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.]

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Profits Outpace Job Growth Five To One At Largest U.S. Corporations

Profits have grown five times faster than jobs at America’s largest publicly-traded companies over the past dozen years, according to a new analysis by Reuters.
Staff levels rose by 31 percent from 2001 to 2013 at the companies analyzed while inflation-adjusted profits grew 150 percent, the wire service reports. The analysis is based on corporate filings by 100 of the largest publicly owned U.S. companies. The filings do not specify where hiring took place, and it is likely that a significant portion of the job growth reported in the documents came from outside the U.S.

MPs' Staff Asked To Sign Lifetime Confidentiality Agreements

A proposed lifetime gag order for employees of members of Parliament that would restrict their ability to share information — and stifle the kind of whistleblowing that led to some of the revelations in the Senate scandal — is triggering alarm among Parliament Hill staff, according to a union representing some of the workers.

Hill journalists were sent a grainy photo of the new agreement last week from "Nanker Phelge," a pseudonymous email account that appears to have been set up by a Hill staffer unhappy over the change in policy.

Vandalism, Looting After Vigil For Black Teen Killed By Police

FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) -- A candlelight vigil for an unarmed black man who was fatally shot by a suburban St. Louis police officer was followed by unrest as crowds looted and burned stores, vandalized vehicles and taunted officers who tried to block access to parts of the city.

Streets in Ferguson upended on Sunday night were relatively quiet early Monday. Some debris littered the area but crowds had dispersed. Police did not respond to calls by The Associated Press asking for details of arrests, law enforcement and violence in the unrest.

Oil and Erbil

To the defense of Erbil: this was the main cause that drew President Obama back to combat in Iraq last week, two and a half years after he fulfilled a campaign pledge and pulled the last troops out.

After Mazar-i-Sharif, Nasiriyah, Kandahar, Mosul, Benghazi, and a score of other sites of American military intervention—cities whose names would have stumped most American “Jeopardy!” contestants before 2001—we come now to Erbil. One can forgive the isolationist: Where?

Bottled Water Comes From the Most Drought-Ridden Places in the Country

Bottled-water drinkers, we have a problem: There's a good chance that your water comes from California, a state experiencing the third-driest year on record.
The details of where and how bottling companies get their water are often quite murky, but generally speaking, bottled water falls into two categories. The first is "spring water," or groundwater that's collected, according to the EPA, "at the point where water flows naturally to the earth's surface or from a borehole that taps into the underground source." About 55 percent of bottled water in the United States is spring water, including Crystal Geyser and Arrowhead.

Can we talk about equalization and the delinquent federal role?

Another budget shock -- the Nova Scotia deficit for the past year is approaching $700 million, a revelation followed by declarations that the new Liberal government's honeymoon is over. I don't actually remember a honeymoon -- just the usual numb anxiety while awaiting the needle -- but let's examine this continuing struggle with debt, deficits, a weak economy and young people leaving against a wider backdrop.
First, lest we forget, we are not alone. Much of the developed world in is some variation of this pickle in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis. Second, with only a few periods of respite (the first and second world wars, the 1960s and 70s) this is a newer version of what's been going on for roughly 130 years, since the Maritime economy started its long descent in the 1880s amid post-Confederation politics.

Then and now: Shining a light on labour struggles

On travels this summer, I went to Rochester, NY, which was the home of the Eastman Kodak operation. I visited the Eastman Museum which featured a large exhibit of the photographs of Lewis Hine. While you may not immediately recognize his name, you likely have seen his iconic photographs, especially those dealing with child labour. Life magazine deemed his photograph of the Pennsylvanian breaker boys to be one of the "100 photographs that changed the world." His photographs of young girls working in cotton mills still have the power to move your heart a century later.
Hine termed himself a social photographer. He was critical of photographers who were content to photograph bucolic scenes or the lives of the rich. At the turn of the century, Hine photographed immigrants arriving at Ellis Island. Even during this open period for immigration, anti-newcomer feelings were widespread. The photographs of the new arrivals, especially the children, cry out for compassion. In 1908, Lewis joined the National Child Labour Committee to use his talents to tell the story of child labour to the public. He would eventually travel 100,000 miles documenting the lives of working children. He lugged his 50 pounds of camera and aids down into mines and into mills to tell the world what children as young as 10 were forced to do 10 hours a day, six days a week.

