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 28, 2014

Tax Dodging Whopper? Burger King Moves to Canada After Merger with Tim Hortons

This week Burger King announced it is buying the Canadian coffee-and-donut chain Tim Hortons for $11.4 billion, creating the third largest fast-food chain in the world. The newly created firm will be headquartered in Canada where the corporate tax rate is lower than in the United States. While Burger King denies it was motivated by lower taxes, the deal has revived the debate over so-called tax inversions, whereby U.S. companies use mergers to move overseas and avoid U.S. tax rates. In July, the Obama administration estimated tax inversions could cost the United States as much as $17 billion per year. One investor who stands to profit from the Burger King deal is President Obama supporter Warren Buffett. He lent Burger King $3 billion at a lucrative 9 percent interest rate to help complete the deal. We are joined by James Henry, an economist, lawyer, and senior advisor with the Tax Justice Network. He is former chief economist at McKinsey & Company.

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Remember the Wendy Davis Filibuster? The Law She Fought Is Driving Dozens of Abortion Clinics Out of Business

At the new Planned Parenthood clinic in Dallas earlier this month, exam rooms were stocked, desks, chairs, and computers were installed, even a few phones had started to ring. Construction workers came in and out, and the waiting room stood empty, save for a corner stack of moving boxes.

"We're just waiting for furniture," said Kelly Hart, senior director of government relations for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, while giving a tour of the clinic, which opened to patients two weeks ago.

Your Cell Phone Company Says Your Location Info Is Private. Think Again.

On Sunday, the Washington Post published an expose revealing that private companies are peddling surveillance systems to foreign governments that track the location of cell phone users in the US and abroad. The report raised a basic question: How can this be happening when cell phone companies generally promise not to disclose their customers' location information without their consent? The main problem is that location information is available on a global network that can be accessed by thousands of companies. And in the wake of the Post story, US cell phone companies are refusing to discuss how this squares with their privacy policies, or say what they are doing to keep their customers' whereabouts confidential.

Fraser Institute Blasts Canada's 'Biased' Labour Relations Laws In New Report

Just when it seemed that the debate over right-to-work laws had calmed, Canada’s most well-known conservative think-tank has released a report blasting the country’s “biased” labour relations laws for stalling jobs and investment.

After assessing various labour relations laws in the private sector for their “flexibility” — defined for the purpose of their index as “less bias towards favouring unions over employers” — the latest report, released Thursday by the Fraser Institute, found that all 10 provinces lagged behind the 50 U.S. states.

Emails Raise More Questions about Gambling Exec's Conflict of Interest

Emails obtained by The Tyee raise further questions about Michael Graydon's shift from heading the B.C. Crown corporation that oversees gambling to running the private firm that plans to build a casino beside BC Place Stadium -- a transition process that investigators for the province found put Graydon in a conflict of interest.

Graydon tendered his resignation as CEO to the B.C. Lottery Corp. board of directors Jan. 29, effective March 31. The resignation was accepted but the board gave Graydon until Feb. 4 to leave. Three days later, on Feb. 7, Graydon's hiring as president of PV Hospitality ULC was announced.

You Can't Understand ISIS If You Don't Know the History of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia

BEIRUT -- The dramatic arrival of Da'ish (ISIS) on the stage of Iraq has shocked many in the West. Many have been perplexed -- and horrified -- by its violence and its evident magnetism for Sunni youth. But more than this, they find Saudi Arabia's ambivalence in the face of this manifestation both troubling and inexplicable, wondering, "Don't the Saudis understand that ISIS threatens them, too?"

Why This Woman Is Facing Decades In Prison For Going To The Hospital

A 33-year-old woman from Indiana faces decades in prison after she sought medical attention at a hospital as she was bleeding from a premature delivery. The case is just the latest example illustrating the real-world consequences of the harsh state laws that essentially criminalize pregnancy.

The Egregious Ethics of For-Profit Health Care in BC

One of the most important constitutional trials in Canadian history was set to begin on Sept. 8, 2014 before the B.C. Supreme Court. Brian Day, owner of the for-profit Cambie Surgical Centre says he is fighting for the freedom of patients who are victims of "medical enslavement," while making generous and unlawful profits well above what the government and his own profession have identified as fair.

These arguments were to be heard in a costly 24-week trial that pits our public health system against the two-tiered, free-market alternative he proposes that patients have a right to in a free society.

Paper billing fees add up to over $500M a year, study finds

Canadians are paying from $495 million to $734 million annually to receive paper bills they received free prior to 2010, according to a study by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre.

The burden of the pay-to-pay rule implemented by telecom, internet and other firms falls heavily on low-income people and seniors who are less likely to have access to the internet, PIAC says in its report. An estimated 15 per cent of Canadians do not have internet access at home.

Ukraine Reports Russian Invasion on a New Front

DONETSK, Ukraine — Determined to preserve the pro-Russian revolt in eastern Ukraine, Russia reinforced what Western and Ukrainian officials described as a stealth invasion on Wednesday, sending armored troops across the border as it expanded the conflict to a new section of Ukrainian territory.

The latest incursion, which Ukraine’s military said included five armored personnel carriers, was at least the third movement of troops and weapons from Russia across the southeast part of the border this week, further blunting the momentum Ukrainian forces have made in weakening the insurgents in their redoubts of Donetsk and Luhansk farther north. Evidence of a possible turn was seen in the panicky retreat of Ukrainian soldiers on Tuesday from a force they said had come over the Russian border.

Actually, Minority Workers Are Everywhere In Silicon Valley -- They're Just Not Treated As Well

Despite what you may have heard, there are actually many black and Hispanic workers at tech companies. They're just not paid much, and they mostly don't get the same benefits as white and Asian employees.

Black and Hispanic workers make up 41 percent of private security guards, 72 percent of janitors and 76 percent of maintenance workers in Silicon Valley, according to a report released Tuesday by Working Partnerships USA, a labor-affiliated nonprofit that works on behalf of temporary employees.

A Wake-up Call for Canada's Mining Industry

When a tailings pond broke at the Mount Polley gold and copper mine in south-central B.C., spilling millions of cubic metres of waste into a salmon-bearing stream, B.C. Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett called it an "extremely rare" occurrence, the first in 40 years for mines operating here.

He failed to mention the 46 "dangerous or unusual occurrences" that B.C's chief inspector of mines reported at tailings ponds in the province between 2000 and 2012, as well as breaches at non-operating mine sites.

At Koch Retreat, Top GOP Senate Candidates Credited Koch Network For Their Rise

WASHINGTON -- Three top Republican Senate candidates heaped praise on the political network built by the conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch during a secretive conference held by the brothers this past summer, according to audio of the event.

Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst and Arkansas Rep. Tom Cotton directly credited donors present at the June 16 retreat in Dana Point, California, for propelling them forward. Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner told attendees that his race would likely be decided by the presence of "third party" money -- an obvious pitch for generosity from the well-heeled crowd.