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.]

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Ukraine Gives Rebels Deadline To Disarm Or Face Military Operation

KIEV/SLAVIANSK, Ukraine, April 13 (Reuters) - Ukraine has given pro-Russian separatists a Monday morning deadline to disarm or face a "full-scale anti-terrorist operation" by its armed forces, raising the risk of a military confrontation with Moscow.

Angered by the death of a state security officer and the wounding of two comrades near the flashpoint eastern city of Slaviansk, acting president Oleksander Turchinov gave rebels occupying state buildings until 0600 GMT to lay down their weapons.

U.N. Climate Panel Highlights Lack Of Action On Rising Temperatures

BERLIN (AP) — The cost of keeping global warming in check is "relatively modest," but only if the world acts quickly to reverse the buildup of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, the head of the U.N.'s expert panel on climate change said Sunday.

Such gases, mainly CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels, rose on average by 2.2 percent a year in 2000-2010, driven by the use of coal in the power sector, officials said as they launched the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change's report on measures to fight global warming.

IPCC climate change report: averting catastrophe is eminently affordable

Catastrophic climate change can be averted without sacrificing living standards according to a UN report, which concludes that the transformation required to a world of clean energy is eminently affordable.
“It doesn’t cost the world to save the planet,” said economist Professor Ottmar Edenhofer, who led the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) team.

The cheapest and least risky route to dealing with global warming is to abandon all dirty fossil fuels in coming decades, the report found. Gas – including that from the global fracking boom – could be important during the transition, Edenhofer said, but only if it replaced coal burning.


The nearness of April 15th is enough to remind us of the words of Jimmy Carter, who, when he accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for President, in 1976, said, “It is time for a complete overhaul of our income-tax system … It is a disgrace to the human race.” Perhaps that was a bit hyperbolic in a world with so many people and events in the running to represent disgraces to humanity. But, in spirit, Carter was not wrong. The tax system is disgraceful, and what amazes is that, despite wide agreement on that point, and despite so many good intentions, so little has been done to fix it.

Nevada Rancher Warns Land Dispute With BLM 'Could Turn Into' Next Waco

Carol Bundy, the wife of a Nevada rancher locked in a tense standoff with federal rangers, warns the ongoing dispute could escalate to the point of a confrontation similar to those at Ruby Ridge and Waco.

"If you saw the artillery and their presence -- the intimidation they are trying to put on us -- it could turn into that," Bundy told The Huffington Post.

The Government Listens To Lobbyists And The Wealthy, Not You And Me

When organized interest groups or economic elites want a particular policy passed, there’s a strongly likelihood their wishes will come true. But when average citizens support something, they have next to no influence.
That’s according to a forthcoming article in Perspectives on Politics by Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin I. Page of Northwestern University. The two looked at a data set of 1,779 policy issues between 1981 and 2002 and matched them up against surveys of public opinion broken down by income as well as support from interest groups.

Kitimat residents vote no on gateway pipeline

KITIMAT, B.C. - The residents of Kitimat, B.C. have voted against the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project in a non-binding plebiscite.

The ballot count from Saturday's vote was 1,793 opposed versus 1,278 who supported the multi-billion dollar project — a margin of 58.4 per cent to 41.6 per cent.

The results from two polling stations and an advance vote all showed a clear majority for the “No” side.

Oil And Gas Sector Biggest Producer Of Greenhouse Gases In Canada

TORONTO - An environmental analyst says the rise of oil and gas production as Canada's biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions adds further weight to calls for the federal government to bring in long-promised regulations for the oil industry.

The Environment Canada report quietly released Friday reveals the energy sector has now surpassed transportation as the largest generator of the climate-change causing gases.

China on the take

Why a purge of corrupt party kingpins raises alarms for both China and its trade partners

When Xi Jinping made his famous promise one year ago to wipe out both the “tigers and flies” of Chinese corruption, you could have forgiven the average Chinese worker for scoffing at his new president. Past anti-corruption sweeps have hauled in self-dealing officials by the hundreds of thousands—more than 182,000 punished last year alone, declared the Communist party’s disciplinary arm a few weeks ago, with McDonald’s-like triumphalism. Yet the country’s bloated ruling class continued to thrive, while the true kingpins of a system ridden with graft and kickbacks—senior party leaders—remained untouched. Historically, critics note, the authorities have been a lot more keen to swat insects than to hunt big game.