A settler's experience at the Unist'ot'en camp

Twelve hours into a motorcycle ride from Vancouver to theUnist'ot'en camp, and after short dips in a couple of the hundreds of small lakes in 40 degree weather, the glow of the northern British Columbia evening sky turns thick and otherworldly with smoke from nearby forest fires. Seeking a place to sleep, I skip the first small town whose cheap motels were filled with some of the hundreds of firefighters and evacuees from local oil and gas camps. The fires rage as a result of pine-beetle ravaged forests and a hot, dry B.C. interior.
The next day I arrive drained and weary at the Unist'ot'en camp after negotiating an hour and a half of rather treacherous (for a motorcycle) logging truck grooved gravel roads. At the camp entrance, a just unloaded flower power Victoria, B.C. bus of "settler allies" was about to traverse a narrow wooden bridge adorned with big colourful letters painting "no pipelines." I am waved over as next in the queue and was confronted by two imposing First Nations men on the bridge.

Government Whitewashing Didn’t Stop With Watergate

Richard Nixon’s forced resignation from the presidency forty years ago this August was, in addition to being one of the greatest moments in the history of liberal Schadenfreude, also a turning point in the history of the American national security state.

It’s not as if previous presidents, particularly Lyndon Johnson, Nixon’s predecessor, were somehow scrupulous in observing the constitutional limits on executive power. It’s just that, thanks to his taping system—and his utterly incompetent cover-up efforts—Nixon showed us just how rotten the core of our system had become. And yet, to the degree that anything has changed in the past four decades, it has almost always been for the worst.

Gargoyle: Tories warn "Everything we've fought for is at risk"

Fresh off a splenetic attack against Justin Trudeau over his terrorism-loving ways, the Conservatives’ fundraising campaign now turns to another enemy of the state: Big Union Bosses™, specifically Sid Ryan of the Ontario Federation of Labour, whom some on the right blame for tipping the scales against the Tim Hudak Progressive Conservatives in the last provincial run-off.

Today’s missive from Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre warns that unions are going to interject themselves in next year’s federal election to advance their “radical union agenda.”

This, to Poilievre, is tantamount to a declaration of war.  Five dollars, please!

Original Article

Hadar Goldin and the Hannibal Directive

Buried deep inside a Times report last weekend about Hadar Goldin, the Israeli soldier who was reported captured by Hamas, in the southern Gaza Strip, and then declared dead, was the following paragraph:

The circumstances surrounding his death remained cloudy. A military spokeswoman declined to say whether Lieutenant Goldin had been killed along with two comrades by a suicide bomb one of the militants exploded, or later by Israel’s assault on the area to hunt for him; she also refused to answer whether his remains had been recovered.

Harper government's legal setbacks suggest strategy of confrontation

In what must feel to the prime minister like a visit to the shooting range, another tenet of the government's tough-on-crime agenda has been blown away.

Holding the rifle this time is respected Ottawa Judge David Paciocco. In tatters is the mandatory victim surcharge, a compulsory funding scheme implemented by the government to fund services to victims and their families.

Alberta's 'rogue politics' and 'rogue' politicians

Is Alison Redford a rogue politician or does she belong to a rogue party?
A rogue is a dishonest or unprincipled man (or woman), a scoundrel, villain, miscreant, reprobate, good-for-nothing, ne're-do-well, wretch, louse, crook.
The word "rogue" entered the lexicon of Alberta politics after Auditor General Merwan Saher reviewed Alison Redford's use of government aircraft and found that somebody booked "false passengers" onto government flights in order to block seats and then unbooked them so that Ms. Redford and her entourage could have the plane all to themselves. This is almost as spooky as that episode of Sherlock Holmes where the government packed a plane with dead people who would be blown up in order to avoid revealing that the government had cracked a terrorist code.

