and] for the fact that a country that claims to be among the enlightened nations continues abusing an entire people, day and night.”

He is surely correct, and we should add something more: the United States should also be condemned and punished for providing the decisive military, economic, diplomatic and even ideological support for these crimes. So long as it continues to do so, there is little reason to expect Israel to relent in its brutal policies.

Hobby Lobby's Not Alone: Here Are 4 of the High Court's Biggest Science Blunders

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that most private companies can decline to cover their employees' contraception for religious reasons. This verdict is wildly controversial as a piece of legal reasoning—but its scientific logic is wanting, as well. The contraceptive drugs and devices at issue in the case, after all, do not cause abortion, as Hobby Lobby Stores, the company at the center of the case, claimed. So Hobby Lobby didn't just have religious objections to those drugs; it had false religious objections.

The South Is Essentially A Solid, Grim Block Of Poverty

The Great Recession and Not-So-Great Recovery have been bad news for most Americans, but some people have suffered more than others. We call those people "Southerners."
North Carolina and a handful of other Southern U.S. states saw the biggest increases in the number of people living in what are known as "poverty areas" between 2000 and 2010, according to a new Census Bureau report. Poverty areas are places where more than 20 percent of the people live below the federal poverty line, which varies by family size. For a family of four, the poverty line in most states is an annual income of $23,850.

Tony Blair To Advise Egypt Strongman Sisi

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been tapped to become an advisor to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, the Guardian reported on Wednesday.

Blair will reportedly advise the administration on economic policy through a UAE-financed task force run by management consulting firm Strategy&. His spokesperson told The Guardian that he won't be getting paid for the role.

Whose Security?

How Washington Protects Itself and the Corporate Sector
The question of how foreign policy is determined is a crucial one in world affairs.  In these comments, I can only provide a few hints as to how I think the subject can be productively explored, keeping to the United States for several reasons.  First, the U.S. is unmatched in its global significance and impact.  Second, it is an unusually open society, possibly uniquely so, which means we know more about it.  Finally, it is plainly the most important case for Americans, who are able to influence policy choices in the U.S. -- and indeed for others, insofar as their actions can influence such choices.  The general principles, however, extend to the other major powers, and well beyond.

New York Bookstore Workers Fired For Voting To Unionize

On June 24, Bec Goodbourn and Kerry Henderson cast ballots in a union election held for the staff of Book Culture, the independent bookstore where they worked in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of New York. Like the vast majority of the bookstore's workforce, both Henderson and Goodbourn voted in favor of union representation.

By the end of the day, they were both fired.

After letting Goodbourn go in person, her boss, Chris Doeblin, included her on an email in which he explained to the store's management team why she and Henderson had to go.

Roma family fights against deportation to Hungary

After enduring anti-Roma discrimination and violence in Hungary, a Roma family has fled the country with hopes to settle in Canada. The family is asking the Canadian government to respond to their immigration application for stay on humanitarian grounds before their deportation date on Thursday July 3. 
A statement released on Monday said that Renata Buzas, Tibor Buzas and their three children applied for permanent residence on humanitarian grounds in December 2013, after their refugee claim was refused. The Canadian government has designated Hungary as safe for refugees, meaning that the Buzas family was not eligible for appeal on their refugee claim.

Conservatives named fewer women to federal boards than Liberals did

Fewer women under the Conservative government are in leadership roles at Crown corporations and at federal boards and agencies compared to when the Liberals were the governing party, newly tabulated statistics show.

Numbers compiled by the federal Liberals and New Democrats show Canada has fewer women running government agencies and Crown corporations, sitting on boards and working in management roles than under the previous Liberal government, which hit 37 per cent in 2005.

Wage Theft, Dangerous Conditions and Discrimination: Inside New York’s Food Industry

New Yorkers see food as an indulgence and a craft, amid a brimming urban cornucopia of artisanal honey farmers, craft breweries and bustling farmer’s markets. But good eating for this city is not just a lifestyle but a serious industry—one that’s often as hard on its workers as any fast food kitchen or factory farm. Processing plants and industrial bakeries churn out much of the city’s specialty food. And for workers, Gotham’s glamorous harvest belies a hidden rot.

According to a new report published by Brandworkers and the Urban Justice Center (disclosure: the author once interned and volunteered at UJC), the city’s food manufacturing workforce of 14,000 is an often neglected link in the food chain, tarnished by dangerous jobs, poverty wages and discrimination.


