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, September 13, 2014

John McCain Votes To Preserve A Supreme Court Case He Called The ‘Worst Decision Ever’

A proposed constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s controversial 2010Citizens United ruling and give lawmakers greater ability to prevent large donors from corrupting government failed in the United States Senate on Thursday on a party-line vote. Among the 42 Republicans voting no was Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who in the past had been a campaign finance reform advocate.

'Poison pill' privatisation contracts could cost £300m-£400m to cancel

Taxpayers will face a £300m-£400m penalty if controversial probation privatisation contracts are cancelled after next May's general election under an "unprecedented" clause that guarantees bidders their expected profits over the 10-year life of the contract.

Labour is already committed to unpicking the justice ministry contracts to outsource probation services but will not now be able to do so without incurring the multimillion pound bill because of "poison pill" clauses written in by Chris Grayling's department.

The last thing Iraq needs is more misguided military action by the west

In announcing his new strategy to tackle the terrorist insurgency in Iraq, President Obama has put the US on a dangerous collision course with Syria, the Lebanese resistance led by Hezbollah, and the biggest obstacle to US and Israeli regional hegemony: Iran.

The so-called war on Isis (Islamic State) is, in reality, the same war that the US and Britain abandoned last year due to public opposition, the anti-war vote in Britain’s parliament, and the determination of Iran and Russia to back Syria. But the savagery of Isis and the beheading of two American hostages have dampened public opposition to further military intervention in the region, and has boosted hawks in Washington and London.

Obama’s Coalition of the Willing and Unable

Every year, as the Constitution requires, the President delivers a State of the Union address. And every year, as tradition dictates, he gives a commencement speech at one of the military academies, does a standup routine at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and announces his pardon of a Thanksgiving turkey. In President Obama’s case, he also generally delivers, around this time of a year, a hugely hyped speech that aims to right his listing Presidency and provide clarity to a picture that he himself has muddied.

On September 9, 2009, the issue was health care. Obama addressed a joint session of Congress about his reform plan after a long, hot summer of Tea Party town halls and Presidential passivity. “His advisers knew it was long past time for him to assert himself in a more demonstrable way or risk seeing the entire enterprise slip away,” Dan Balz reported the next day, in the Washington Post. On September 8, 2011, stymied by a stalling economic recovery and sinking approval ratings—his lowest to date—Obama went before Congress to launch the American Jobs Act and revive his Presidency. Last September 11th, the President spoke on Syria in the East Room, a speech made necessary by his own, and his Administration’s, failure to outline a consistent approach to the crisis. And, last night, again at the White House, he sought to answer the question of whether he does (as he said on August 18th) or does not (as he conceded, more memorably, on August 28th) have a strategy to counter the growing political power of Islamic extremism in Iraq and Syria.

Thirteen Years After 9/11: Justice Eludes Us at Great Cost

After spending a week at Guantánamo Bay serving as an Observer for the latest 9/11 Military Commissions proceedings and living out of a dingy military tent in nearly 100 degree weather, my overarching impression of Guantánamo is that -- regardless of where one falls on the political spectrum -- we are wasting billions on a process that is failing everyone's goals and will likely result in further harm to the American people.

A Woman Told Her Boss About A Devastating Cancer Diagnosis. He Responded By Firing Her.

A Pennsylvania community is rallying around a woman who was fired from her job at an oral surgeon's office following her diagnosis with cancer.

Carol Jumper, who lives in Hopewell Township, Pennsylvania, was diagnosed with cancer impacting her pancreas, liver and ovaries in August. According to her fiance, Dennis Smerigan, Jumper received a letter from her boss, Dr. George Visnich, in which the oral surgeon said he was laying her off without compensation. Raging Chicken Press published the letter on Sunday.

"The symptoms of the disease, the pain medications you will need and the side effects of the chemotherapy will be significant and distracting,” reads the handwritten note, which bears Visnich's letterhead. "You will not be able to function in my office at the level required while battling for your life. Because of this, I am laying you off without pay as of August 11, 2014."

Crowdfunding Site GoFundMe Won't Let Crowds Fund Abortions

A crowdfunding site touted as "Kickstarter for the rest of us" has decided that the rest of us doesn't include people who are pro-abortion rights.

GoFundMe, a site that allows people to solicit money online for personal causes like medical bills, house repairs and scholarship funds, is coming under fire after it censored fundraisers related to abortion. On Tuesday, the company issued an updateto its guidelines saying it wouldn’t fund projects linked to “termination of life,” “weapons & violence,” “adult material” and other topics.

