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, March 19, 2014

First Nations on Quebec sovereignty debate: We decide our own future

MONTREAL - A First Nations leader has a message for anyone talking up the issue of Quebec independence during the province's election campaign: don't forget about us.

Ghislain Picard, chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, says First Nations have the right to determine their own future and aren't bound to the result of another referendum vote.

It's useless to consider Quebec sovereignty while there's still uncertainty about the place of aboriginal peoples, Picard said.

Outside Political Groups Are Spending Record Amounts Of Money To Deny Poor People Health Care

Obamacare opponents have already run more than 30,000 television ads attacking the health law and Democratic candidates who support it, according to the media tracking group CMAG — a staggering 12-fold increase from four years ago. Many of the ads are being run in states with high uninsurance rates where hundreds of thousands of poor people could benefit from the Affordable Care Act, including Arkansas, Kentucky, and Louisiana.

Crisis in Ukraine: Disinformation and useful idiots

Russians may not have invented disinformation, however, they have certainly perfected it.
At the turn of the nineteenth century, Pyotr Ivanovich Rachkovsky (1853-1910) and his agent Matvei Vassilyevich Golvinski (1865-1920), both working for Okhrana, the Imperial Russian secret service, cooked up an anti-Semitic tract called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It was a purported blueprint for a Jewish conspiracy to dominate the world. It was first published in Russia in 1903 by the Black Hundreds, an extremist, autocratic, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, and ultra-nationalist movement. Even though the book was debunked as a forgery in 1921 by Philip Graves writing for The Times, it continued to be accepted as authentic by the likes of Henry Ford (who printed 500,000 copies in the USA in the 1920's) and Adolf Hitler (who used it a major justification for initiating the Holocaust). Indeed, to this day it continues to circulate as an "authentic" document amongst feeble-minded extremists.

Koch Brothers Are Outspent By A Labor Force Millions Of Times Their Size, But...

WASHINGTON -- As Senate Democrats build campaign attacks tying the political agenda of Charles and David Koch to Republican candidates, conservatives answer with cherry-picked data that the political might of labor unions is much greater than that of the billionaire brothers.
A Koch spokeswoman recently called the brothers' spending "drops in a bucket" compared to what unions spend.

Venezuela Unrest: President Nicolas Maduro Gives Ultimatum To Protesters

CARACAS, March 15 (Reuters) - Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro warned protesters in Caracas on Saturday to clear a square they have made their stronghold, or face eviction by security forces.

Plaza Altamira, in upscale east Caracas, has been a focus of anti-government protests and violence during six weeks of unrest around Venezuela that has killed 28 people.

Corporate Tax Avoidance 'Scheme' Hurting Canada, Expert Says

As Canadians dutifully file personal income tax returns during the coming weeks, consider this: many profitable companies pay little or no tax.

In an interview this week on The Sunday Edition, Dennis Howlett, executive director of Canadians for Tax Fairness, says these multinational corporations set up subsidiaries in tax havens such as Ireland, Switzerland and the Cayman Islands and devise ways to transfer profits there from Canada. There are no laws to prevent this.

Growing Wage Gap Makes Dollarama, Luxury Stores Winners

It’s a trend seen in the U.S. in recent years, a sign of growing wealth inequality: The segmenting of the retail market away from middle class-oriented brands to low-end and luxury brands.

And according to a recent report from CIBC World Markets, Canada is experiencing its own version of the phenomenon today.

Economists Avery Shenfeld and Benjamin Tal say the biggest winners in Canadian retail these days are dollar stores, and they’re winning because wage gains are becoming increasingly unequal.

Conservative group Alec trains sights on city and local government

The rightwing group Alec is preparing to launch a new nationwide network that will seek to replicate its current influence within state legislatures in city councils and municipalities.

The American Legislative Exchange Council, founded in 1973, has become one of the most pervasive advocacy operations in the nation. It brings elected officials together with representatives of major corporations, giving those companies a direct channel into legislation in the form of Alec “model bills”.