The Super Rich Are Richer Than We Thought, Hiding Huge Sums, New Reports Find

A new pair of reports suggests that the super rich are richer than we thought.
The first report by Professors Emmanuel Saez (UC Berkeley) and Gabriel Zucman (LSE and UC Berkeley) addresses the question of how to measure total wealth, finding that there is an increasing concentration in the top one-thousandth.
So where is all this wealth going? The second report, by Zucman, demonstrates that a lot of the money is held in offshore tax havens -- far more than previously known.New York Times columnist Paul Krugman summed up the numbers Friday, arguing that they tell us "something important about how the world really works."
"At the commanding heights of the US economy, hiding a lot of one’s wealth offshore is probably the norm, not the exception," Krugman wrote.
Read the full papers on wealth concentration here, and the one on offshore tax havens here.
Original Article
Author: --

I Served My Country. Then It Kicked Me Out.

I often think about Friday dinners with my family. Every Friday, no matter what, my wife and I took our two children out to eat; it was a ritual we looked forward to all week. We would sometimes try new restaurants, but my children’s favorite was the Olive Garden. My daughter loved to order Shirley Temples and my son always wanted whatever I was having, so I’d order two of the same meal for us.

Those memories feel a world away from where I’m living now, in Trelawny, on Jamaica’s north coast. I’m trying to get a start as a pig farmer, but it’s much harder than I expected. It costs about $200 a week to feed the pigs, and there’s a water shortage so I have to walk about a mile each way to get river water for them. My family in the United States sent me $1,500 to get the business started but now I fear I may lose it all.

DEA Raided This Woman's House After She Shopped At A Garden Store

Angela Kirking never thought shopping for garden supplies would lead to agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration waking her up with guns drawn, but that's what happened last October.

"I bought a bottle of organic fertilizer, a 16-ounce bottle," said Kirking, a 46-year-old face-paint artist. "Three weeks later I was raided by DEA."

The DEA is refusing to answer questions about the law enforcement operation targeting an Illinois garden store that has netted Kirking and at least 10 other people. But Kirking and her lawyer contend it's a case of misplaced priorities and federal overreach. They're asking why the DEA is treating ordinary customers of a garden store selling hydroponic equipment as if they were major drug dealers.

Risk Of 'Gas War' Grows As Ukraine Halts Payments To Russia

KIEV, April 12 (Reuters) - Ukraine said on Saturday it was suspending payments to Russia for deliveries of gas, ratcheting up the tension in a standoff that has the potential to leave European Union states cut off from the Russian gas supplies on which they depend.

In eastern Ukraine, where groups of pro-Russian activists have been emboldened by the Kremlin's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, a band of armed men in mismatched camouflage outfits seized a police station in the town of Slaviansk.

Mozillagate, Brendan Eich and Right-Wing Hypocrisy

In early April, Brendan Eich resigned his new position as CEO of Mozilla following an uproar over the $1,000 donation he made in 2008 to California’s anti–gay marriage Proposition 8 campaign. Ever since, conservatives—obsessed as they are with their putative culture war victimization—have been screaming about a new age of political oppression. “It is one of history’s little ironies that some of our current batch of prim-faced, puritanical, intolerant, and miserable thought police call themselves, of all things, ‘gay,’ something they manifestly are not,” huffed a National Review editorial. “The treatment handed out to Mr. Eich by them and their non-gay supporters is contemptible.” Rush Limbaugh ranted against “fascists on the left,” while Newt Gingrich lamented the “new fascism, which says if you don’t agree with us 100 percent, we have the right to punish you.”

The future of democracy is urban

The tipping point for cities likely went unnoticed. It could have been a baby born in a large hospital in Lagos. It might have been a Chinese farmer moving to Shanghai. Or perhaps it was the quiet passing of a grandparent in the Amazon.

Whatever it was, the result was dramatic. In 2009 and for the first time in history, more people lived inside urban areas than outside of them. Where are we five years later? With the World Urban Forum taking place this week in Medellin, Columbia, it’s a good time to ask.

First Nations education bill fails the test

Politics is a messy business, so it is helpful to have clarity now and then. 
Certainly, partisan posturing often can muddy the issues and impede progress. On First Nations issues, entrenched positions and a high volume of uninformed rhetoric from both sides doesn’t help either. As a result, before the bill had been tabled many blindly rejected the new education legislation, while others absurdly insisted it should be adopted. 

Questions linger about secret panel for Marc Nadon's appointment

It's been three weeks since the Supreme Court told the government its nominee, Justice Marc Nadon, is not eligible to sit as a member of the court.
Not only is little known about how he was chosen, there's also no new candidate in sight.
Nadon's name was on a list of three potential candidates. That list of three, which had been drawn up by a selection committee made up of MPs, was then sent to the government. That means two other candidates are presumably available to fill the empty Quebec seat on the top court. But it's not known who they are, or whether a new batch of candidates will be drawn up.

RIP people killed by Flaherty's policies

Former federal finance minister Jim Flaherty died an early death at 64, causing the business community, the Tories and Liberals—but also NDP leader Tom Mulcair—to choke back tears. We mourn instead the thousands whose untimely deaths were brought about by the policies of Flaherty and the cabinets in which he served.