Hamas Says It's Ready For Direct Talks With Israel

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — A senior Hamas leader says the group is willing to talk directly to Israel, reversing a previous ban.

In an interview with Al Quds TV to be broadcast later Thursday, Hamas No. 2 Musa Abu Marzouk says "Hamas is willing to talk directly to the Israelis" over issues including Gaza border crossings and prisoner releases.

Wall Street Journal Video Tries To Explain How A Family Making $400,000 A Year Feels Broke

To any of the 50 million Americans currently living in poverty, an annual household income of $400,000 probably sounds like a dream come true. Even to the millions of people among the rapidly-disappearing middle class, that kind of money sounds cushy.

Not so fast, proclaims The Wall Street Journal.

In a recent video, posted on the billionaire Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper's website, accompanying a recent feature titled "Six-Figure Incomes--and Facing Financial Ruin," the WSJ lays out (completely un-ironically) the case for why a family of four living in Chicago on salaries totaling $400,000 -- almost 10 times the city's median annual household income -- could actually "just barely be getting by."

Is the Fed Preparing to Asset-Strip Local Governments?

In an inscrutable move that has alarmed state treasurers, the Federal Reserve, along with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, just changed the liquidity requirements for the nation’s largest banks. Municipal bonds, long considered safe liquid investments, have been eliminated from the list of high-quality liquid collateral assets (HQLA). That means banks that are the largest holders of munis are liable to start dumping them in favor of the Treasuries and corporate bonds that do satisfy the requirement.

BP and the Three Stooges Defense

Forget Stephen King. If you want scary, read U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier’s 150-page Findings of Fact released Thursday in the Deepwater Horizon case.

Although the judge found BP liable for “gross negligence,” some U.S. media failed to mention that Barbier let BP off the hook on punitive damages. And that stuns me, given that the record seems to identify enough smoking guns to roast a sizable pig.

Here’s a standout example:

Every rig operator knows that, before a rig can unhook from a drill pipe, the operator has to run a “negative pressure test” to make sure the cement has properly sealed the drill pipe. If the pipe is safely plugged, the pressure gauge will read zero. The amount of pressure BP measured at 5 p.m. on April 20, 2010, the day of the explosion? 1400 psi (see the findings, pages 62-65).

1400 psi is not zero. Stick a balloon in your mouth with zero pressure and nothing happens except that you look silly. Replace the balloon with a hose delivering a 1400 psi blast and it’ll blow your skull apart.

The Speech on Diplomacy That Obama Should Have Given Last Night

Too often in the United States—most especially since 9/11—we equate “doing something” with “doing something military.” George W. Bush gave a traumatized, near-paralyzed US public two options: we either go to war, or we let ‘em get away with it. Faced with that choice, it was hardly surprising that 88 percent or so of people in this country chose war.

But the reality is that when there are no military solutions—which is most of the time, for those who care to notice, including on September 12, 2001—the alternative is not nothing, but active non-military engagement. Diplomacy becomes even more important. President Obama has said it over and over again: there is no US military solution in Iraq or Syria. He’s right. And yet military actions—in coalitions, with local partners, counter-terrorism but not counter-insurgency—were pretty much all we heard in his speech last night.

John McCain Warns ISIS Terrorists May Cross Canadian Border

John McCain revived fears last night that the Canadian border is "porous" and would make an easy entry point for attacks against the United States.

During a tense debate with former White House spokesman Jay Carney, the Republican senator and former presidential candidate argued that even though there is no specific threat to the U.S. from ISIS, there is still reason to be afraid.

McCain said that he has been warned in committee hearings that Twitter and Facebook posts from ISIS urge attacks on the U.S. The senator is a member of Senate committees on Armed Services, Foreign Relations and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Tony Clement wants to cut public servants' sick days to five

The Conservative government proposes to slash public servants’ paid sick leave to five days a year and introduce an unpaid seven-day waiting period before they qualify for new short-term disability benefits.

Treasury Board negotiators presented the government’s long-awaited bargaining position on a new sick-leave regime late Wednesday at closed-door talks with the giant Public Service Alliance of Canada. PSAC is the largest federal union, representing the majority of public servants in five large bargaining groups that have been locked in contract negotiations with Treasury Board this week.