The Risky Rise of the Dams

A massive mining wastewater spill in the interior of British Columbia highlights a new global trend: tailing dams that hold waste are not only getting bigger, but posing greater risks to watersheds and communities downstream.

Drawing upon recent industry reports and presentations made by engineers living in the province, it's clear that the complexities of the industry have multiplied and with them, risks to water are escalating.

40,000 Iraqis stranded on mountain as Isis jihadists threaten death

Tens of thousands of members of one of Iraq's oldest minorities have been stranded on a mountain in the country's north-west, facing slaughter at the hands of jihadists surrounding them below if they flee, or death by dehydration if they stay.

UN groups say at least 40,000 members of the Yazidi sect, many of them women and children, have taken refuge in nine locations on Mount Sinjar, a craggy, mile-high ridge identified in local legend as the final resting place of Noah's ark.

Against the war: the movement that dare not speak its name in Israel

Gideon Levy doesn't want to meet in a coffee bar in Tel Aviv. He is fed up with being hassled in public and spat at, with people not willing to share the table next to him in restaurants. And now he is fed up with the constant presence of his bodyguards, not least because they too have started giving him a hard time about his political views. So he doesn't go out much any more and we sit in the calm of his living room, a few hundred yards from the Yitzhak Rabin Centre. Rabin's assassination by a rightwing Orthodox Jew in 1995 is itself a sobering reminder of the personal cost of peacemaking in Israel.

In his column in Haaretz, Levy has long since banged the drum for greater Israeli empathy towards the suffering of the Palestinians. He is a well-known commentator on the left, and one of the few prepared to stick his head above the parapet. Consequently, he is no stranger to opposition from the right. But this time it is different. Yariv Levin, coalition chairman of the Likud-Beytenu faction in the Knesset, recently called for him to be put on trial for treason – a crime which, during wartime, is punishable by death.

It Is a Wonder We Are Still Alive

If some extraterrestrial species were compiling a history of Homo sapiens, they might well break their calendar into two eras: BNW (before nuclear weapons) and NWE (the nuclear weapons era). The latter era, of course, opened on August 6, 1945, the first day of the countdown to what may be the inglorious end of this strange species, which attained the intelligence to discover the effective means to destroy itself, but—so the evidence suggests—not the moral and intellectual capacity to control its worst instincts.

Declining pensions and bargaining power: The pension fight in Canada

It's relatively common knowledge that employer-run pensions have been scaled back over the past few decades. I've decided to dig up some data on pensions for this post to see just how this has taken place in Canada, motivated by a recently released analysis of U.S. pension reform that finds contradictions in how U.S. workers have come to take on more and more of the risk for their retirement income.
First, a bit of background. There are two main kinds of employer-administered pension funds: defined benefit (DB) plans -- where retirees receive a set monthly income, or defined benefit -- and defined contribution (DC) plans -- where retirees receive a variable monthly income dependent on how much they proportionately contributed to the pension plan and how this money was invested. There are also completely individualized retirement savings plans such as the RRSP, but these are essentially individuals investment accounts given preferential tax treatment. However, the link between RRSPs and DC plans is that they generally place investment risk on workers themselves; if whatever financial instrument the money is invested in suffers, retirement income also suffers.

Israel Doesn’t Get Geneva Conventions, Still Holding Gaza Civilians Hostage

The Israeli government is saying that it will only let in building materials so that Palestinians in Gaza can rebuild or repair the some 40,000 buildings that have been damaged or destroyed if Hamas disarms.

It is legitimate for Israel to seek the disarming of Hamas, but it isn’t legitimate or legal in international law for it to hold non-combatants’ lives and welfare hostage in order to accomplish that goal.

Mount Polley Mine Tailings Pond Breach Sends Toxic Waste Into Waterways

Arsenic, lead, and selenium are likely in the toxic waste water that rushed into waterways in central B.C. after a mine tailings pond was breached early Monday. People who live in the area are under a total water ban.