Tehrik-e-Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban, is a closely held, profit-making enterprise organized on religious principles. One of its principles, announced as public policy in July, 2012, is that children should not be inoculated against polio, because the vaccines violate God’s law. So sincere are the Taliban’s religious beliefs that its followers have assassinated scores of public-health workers who have attempted to administer polio vaccines in areas under Taliban control or influence.

This year, three out of five of the world’s new polio cases have been found in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, particularly in North Waziristan, where the Pakistani Taliban and groups like it have run a de-facto state since about 2008. The great majority of the polio victims are children under two years old.

Canada Day Makes Me Feel Uneasy About My Citizenship

Another Canada Day is upon us -- our 147th as a country. As the BBQs are fired up and the beers cracked open on the one day a year that all Canadians celebrate, I have been reflecting on what it means to be a citizen of this country, particularly in light of recent events in the news.

Last week in an Egyptian court, Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy was sentenced to seven years in jail for simply reporting the news. Mr. Fahmy and his two Al Jazeera colleagues have been held since they were arrested on terrorism charges. The trial and conviction of the three men have been widely condemned as a miscarriage of justice around the world. Canada, however, has taken a muted stance in relation to the fortunes of one of its citizens abroad.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: After brilliant Hobby Lobby dissent, time to let Obama appoint successor?

As I wrote on Monday, there is essentially nothing good about the Hobby Lobby decision recently delivered by the Supreme Court. But if you’re determined to find the silver lining, you could find some comfort that the latest landmark ruling from the court’s conservative majority gave Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg another chance to solidify her position as a liberal hero with another fiery dissent.

Yet while the growing cult of the Notorious RBG is a well-deserved testament to her brilliance as a jurist and talent as a writer, it ignores an uncomfortable reality about this current moment in the politics of the Supreme Court. Namely, the celebrations of her brilliance fail to recognize that the best thing Ruth Bader Ginsburg could do for the liberal movement right now is, arguably, to call an end to a sterling and trailblazing legal career and step down from the court.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Writes Scathing 35-Page Dissent In Birth Control Case

The Supreme Court delivered a blow to universal birth control coverage on Monday, ruling that closely-held corporations can refuse to cover contraception in their health plans for religious reasons. But Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg sharply disagreed with the five conservatives on the court, delivering a scathing, 35-page dissent and defense of mandatory contraception coverage.

"In a decision of startling breadth, the Court holds that commercial enterprises, including corporations, along with partnerships and sole proprietorships, can opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs," Ginsburg wrote. She said she feared that with its decision, the court had "ventured into a minefield."

Happy Independence Day From the Supreme Court: Unions and Women Lose, Koch Brothers Win

As you crack open a cold one or launch a pyrotechnic skyward to commemorate Independence Day, I invite you to reflect for a moment on the work accomplished by our not-so independent Supreme Court under the leadership of Chief Justice John Roberts on Monday, the final sitting of the tribunal’s October 2013 term.

After a brief sojourn to the political left that culminated in last week’s decision upholding the privacy rights of cellphone owners, the court returned to what it does best in its last session, making a radical U-turn in the opposite direction. In a pair of bitterly contested 5-4 decisions written by Justice Samuel Alito—Harris v. Quinn and the consolidated appeals in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby—the panel’s five-member conservative majority wielded their extraordinary powers not only to slam public-sector unions and restrict the contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act, but to enlarge the doctrine of corporate personhood, declaring for the first time that for-profit, closely held corporations have rights to the free exercise of religion.

Supreme Court Ruling in ‘Harris v. Quinn’ Will Undermine Gains Made by Low-Wage Home Healthcare Workers

The Supreme Court reached into the living rooms of homebound people with disabilities today and weakened the institutional backbone of public sector unions. At the intersection of public service and private capital, the case Harris v. Quinn was ostensibly about the cost of union dues, but hinged on a legal theory that could ultimately cost the labor movement far more.

Today’s five-four decision pushed public sector unions a step closer toward death by attrition, by eroding their ability to finance themselves. The ruling specifically blocks unions from collecting mandatory dues from Medicaid-funded personal health aides in Illinois.