How the war on terror is killing America

If America is still the “shining city upon a hill,” that is only because of the klieg lights glinting off the razor wire. It has been 13 years since 9/11, and America is not acting like a nation that defeated Osama bin Laden. After endless bloody wars, trillions spent on security, the battering of the Constitution, and the creation of a militarized surveillance state, American citizens, at the very least, look like the losers in the war on terror.

Before the smoke cleared at the World Trade Center, President Bush launched the war in Afghanistan and followed it soon after with a second front, in Iraq. Years after becoming the longest conflicts in U.S. history, these still drag on, redefining “quagmire.” Bin Laden killed 2,996 people on Sept. 11 and in the years since, twice as many American soldiers have died responding, and a hundred times more civilians.

Questioning question period

On Nov. 18 in Ottawa, Maclean’s will hand out the Parliamentarian of the Year Awards. This week, we launch Inside Ottawa, a fall series that will consider the work and worth of an MP. This week, some questions about question period: Is it an important exercise in accountability? A national embarrassment? Or both? MP Brent Rathgeber, an ex-Conservative MP, offers a first-hand account of the circus in his new book, Irresponsible Government:

Canada's Job Market 'Has Slipped Into Recessionary Territory': Magazine

Canada’s labour market “has slipped into recessionary territory,” Business In Canada magazine declared this week.

An article from editor Lucas Kawa notes that Canada’s core working-age population has been growing faster than the total number of jobs in recent months.

Canada's Wealth Gap Is Growing As Poor Get More In Debt: Report

Those rosy reports about Canadians’ net worth growing and the country's middle class being among the richest in the worldare masking growing inequality in the country, according to a new report.

The left-leaning Broadbent Institute says Canada’s poorest 10 per cent of the population saw their net worth drop some 150 per cent since 2005, while the top 10 per cent saw their net worth jump nearly 42 per cent in that time.

Playing soldiers: The coming boom in military spending

With Ottawa’s deficit about to turn into a surplus, we’ll soon be able to loosen our belts a bit and fulfill our pent-up dream of splurging on new tanks and fighter planes.

Some Canadians have other priorities, of course — investing in public health care usually tops the list in polls — but Stephen Harper’s government has already ruled that out.

Here’s what Harper is actually planning to do: boost military funding and deeply cut spending on health care. None of this is secret — although you wouldn’t necessarily pick it up from the media.

Baloney Meter: Is Harper government really spending more on military?

OTTAWA - "Canada has been increasing the defence spending, as I mentioned in London and elsewhere. It's up some 27 per cent since we took office. And more importantly, a significant percentage of that expansion of expenditure is investments in equipment and capacities of the Canadian Armed Forces for the future." — Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Last week, the prime minister defended his government's record on defence spending in the face of pressure from NATO allies who want to see Canada set aside more money for the military in light of growing unrest in eastern Europe and the Middle East.

Harper's Franklin 'discovery'; Or, did anyone ask the Inuit?

A beaming Stephen Harper announced today that one of the two ships from the long-lost Franklin expedition was "discovered" by scientists and researchers on the largest ever expedition to find the missing shipwrecks.
"I am delighted to announce that this year's Victoria Strait Expedition has solved one of Canada's greatest mysteries," Harper said in a statement.

Canada Slammed Door Shut to North Korean Escapees

[Editor's note: A previous version of this story stated that 12 North Koreans have been deported from Canada since 2011, a number provided by the Canada Border Services Agency to The Tyee on Tuesday. After the story was published this morning, the CBSA contacted The Tyee to state that number is incorrect, and blamed the mistake on its own data-entry error. This story has been changed to reflect the CBSA's claimed error.]

Canada has not granted a single North Korean refugee protection in 2014, according to figures obtained by The Tyee.

Rastafarian High School Student Sent Home From School For Ten Days For Having Dreadlocks

Legal experts are coming to the defense of a Rastafari high schooler in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, who was kicked out of class for having dreadlocks, arguing that school officials violated his right to religious freedom.
According to a letter published last week by the Louisiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a student — identified only as “John Doe” — was sent home from the first day of school at South Plaquemines High School on August 8th because his dreadlocks were too long. The student reportedly tried to return to school at least twice, but was repeatedly dismissed — even after he pinned up his dreadlocks to meet length requirements.

Georgia Secretary Of State Laments That Democrats Are Registering Minority Voters

A day after the Senior Deputy Whip for the Georgia Senate Republicans vowed to block early voting dates and locations that he felt would attract African American voters, a progressive group released audio on Wednesday of Georgia’s Secretary of State warning fellow Republicans that Democrats might win because they are registering minority voters.