At least five million cubic metres of waste water from the Mount Polley copper and gold mine was released into the Cariboo Regional District's Hazeltine Creek. That's about the same amount of water as 2,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Canadians Can’t Drink Their Water After 1.3 Billion Gallons Of Mining Waste Flows Into Rivers

Hundreds of people in British Columbia can’t use their water after more than a billion gallons of mining waste spilled into rivers and creeks in the province’s Cariboo region.
A breach in a tailings pond from the open-pit Mount Polley copper and gold mine sent five million cubic meters (1.3 billion gallons) of slurry gushing into Hazeltine Creek in B.C. That’s the equivalent of 2,000 Olympic swimming pools of waste, the CBC reports. Tailings ponds from mineral mines store a mix of water, chemicals and ground-up minerals left over from mining operations.

Big Oil Companies Pay Just A 11.7 Percent Tax Rate, Report Finds

Big oil companies pay 23.3 percentage points less in tax than the rate typically imposed on corporations, according to a new report.
The report, published by Taxpayers for Common Sense, found the U.S.’s 20 largest oil and gas companies paid 11.7 percent in taxes from 2009 to 2013. That’s significantly less than the statutory corporate tax rate of 35 percent, which is typically what corporations pay if they make more than $18.3 million in a year. And the smaller oil firms — those smaller than major firms like ExxonMobil or Chevron — paid even less tax — 3.7 percent, according to the report.

Cash, Weapons and Surveillance: the U.S. is a Key Party to Every Israeli Attack

The U.S. government has long lavished overwhelming aid on Israel, providing cash, weapons and surveillance technology that play a crucial role in Israel’s attacks on its neighbors. But top secret documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden shed substantial new light on how the U.S. and its partners directly enable Israel’s military assaults – such as the one on Gaza.

With Confirmation of CIA Spying on the Senate, It Is Time for Serious Oversight

With due respect to congressional Republicans who want to hold President Obama to account for supposedly exceeding his executive authority, and to congressional Democrats who want to hold House Republicans to account for failing to live up to their legislative responsibilities, members of both parties should be focusing now on the question of how to hold the Central Intelligence Agency to account.

CIA officials on Thursday acknowledged that agency operatives spied on computers that were being used by Senate Select Committee on Intelligence staffers who were using to prepare report on an investigation of “enhanced interrogation” techniques and related detention issues. An inquiry by CIA Inspector General David Buckley determined that five CIA employees, two lawyers and three information technology specialists obtained access to what was supposed to be a secure network for the Senate staffers.

Thousands of Displaced Gazans Flee to UN Shelters, Only to Face Deadly Assaults

Jabaliya, Gaza—The bombardment of Gaza is almost always worse at night. The missiles and shells rain down in greater number after dark. The sky is lit up by flares that illuminate the onslaught. With hardly any electricity, the Strip is turned into a vast silhouette. There is little sleep.

For more than three weeks, Israel’s unrelenting air and artillery assault on the Strip has targeted homes, schools, hospitals, ambulances, beaches, marketplaces, media outlets, mosques and cemeteries.

Nearly 1 in 3 Restaurant Workers Suffers From Food Insecurity

The person who served you lunch today may be going hungry. Surveys of restaurant workers in the Bay Area and New York City show that after spending long days sating the appetites of customers, they return home to empty pantries and struggle to pay for groceries. Nearly one in three restaurant workers suffers from “food insecurity”—meaning they regularly have trouble obtaining adequate nourishment, usually because they can’t afford it.

The study, published by Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York (ROC-NY) (in collaboration with Food Chain Workers Alliance and Food First), shows that while the prevalence of food insecurity in the food-service workforce is paradoxical, it is built into the capitalist food chain.