Flaherty was part of Mike Harris’ government in Ontario, whose cuts to water inspection services led to an E.Coli outbreak that killed seven people in Walkerton, Ontario. The same government imposed massive cuts to welfare and social housing, killing Kimberly Rogers in the process, and years later people continue to die from homelessness.

Russia Wants To Annex The Moon

Because Russia hasn't been accused of imperial behaviour quite enough lately, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin announced on Friday that the nation plans to carve out an area of operations on the moon.

According to Voice of Russia, Rogozin explained to government daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta on Friday that since Russia is "going to come to the moon forever," it doesn't make much sense to keep making trips back and forth. Instead, Rogozin says, Moscow will plan on establishing a permanent base on the moon, which could mean that as its sole human occupants they'd essentially be in control up there.

South Carolina Panel Approves Expansion Of 'Stand Your Ground' Law To Include Unborn Children

The South Carolina Senate Judiciary Subcommittee voted 3-2 Thursday to approve the "Pregnant Women's Protection Act," a measure that would expand the state's "Stand Your Ground" law to permit pregnant women to use deadly force in defense of an unborn child, beginning at conception.

Opponents of the bill, sponsored by state Sen. Katrina Shealy (R), said the legislation is redundant under the state’s existing "Stand Your Ground" law, arguing that no situation exists in which an unborn child would be threatened when the mother was not.

Social Security, Treasury target taxpayers for their parents’ decades-old debts

A few weeks ago, with no notice, the U.S. government intercepted Mary Grice’s tax refunds from both the IRS and the state of Maryland. Grice had no idea that Uncle Sam had seized her money until some days later, when she got a letter saying that her refund had gone to satisfy an old debt to the government — a very old debt.

When Grice was 4, back in 1960, her father died, leaving her mother with five children to raise. Until the kids turned 18, Sadie Grice got survivor benefits from Social Security to help feed and clothe them.

Big G.O.P. Donors Stir Senate Runs

Democrats in races that will help determine control of the Senate are rapidly burning through their campaign cash, whittling away their financial advantage over Republican opponents as they fend off attacks from conservative groups, according to figures released through Friday.

The spending on both sides underscores the critical role that outside conservative groups are playing as Republicans try to retake the Senate. In state after state, organizations like Americans for Prosperity, the nonprofit linked to the conservative billionaires David H. and Charles G. Koch, have kept Democrats on the defensive with a barrage of negative ads while establishment-backed Republican candidates raise money and navigate their way through primaries.

In the Tories’ partisan Bizarro World, every critic of Fair Elections Act is biased

Conservatives at their best disdain the lazy moral relativism that passes for sophistication in some corners of the left. There are such things as right and wrong, they insist, not right for some and wrong for others. Some absolutes remain.

Conservatives at their worst espouse their own brand of relativism, with its own slipshod reasoning and its own situational ethics. It is the achievement of this government to have relativized a number of what were once considered absolutes: whether the census should be accurate, for example, or whether governments should be answerable to Parliament. And, now, whether elections should be fair.

Very little ‘fair’ about how Conservatives are pushing controversial Elections Act

It is coarse to imagine the Conservatives are conspiring to fix the next election, in plain sight of everyone. If you were bent on suppressing the opposition vote, evading spending limits, and otherwise participating in electoral fraud, presumably you would not take the trouble to advertise this in legislation.

On the other hand, if they are not up to no good, they are doing their best to convince people they are. The secrecy surrounding the Fair Elections Act, the failure to consult in advance of its drafting, the curtailment of debate after, the supreme indifference to legitimate criticism, all under the chilling oversight of the Minister for Democratic Reform, Pierre Poilievre, would be enough to make anyone nervous.

Why 'Fair Elections Act' Means the Death of Reason

The "Fair Elections Act" is the ultimate battle of rhetoric versus reason. In response to weeks of credible, objective, unanimous expert committee testimony opposing this bill, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Minister Pierre Poilievre and their MPs consistently repeat evidence-free talking points.

Non-partisan civil society groups, respected academics and chief electoral officers warn that the removal of vouching and voter information cards will disenfranchise tens or hundreds of thousands of marginalized Canadians despite individual voter fraud being virtually non-existent.

Harper’s idea of ‘fairness’ belongs in Arizona

Stephen Harper would make a good governor of Arizona.

In addition to the lies and sleaziness his government has been serving up during its majority, its sickening reliance on marketing over truth, its dishonest use of technology in political matters, and its shameful abuse of language, the prime minister is blighting democracy in the name of political advantage.

When Stephen Harper gave Canada fixed elections dates, no one expected a whole lot more “fixing” was still to come. There was; Bill C-23. By potentially removing hundreds of thousands of voters from the next election, Canada could now have elections with fixed dates and fixed results.