Thirteen years into the War of Terror

While facilitating a youth workshop recently, I realized that this generation is completely shaped by the events and politics of 9/11. Though few of the youth were able to define terrorism (beyond "blowing things up"), most of them were quick to normalize surveillance, military occupation, online tracking, CCTV cameras, extraordinary rendition, torture, deportations and incarceration.
Over the past 13 years, the War on Terror has been one of linguistic and legal contortions that allow the state to fortify itself with increasing policing and surveillance powers. The War on Terror is a geopolitical War of Terror, invoking simplistic "us versus them" jargon to crusade in the service of so-called Western civilization (such as the barely debated re-entry of Canadian special operation forces and NATO into Northern Iraq this week). Within Canada, Muslim, Arab, racialized and Indigenous communities have been recast as outsiders and threats, while tactics of fear have been deployed to criminalize legitimate resistance movements from Turtle Island to Palestine.

Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Pipeline could cross B.C. parks

Kinder Morgan, which ran into conflict with the City of Burnaby over pipeline surveying work it began on municipal parkland, has submitted plans showing its new pipeline routed through a protected grassland and three provincial parks in B.C.

In what's called a Provincial Protected Area Boundary Adjustment application, the company is asking the province to allow it to route the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline line through four protected areas from just southeast of the Wells Gray area and roughly 200 kilometres north of Kamloops, to just east of Chilliwack.

Obama Came To Office To End Iraq War, May Leave Having Started A New One

WASHINGTON -- Six years after riding into office on a message of ending the war in Iraq, President Barack Obama is winding down his time in the White House by defending fresh military action in that nation.

It can't be a position he thought he'd end up taking.

Playing God

The Rebirth of Family Capitalism or How the Koch Brothers, Sheldon Adelson, Sam Walton, Bill Gates, and Other Billionaires Are Undermining America

Why ISIS Is Not, In Fact, Islamic

Conservatives reacted harshly to President Obama’s claim on Wednesday night that the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) “is not Islamic,” accusing the commander-in-chief of naiveté and ignorance. “What kindergartner briefs the President on terrorism?” Ron Christie, a GOP strategist tweeted. “ISIS says it’s Islamic, lots of people say it’s Islamic, only the president won’t,” George Will told Fox News shortly after the speech.

Obama’s War on ISIS: A Realist Relents

With his approval ratings in some recent polls touching new lows, President Obama knows that many Americans don’t have much patience with him. In addressing the nation from the White House on Wednesday night, he got right down to it: “My fellow Americans,” he said, “tonight I want to speak to you about what the United States will do with our friends and allies to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.”

Israeli Cop Charged Over Beaten Palestinian-American Teen

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's Justice Ministry said Wednesday that police have charged an officer who was filmed beating a Palestinian-American teenager during a violent protest in July.

Tariq Abu Khdeir, 15, of Tampa, Florida, was beaten at the east Jerusalem protest that followed the gruesome death of his cousin.

Prison Suicides Report Criticizes Corrections Canada Of Isolating High-Risk Inmates

OTTAWA - The federal prison watchdog says Corrections Canada must stop isolating mentally ill, suicidal or self-harming prisoners, saying inmates in segregation units can all too easily kill themselves.

In a report released on World Suicide Prevention Day, Howard Sapers said almost half of the suicides reviewed by his Office of the Correctional Investigator took place in segregation cells supposedly under close monitoring.

When they that go down to the sea in ships are up to no good!

O Eternal Lord God, who alone rulest the raging of the sea; who has compassed the waters with bounds until day and night come to an end; be pleased to receive into Thy almighty and most gracious protection the persons of us Thy servants, and the Fleet in which we serve. Preserve us from the dangers of the sea, and from the violence of the enemy  -- The Navy Prayer, Book of Common Prayer, 1662
And preserve us all from belligerent clowns who would exploit ships of all kinds and the brave mariners that sail them to score the basest of political points.
Canadian ships are in the news these days -- put there, apparently, by the Harper Government as part of its intensifying campaign for reelection, its cynical stratagems advanced without thought for consequences, to Canada or the world.

Canadian police agencies: Innovators in militarization?