Budget 2014: Osborne Raising 40p Tax Threshold Would Help Rich, Not Middle Class

Ukraine Says Kremlin Is Stirring Up Eastern Ukraine As Pretext For Invasion

KIEV/DONETSK, March 15 (Reuters) - Ukraine accused "Kremlin agents" on Saturday of fomenting deadly violence in Russian-speaking cities and urged people not to rise to provocations its new leaders fear Moscow may use to justify a further invasion after its takeover of Crimea.

From his speaker's chair in parliament, acting president Oleksander Turchinov referred to three deaths in two days in Donetsk and Kharkiv and said there was "a real danger" of invasion by Russian troops across Ukraine's eastern border.

Facing Millions in Cuts, Environment Canada Prepares to Get Lean

The Harper government's plan for Environment Canada, the department tasked with coordinating the country's environmental policies and programs, involves millions of dollars in cuts and hundreds of job losses over the next three years.

The cuts are outlined in a newly-released 2014/15 report on plans and priorities for the department, along with government rhetoric that promises "a clean, safe and sustainable environment while supporting economic prosperity."

F-35 a Jobs Machine? Not Likely, Eh?

You might think U.S.-based Lockheed Martin would put Canadians to work singing the praises of its F-35. After all, the advertising campaign aimed at promoting sales of the jets to the Canadian Forces is all about... jobs for Canada!

But no, that campaign is being run out of New York, despite the fact that a high-end Ottawa-based agency has in the past handled Lockheed Martin public relations on this side of the border.

Alison Redford Should Resign, Says Riding President

EDMONTON - Alberta Premier Alison Redford is facing more criticism from within her party ahead of a weekend meeting of Tory executives.

The president of a Progressive Conservative riding association in northeast Edmonton said Friday that Redford has to resign or the party will lose the next election.

Former New Hampshire GOP Chair Saves $1,000 A Month With Obamacare

WASHINGTON -- The former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party will save $1,000 a month in premiums for his family's health care package after signing up for a new policy through the Obamacare exchange.

But Fergus Cullen said the savings aren't enough to turn him into a supporter of the new health care law. He said he anticipates higher out-of-pocket costs with his new Anthem-administered plan, and he's frustrated by what he sees as a lack of information about coverage options. His old plan, which was pricey but covered what he needed, was cancelled by his insurer because it didn't meet Obamacare regulations.

U.S. Government Letting Go Of Key Internet Oversight Role

The U.S. government announced Friday that it is relinquishing its hold on a key Internet oversight role.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the Commerce Department announced the decision to transition out of managing domain names and addresses for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The move is planned for September 2015, when the current contract runs out, the Journal added.

According to the Journal, the move is considered a response to international backlash that the U.S. faced as a result of the National Security Agency spying scandal. The Washington Post adds that the move is likely to please those critics, but business leaders could be concerned.

Back in January, ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé warned HuffPost Live that the "biggest threat" to innovation on the Internet is a fragmented web.

"If we cannot find a way to govern the Internet in an equal footing, in an open transparent way this year, we might descend into a fragmented version of the Internet," Chehadé said. "The moment we fragment the Internet it is possible there will be tariffs between borders, there will be rules... it will not be the internet as we know it."

Original Article
Author: -

Russia Moves Swiftly to Stifle Dissent Ahead of Secession Vote

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine — Early this month, Russian soldiers took up positions at the television transmission center here in the capital of the Ukrainian region of Crimea. Their arrival was part of a broad effort to muffle dissent over the Kremlin-backed project to guide Crimea through a swift secession from Ukraine.

Several days later, the soldiers handed over their post to a pro-secession militia. Some of these men carried whips. Technicians took the next step, removing Ukrainian networks from the air and replacing them with state-controlled channels from Moscow.

Proposed election law could hurt cash-strapped candidates

The government's proposed election law rewrite would open the door to modest self-funded start-up reserves, while simultaneously making it far more onerous to take out loans once the race is underway.

The change to political financing rules may pique the Liberals' interest, with lingering leadership campaign debts continuing to haunt some of the party’s also-rans.