Israel Must Stop Its Campaign of Terror

More than three weeks after Israel launched its latest assault on the Gaza Strip, and with no durable truce on the horizon, the situation in Israel/Palestine has descended into new and uncharted horrors. What began as a brute incursion by Israel, accompanied by a hail of Hamas rockets, has exploded into something shockingly worse: a bloodletting that, as The Nation went to press, had killed more than 1,200 Palestinians and fifty-six Israelis and pummeled Gaza into a landscape of human despair. Meanwhile in the West Bank, where thousands of Palestinians have poured into the streets for the largest protests in years, Israeli soldiers have responded with live ammunition; ten Palestinians were killed in a four-day period. And in Israel, where an empowered far right is ascendant, nationalist mobs have attacked Palestinian and Jewish antiwar protesters on several occasions.

Canada Revenue Agency: 'Preventing Poverty' Not Allowed As Goal For Charity

OTTAWA - The Canada Revenue Agency has told a well-known charity that it can no longer try to prevent poverty around the world, it can only alleviate poverty — because preventing poverty might benefit people who are not already poor.

The bizarre bureaucratic brawl over a mission statement is yet more evidence of deteriorating relations between the Harper government and some parts of Canada's charitable sector.

The Impeachment Vogue

James Monroe had high hopes for the power of impeachment. It was, he wrote in the eighteen-twenties, “the main spring of the great machine of government…. If preserved in full vigor and exercised with perfect integrity, every branch will perform its duty.” On July 27, 1974—forty years ago this Sunday—the House Judiciary Committee showed more than a little of that vigor and integrity when it voted, by a substantial bipartisan majority, for the first of three articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon. Peter W. Rodino, Jr., a New Jersey Democrat who served as chairman, had opened the proceedings with a grave benediction: “I pray that we will each act with the wisdom that compels us in the end to be but decent men who seek only the truth. Let us be clear about this. No official, no concerned citizen, no representative, no member of this committee welcomes an impeachment proceeding.”

Detroit Shuts Off Water to Residents but Not to Businesses Who Owe Millions

DETROIT — In Detroit, even the most basic necessity cannot be taken for granted.

Some 15,000 residential customers have lost water service, and tens of thousands more are in danger of losing it, thanks to past due bills. But businesses owing hundreds of thousands of dollars have not been disconnected, Detroit Water and Sewerage Department records show.

According to a department list, the top 40 commercial and industrial accounts have past-due accounts totaling $9.5 million. That list includes apartment complexes, the Chrysler Group, real estate agencies, a laundromat and even a cemetery.

Gaza: Some revised history

Suppose that the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, generally considered to have triggered World War I, turned out to have happened differently? Say it was discovered he had been shot by some unaffiliated passerby rather than by a member of Young Bosnia?
Israel is now facing a similar situation, but it isn't hypothetical. It turns out -- and we have the word of Micky Rosenfeld, spokesperson for the Israeli Police, on this -- that the kidnap murder of three Israeli teens was not, after all, carried out by Hamas.

‘The Tank Shells Fell Like Rain’: Survivors of the Attack on UNRWA School Report Scenes of Carnage and Destruction

Khan Younis and Beit Lahia, Gaza—Hussein Shinbari is the only member of his family that survived the attack on a United Nations school in Beit Hanoun on Thursday. He is covered in blood. His undershirt, his pants and his hands are all stained a deep red.

After Israel launched its ground invasion into Gaza last week, the Shinbari family left their home in the northeastern town close to the Israeli border and sought shelter at the nearby school. “They told us it was safe,” Hussein says, sitting on the ground by the morgue of the Kamal Adwan Hospital in Beit Lahia.

Five Israeli Talking Points on Gaza—Debunked

Israel has killed almost 800 Palestinians in the past twenty-one days in the Gaza Strip alone; its onslaught continues. The UN estimates that more than 74 percent of those killed are civilians. That is to be expected in a population of 1.8 million where the number of Hamas members is approximately 15,000. Israel does not deny that it killed those Palestinians using modern aerial technology and precise weaponry courtesy of the world’s only superpower. In fact, it does not even deny that they are civilians.