In the wake of Ferguson's militarized policing of protests, and the White House's recent decision to review the militarization of U.S. police agencies, Canadian police spokespeople are arguing that the militarization of police is not a concern in Canada. In a recent Edmonton Journal piece Tom Stamatakis, the president of the Canadian Police Association argued that the police do not have a militaristic mindset… "Our entire approach is based upon community relations."
While there is no Department of Homeland Security program in Canada that encourages local forces to militarize, Canadian police agencies have been early adopters of less lethal weapons like pepper spray, TASERs and rubber bullets. They are first used against people within day to day policing, as we know from the events surrounding the killing of Sammy Yatim. But such tools have a tendency to slide from ordinary policing to the specialized practices of protest policing, where Canadian police have been quick to adopt.

Not Much Debate As Congress Girds For War With ISIS

WASHINGTON -- It's a rare day in Washington when lawmakers in both parties agree on something. But when it comes to the Islamic State, members of Congress are practically in lockstep pushing for an expanded fight against the militant group overseas.

The Huffington Post spent Tuesday talking to a random sampling of 10 lawmakers -- Democrats and Republicans, from both chambers -- about the need to step up America's role in countering the Islamic State as it expands its terrorist stronghold in Iraq and Syria. All but one were quick to frame the group as an imminent threat to the United States and one that must be snuffed out immediately.

Obama: 'We Cannot Rely On An Assad Regime That Terrorizes Its People'

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration is keen on portraying the president's general bent on foreign policy as a derivative of realism. He isn't a skeptic about America's ability to shape international events. But he's not a doe-eyed idealist, either. It's why, time and again, President Barack Obama's aides go back to that famous anti-Iraq War formula that helped launch his political trajectory.

“I don’t oppose all wars," he said as a senator in 2002. "What I am opposed to is a dumb war."

'Monopolies Are Great Companies. Super Competitive Ones Are Not,' Says PayPal Co-Founder Peter Thiel

Peter Thiel, an entrepreneur and investor, co-founded PayPal and the data analytics firm Palantir Technologies. He made the first outside Facebook investment and funded companies such as SpaceX and LinkedIn. He recently spoke with The WorldPost about his new book, “Zero to One: Notes on Startups or How to Build the Future.”

China, U.S. Should Avoid Military Incidents, Says U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice

BEIJING (AP) — U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice repeatedly raised concerns about risky Chinese fighter intercepts of U.S. surveillance flights in meetings this week with Chinese leaders in Beijing, senior administration officials said Tuesday.

The matter appeared to be one of a relatively few contentious issues raised during a visit intended to lay the groundwork for President Barack Obama's trip to Beijing in November.

Poll: A Majority Of Chinese Expect War With Japan; 90 Percent Of Japanese Dislike Chinese

Rising tensions between China and Japan are taking their toll, according to a new pollby Genron NPO/China Daily.

Among those Chinese citizens surveyed in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Shenyang and Xian, a majority (53.4 percent) believe “there will be a military conflict” with Japan in the coming years. The Japanese polled were more ambivalent, but they also feared “conflict within a few years.”

You're Probably Not Asking Enough Questions About U.S. Military Action Against ISIS

President Barack Obama is set to lay out in a speech tonight his "game plan" for an expanded assault on the Islamic State, the militant group also known as ISIS or ISIL. He is expected to explain how the ongoing airstrike campaign against the group in Iraq will be expanded with international support, and reports suggest that he will advocate for a long-term commitment against the group, which has killed thousands in the region and caused alarm in America by executing two U.S. journalists.

But experts warn the White House must offer more than a just a battle plan: It should make a case for a broader military campaign that can survive rigorous questioning, so we can be sure it won't simply exacerbate regional instability the way previous U.S. intervention has done. And as the campaign against the Islamic State eventually extends into Syria -- something administration aides say it must do to target the heart of the group -- Obama will be involving America's military in a conflict in which actors from across the region are using their armed proxies to fight for diverse interests.

With the Wages That Have Been Stolen From Them, Apple Factory Workers Could Buy 1,460 iPhone 6s a Month

Apple has just unveiled a fresh batch of cutting-edge products to the dazzlement of consumers worldwide. Also this week, labor watchdogs revealed fresh evidence of systematic labor abuses in Apple’s supply chain in China—to a decidedly more muted response from the tech world. The revelations of wage and hour violations and hazardous working conditions don’t herald a new invention; they instead represent a new status quo of relentless technological progress that comes at a hidden social cost that is shifted onto an invisible labor force.