B.C. teachers' math lesson: workers + labour rights = stability

Uncertainty, stability and fairness: these words have become the guise by which Canadian governments strip unions of the democratic right to bargain collectively.
Don't believe it? Take then, for example, the ongoing collective bargaining over teachers' contracts in British Columbia.
The BC Teachers' Federation (BCTF) has been wrangling with the provincial government over their contracts. The teachers want to protect their right to negotiate class sizes, composition and support for classes for special needs students -- working conditions are as important to them as safety concerns are for steel workers.

10 Things Elizabeth Warren's Consumer Protection Agency Has Done for You

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the watchdog agency conceived of and established by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in the wake of the financial crisis, had a hard time getting on its feet. The GOP tried everything it could to hobble the bureau, but to no avail. Over the past couple of years, the CFPB has issued dozens of protections shielding consumers from shady practices by mortgage lenders, student loan servicers, and credit card companies. Here are ten things the CFPB, which was created in 2011, has done to protect the little guy:
1. Mortgage lenders can no longer push you into a high-priced loan: Until recently, lenders were allowed to direct borrowers toward high-interest loans, which are more profitable for lenders, even if they qualified for a lower-cost mortgage—a practice that helped lead to the financial crisis. In early 2013, the CFPB issued a rule that effectively ends this conflict of interest.

The Town That Turned Poverty Into a Prison Sentence

At the single stoplight in Harpersville, Alabama, Debra Shoemaker Ford saw the police lights flash. On that January day in 2007, she steered her beat-up black Chevy Blazer into the parking lot, under the big red dot advertising Jack’s restaurant. The officer said she had a taillight out. He asked to see her license.

Ford didn’t have one. Her license had been revoked after she failed to pay a court judgment against her for a traffic ticket in a nearby town. She hadn’t worked since a car wreck a decade earlier, surviving instead on disability payments of about $670 a month. That meant generic washing powder instead of Purex. Cigarettes, when she allowed herself, were rationed, each drag a pleasure measured in pennies. To pay the ticket, plus the fee to reinstate her license, would have meant going without essentials. Though she knew she shouldn’t, Ford, a small white woman in her 50s with a fringe of bangs and a raspy voice, regularly climbed behind the wheel of the old Chevy. In rural Alabama, it’s the only way to get around.

Were Charter Teachers and Students Pressured to Rally for Charter Schools in Albany?

On the first Tuesday in March, thousands of students, parents and teachers rallied at the New York state capitol in Albany to protest what the media quickly dubbed New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “war” on charter schools and minority students. Eva Moskowitz, the founder of the Success Academy charter network and one of the mayor’s fiercest critics, closed all twenty-two of her schools so that students and staff could participate in what she called “the largest civic field trip in history.”

But it wasn’t merely a field trip; the rally was a political event, in protest of de Blasio’s decision not to approve plans for three Success Academies to co-locate with traditional public schools, and more broadly his proposal to charge rent to charters occupying city school buildings. (The mayor approved forty-five other co-location proposals, five of them put forward by Success Academy.) Moskowitz has been the most vocal opponent of the new mayor’s education policies, though few have been enacted. As the debate intensifies, staff and students at Success Academy are being increasingly drawn into the political battle—or pushed into it, according to several employees who spoke to The Nation on condition of anonymity.

FDIC Sues 16 Big Banks For Rigging LIBOR Rates

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation sued 16 of the world's largest banks on Friday, accusing them of collusively suppressing interest rates.

The lawsuit, filed in the federal district court in New York, was the latest to accuse financial institutions of conspiring to manipulate Libor, or the London Interbank Offered Rate.

The FDIC said the defendants' conduct caused substantial losses to 38 banks that the U.S. regulator had taken into receivership since 2008, including Washington Mutual Bank and IndyMac Bank.

Among the banks named as defendants include Bank of America Corp, Barclays PLC, Citigroup Inc, Credit Suisse Group AG, Deutsche Bank AG, HSBC Holdings PLC, JPMorgan Chase & Co, the Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC and UBS AG.