Income Inequality: From IMF To World Bank, It's Landing On The Agenda Of Elite Policy Meetings

WASHINGTON - From the Occupy movement, to the corridors of power: the rallying cry against inequality could be heard the last few days in a setting far removed from the street demonstrations that sprouted in 2011.

The past week's global financial meetings heard repeated warnings about inequality and its deleterious effect on economic growth.

Over the past century, the federal government has pumped more than $470 billion into the oil and gas industry in the form of generous, never-expiring tax breaks. Once intended to jump-start struggling domestic drillers, these incentives have become a tidy bonus for some of the world's most profitable companies.

Enbridge loses the Kitimat plebiscite on Northern Gateway

With a hushed crowd of about one hundred, the unofficial result of the Kitimat plebiscite was read aloud Saturday evening.  Instantly, those gathered at the downtown park erupted into screams of joy.

Enbridge has lost the vote.

Yinka Dene pipeline communities ban Northern Gateway

Two hundred people from four Yinka Dene communities packed a gymnasium in north central B.C. on Friday to give an emotional presentation to the federal government and Enbridge that their alliance formally opposes the Northern Gateway oil pipeline.

"It was amazing to finally tell the feds - this is our decision," Nak'azdli Hereditary Chief Pete Erickson, told the Vancouver Observer Saturday.

Death From Above: How American Drone Strikes Are Devastating Yemen

The people of Yemen can hear destruction before it arrives. In cities, towns and villages across this country, which hangs off the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula, the air buzzes with the sound of American drones flying overhead. The sound is a constant and terrible reminder: a robot plane, acting on secret intelligence, may calculate that the man across from you at the coffee shop, or the acquaintance with whom you've shared a passing word on the street, is an Al Qaeda operative. This intelligence may be accurate or it may not, but it doesn't matter. If you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, the chaotic buzzing above sharpens into the death-herald of an incoming missile.

Don't airbrush Jim Flaherty's record because of sympathy for his family

Decent people naturally feel sympathy with the loved ones of any person taken unexpectedly from life, as just-retired federal Conservative Finance MinisterJim Flaherty was last week.
We are naturally more inclined to experience such feelings of vicarious loss when the person who has died is charming and engaging -- as Flaherty was said by those who knew him to be. This is especially so if we worked closely with that person, as all members of all parties in Parliament did with Flaherty in the course of their work. This presumably accounts for the tears shed by NDP Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair on learning of Flaherty's death.
But this should not lead us into the temptation to paper over the faults of the departed one, as a great many progressive Canadians have been doing these past few days with the memory of Flaherty. This temptation is particularly great given our Western cultural superstition about "speaking ill of the dead."

Harper government pressured to reject Northern Gateway after Kitimat defeat

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his new Natural Resources Minister, Greg Rickford, are facing growing calls to reject the Northern Gateway oil sands pipeline, after the project was defeated in a critical Kitimat plebiscite vote Saturday.
Nathan Cullen, NDP MP for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, said the $6.5 billion project no longer has social license.
"Enbridge should listen, the Conservatives should listen," said Cullen Saturday night in Kitimat, shortly after announcing the vote's outcome to an ecstatic crowd in the street.  

Ironclad Rule Of Governor In Peru State Called 'Mini-Dictatorship'

CHIMBOTE, Peru (AP) — One by one, the senior officials from the capital took the microphone and apologized to an auditorium packed with angry people who had long been living in fear. The officials admitted they had failed to prevent a political murder foretold by its victim. Their integrity was in doubt.

Peru's chief prosecutor, comptroller and the head of Congress' investigations committee, which was now holding a public hearing, had all ignored evidence that Ezequiel Nolasco, now murdered, had thrust in their faces for months.

36 People Were Shot In 36 Hours In Chicago

A 17-year-old girl killed Friday afternoon was among at least 36 people wounded in gun violence over the weekend in Chicago.

Gakirah Barnes, 17, was shot multiple times in the upper body Friday afternoon in the city's Woodlawn neighborhood. She died about two hours later at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, in what was the first of four gunshot fatalities citywide over the weekend, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

U.S. Press Once Again Declines to Call White Terrorism in Kansas, Nevada, White Terrorism

My Top Ten differences between White Terrorists and Others,  judging by the Facebook shares, must be among the more popular pieces I have ever written.  It keeps being proven correct by American journalism every day.

I get hot under the collar thinking about all the effort the US government is expending to monitor who we call and where we are when we do it–in the hundreds of millions!– and about all the surveillance of innocent American citizens of Muslim faith and of mosques, when the American fascists receive much less focus.  If a group is armed and announces its purpose is to spread hate of another group, wouldn’t that warrant some surveillance?  By surveiling us all, precious person power is being wasted.