Alito’s ‘Hobby Lobby’ Opinion Is Dangerous and Discriminatory

As soon as the word spread that justice Sam Alito had written the decision in today’s Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision, it was clear that it was going to be bad. And, sure enough, the ruling, opposed by all three of the court’s women, chips away at the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate and, for the first time ever, it endows at least some for-profit corporations with religious rights. It is both a blow for women’s rights and the latest example of the way this court has inexorably expanded corporate power.

Why the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby Decision Is the New Bush v. Gore

On Monday, the Supreme Court issued its decision on Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. Hobby Lobby's owners had objected to a provision in Obamacare that forced the the craft supply store chain to provide its employees with health insurance that covers birth control or pay a fine. In a 5-4 ruling, the conservative justices on the court said that the government can't force Hobby Lobby—or any closely held corporation—to pay for birth control and emergency contraception if doing so would offend the religious beliefs of the company's owners.

Here Are 4 Lawsuits That Could Inflict More Damage on Unions After Harris v. Quinn

On Monday, the Supreme Court's conservative justices on Monday defied some expectations by not decimating public-employee labor unions via their ruling inHarris v. Quinn. Given the opportunity to issue a sprawling decision that would overturn decades of precedent, and in the process kneecap the basic model of public-employee unionism, the five justices, led by Samuel Alito, instead issued a narrower decision. They ruled that home health care workers in Illinois are not full-fledged public workers and thus cannot be required to pay so-called fair-share fees to unions—money that goes toward the cost of union representation for all workers in a particular workplace.

Tensions Soar After Israeli Teens Found Dead

JERUSALEM (AP) -- A Palestinian from the militant group Hamas was shot dead when he threw a grenade at forces carrying out an arrest raid in the West Bank hours after the discovery of the bodies of three Israeli teenagers who were abducted over two weeks ago, Israel's military said Tuesday.

Tensions have soared since the bodies were found, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blaming Hamas and warning it "will pay," while militants in Hamas-controlled Gaza have stepped up rocket attacks, drawing Israeli retaliatory airstrikes and risking a wider conflict.

Legislated racism commemorated on Canada Day

Organizers of a new exhibit marked Canada Day by remembering the country’s discriminatory immigration past and cautioning against the repeat of history with recent changes to the law.
The Road to Justice exhibit features historical photos and chronicles the legal struggle for equal rights for Chinese Canadians. It’s running at the rotunda of the Toronto City Hall Tuesday through Thursday.

Harper versus Aboriginals and civil society

Canada Day celebrations in London and New York were cancelled this year. The festivities had been contracted out to a Calgary consulting firm. The firm gave up on the project when big funders Blackberry, and Nexen Energy pulled out. While it was still billable time for the Calgary consultants, those who wanted to celebrate Canada Day in London or New York were out of luck.
This incident encapsulates the way the Harper government operates: it outsources Canadian public affairs, and then looks away. International energy companies are happy to take direction of economic development, the main item on the government agenda.

5 Political Operatives Just Hammered Women And Workers

WASHINGTON -- On Monday, the Supreme Court dealt a significant blow to the progressive movement, handing down decisions in two high-profile cases regarding birth control and labor unions.

In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the court ruled 5-4 that closely held corporations cannot be required to provide contraception coverage for their employees.

Arizona Professor Body Slammed By Police During Jaywalking Stop, Now Charged With Assaulting Officer

A new video shows Dr. Ersula Ore, a professor at Arizona State University, body slammed by a police officer after being stopped for jaywalking near campus. But it’s Ore who is facing charges for resisting arrest, assaulting a police officer, and other crimes.

"Counter-Revolution of 1776": Was U.S. Independence War a Conservative Revolt in Favor of Slavery?

As the United States prepares to celebrate Independence Day, we look at why July 4 is not a cause for celebration for all. For Native Americans, it may be a bitter reminder of colonialism, which brought fatal diseases, cultural hegemony and genocide. Neither did the new republic’s promise of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" extend to African Americans. The colonists who declared their freedom from England did not share their newly founded liberation with the millions of Africans they had captured and forced into slavery. We speak with historian Gerald Horne, who argues the so-called Revolutionary War was actually a conservative effort by American colonists to protect their system of slavery. He is the author of two new books: "The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America" and "Race to Revolution: The U.S. and Cuba During Slavery and Jim Crow." Horne is professor of history and African American studies at the University of Houston.

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