The lawsuit also named as a defendant the British Banks' Association, the U.K. trade organization which during the period at issue administered Libor.

Original Article
Author: Reuters

A War on Campus? Northeastern University Suspends Students for Justice in Palestine Chapter

The Northeastern University chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine has become the latest student group to face reprimand for organizing around the Palestinian cause. Northeastern has suspended the group until 2015, barring it from meeting on campus and stripping it of any university funding. The move comes just weeks after student activists distributed mock eviction notices across the campus during Israeli Apartheid Week. The notices were intended to resemble those used by Israel to notify Palestinians of pending demolitions or seizures of their homes. We speak to Northeastern Students for Justice in Palestine member Max Geller and Ali Abunimah, co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of the new book, "The Battle for Justice in Palestine." His new book includes a chapter titled "The War on Campus."

Author: --

The Bigot's Lament

Whether talking secession, hoarding bitcoin or refusing to expand Medicaid, the American right these days is obsessed with opting out of a society that its members increasingly see as an assault on their way of life. Their latest attempt to liberate themselves from the polity was Arizona’s 
SB 1062, a bill that would have exempted individuals and businesses from state law if it burdened their exercise of religion. The legislation did not single out lesbians and gays, but it was plainly motivated by anti-gay animus. Recognizing as much, corporations like Apple, AT&T and Intel, as well as the Super Bowl Host Committee, condemned the measure, and the threat of a statewide boycott prompted the state’s Chamber of Commerce to go to “DefCon 1” against it. Critics also pointed out that the bill was gratuitous; it’s already legal in Arizona to refuse to do business with gay customers. All of which was enough to convince Republican Governor Jan Brewer to veto the bill on February 26.

Elections Canada says it never aired 2008 election campaign ad cited by Conservatives

PARLIAMENT HILL—Elections Canada says a video ad the Conservative government cited as the type of advertising campaign it wants to prohibit the elections agency from using under the proposed new election law was never actually aired.

The ad—a 25-second video that contrasts urban pollution and emissions to an evergreen forest as it urges youth to “vote, shape your world”—was created for Elections Canada but cancelled in 2007 by the newly installed chief electoral officer that year, Marc Mayrand.

Alberta partners with oilsands to develop kindergarten curriculum

The province of Alberta has recently released a development plan for public schools that enlists Suncor Energy and Syncrude Canada in the creation of future Kindergarten to Grade 3 curriculum. Oil giant Cenovus will partner in developing curriculum for Grades 4 to 12.
The oil and gas industry's involvement in the province's educational development is creating concern among opposition parties and environmental organizations.
NDP Education Critic Deron Bilous called granting partnership status to industry "appalling."

Four things unions want you to know about the Canada-South Korea free trade agreement

The recently announced free trade deal between Canada and South Korea has raised the ire of several unions, who warn that it could have a detrimental effect on Canadian workers. Here are four things unions are worried about now that trade is about to open up between the two countries.
1. It supports trade imbalances
Both Unifor and the United Steelworkers have raised concerns that the deal will deepen an already high trade deficit between Canada and South Korea. Last year, Canada exported $3.7 billion worth of goods to Korea in 2012 and imported $6.4 billion, according to a fact sheet provided by Unifor. USW believes that this imbalance is particularly pronounced in the steel industry with steel imports from South Korea far outnumbering imports.

The Pesticide Industry vs. Consumers: Not a Fair Fight

In a small regulatory office 
in Sacramento, California, in 2007, a handful of farmworkers and scientists gathered to explain to state officials why chlorpyrifos, a widely used pesticide, should be considered a toxicant under Proposition 65, a state law that pro
hibits businesses from discharging substances known to cause birth defects and reproductive harm into the drinking water.

Chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate insecticide, was first developed as a cousin to the nerve agents stockpiled during World War II. The chemical has been banned for household use for more than a decade, and studies have shown that infants born to mothers with high levels of chlorpyrifos in their bodies have significantly higher rates of neurodevelopmental disorders, problems with in utero development, brain impairments, low birth weights and endocrine disruption.