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, September 18, 2014

5 Ways Mitch McConnell Explains Our Bleak World

Mitch McConnell does not exactly fire the imagination. The Republican leader in the Senate is so much a cardboard cutout of a Beltway suit that his blandness inspired apopular Internet meme earlier this year. But what if McConnell's inscrutability is precisely why we should take a closer look at him? As powerful as he is -- he very well may be on the verge of becoming the Senate Majority Leader -- he has gotten oddly little attention over the years, in large part because he offers little superficial appeal for the color-seeking journalist. This is a grave error. After researching and writing a new e-book on McConnell's career, The Cynic, I've come to believe that he holds the key to understanding how our politics and government have come to such a low point. If you want to come to grips with the demoralizing, dysfunctional state of affairs in Washington, you must peer into that blank visage to see the five dark truths that lurk within.

U.S. Coalition Excludes Countries Already Fighting Islamic State

A hollow laugh might be permitted at the alliance now announced as the result of Secretary of State John Kerry’s latest journey through the Middle East, this time to construct an alliance to counterattack the latest Arab menace to America, ISIS.

President Barack Obama and John Kerry are assembling a coalition “of the willing” to deal with the self-proclaimed new Islamic Caliphate and its singularly bloodthirsty leader, again self-appointed, the Emir Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Meet ‘the Elizabeth Warren Wing of the Democratic Party’

Suppose an insurgent movement with a sharp critique of Wall Street and a determination to end the Democratic Party’s compromises on core economic issues was taking shape across the country. Suppose the candidates associated with this movement were winning tough primaries and developing the outlines of a fifty-state strategy that rejects the self-interested calculations of party elites. Would that count as big news? Not yet, perhaps, since most mainstream pundits are still obsessed with the wrangling over which extremes the Republican Party will embrace. But while GOP insiders were busy beating back their Tea Party wing, the progressive populist tendency within the Democratic Party was going from strength to strength.

Harper suspended Commons committee reviews of Gascon’s Supreme Court appointment in June: House documents

PARLIAMENT HILL—Prime Minister Stephen Harper suspended special Commons committee reviews in June of his nominations to the Supreme Court of Canada following an unprecedented public dispute in May over Conservative allegations that Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin had attempted to lobby against a 2013 appointment by the Prime Minister.

Documents show that although Mr. Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) scrubbed a House committee review in June of newly-appointed Justice Clément Gascon because there was “some urgency” in filling the position, the Prime Minister’s Office also suspected the review process had resulted in “breaches of confidentiality” during the 2013 elevation of Federal Court Judge Marc Nadon to fill a Quebec vacancy on the Supreme Court.

Three New Charts That Reveal Disturbing Inequality In America

New official estimates of income and poverty from the Census Bureau released on Tuesdayreveal that, despite the economic recovery, massive inequality remains a big problem in the United States.

Scientists Find ‘Direct Link’ Between Earthquakes And Process Used For Oil And Gas Drilling

A team of scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey have found evidence “directly linking” the uptick in Colorado and New Mexico earthquakes since 2001 to wastewater injection, a process widely used in the controversial technique of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and conventional drilling.
In a study to be published in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America on Tuesday, the scientists presented “several lines of evidence [that] suggest the earthquakes in the area are directly related to the disposal of wastewater” deep underground, according to a BSSA press release. Fracking and conventional natural gas companies routinely dispose of large amounts of wastewater underground after drilling. During fracking, the water is mixed with chemicals and sand, to “fracture” underground shale rock formations and make gas easier to extract.

The true legacy of the Franklin expedition

Raw footage of the Franklin ship is blue and wan. Under floating motes lies the sunken span of spars and timbers that aspired in their heyday to signify Britain’s colonial glory. Today’s Canadian government grasps at credit for resuscitating that glory, yet fails to notice that everything about the new-found Franklin ship has become dead and somehow shameful, as has the old colonial idea of the Northwest Passage itself. The true emotional content of these new images is not triumph, but disgrace.

The Gender Wage Gap Didn’t Budge Last Year

The average woman working full time, year round made 78 percent of what a man with similar employment made in 2013, according to the latest data from the Census Bureau, a slight but not statistically different increase from 77 percent in 2012. There hasn’t been a significant increase since 2007.

Obama Is Open to Ground Troops in Iraq, a Top General Says

President Obama has repeatedly declared there will be no combat troops on the ground in Iraq to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. But a Senate hearing Tuesday with top US military officials revealed that pronouncement is on very shaky ground—there is now no question ground troops are under active consideration at the highest levels of government.

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in his opening remarks he isn’t ruling out asking Obama for ground troops. “To be clear, if we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific ISIL targets, I will recommend that to the president.”

Armed Forces' manual suggests war crime by Israel

OTTAWA - The Canadian Forces' military doctrine suggests that Israel may have committed a war crime in 2006.

The 2008 Land Operations conduct manual states that "indiscriminate harassing fire from Israeli artillery killed seven members of one family, including both parents and five siblings" during a military operation in the Gaza Strip in June 2006.

Trade Deals Set Their Sights on Public Workers

For much of this decade, Tea Party-backed lawmakers have been at war with public sector employees across the country. They've tried, and in a few cases succeeded, in taking away public servants' ability to collectively bargain. But now the battle is going abroad.

Under the guise of crafting trade agreements, big business -- which bankrolled many of those same elected officials -- is looking to impose provisions across the globe that open up government services to the private sector. Other language would limit the ability of democratic governments to regulate in the public interest. Simply put, corporations are looking to put their interests above the public's interests in an effort to further fatten their wallets.

UN Commission: ISIS Not The Sole Agent Of Death And Destruction In Syria

GENEVA (AP) — As nations mount an offensive against the Islamic State militants that have gained a stronghold in Iraq and Syria, a U.N. human rights commission emphasized Tuesday that the Syrian President Bashar Assad's government has committed the bulk of atrocities in the civil war.

45 Million Americans Still Stuck Below Poverty Line: Census

Despite five years of economic recovery, poverty is still stubbornly high in America.

More than 45 million people, or 14.5 percent of all Americans, lived below the poverty line last year, the Census Bureau reported on Tuesday. The percentage of Americans in poverty fell from 15 percent in 2012, the biggest such decline since the year 2000. But the level of poverty is still higher than 12.3 percent in 2006, before the recession began. (Story continues after chart.)

Top General: Combat Mission In Iraq Possible If Airstrikes Fail To Stop ISIS

WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation's top military leader told Congress on Tuesday he would recommend that the United States consider deploying ground forces to Iraq if President Barack Obama's expanded air campaign to destroy Islamic extremists fails.

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Senate panel that the goal for American advisers is to help Iraqi forces with planning, logistics and coordinating military efforts by coalition partners to take out members of the Islamic State group.

Attorney: Darrien Hunt Shot 6 Times While Running Away

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A young black man who was fatally shot last week by Utah police lunged at the officers with a real sword that had a 2.5-foot steel blade, prosecutors said Monday.

Reports from Darrien Hunt's family that the 22-year-old was carrying a toy sword are not accurate, said Utah County Chief Deputy Attorney Tim Taylor.

"It wasn't plastic, it wasn't wood," Taylor said. "It appears to be a real samurai sword."

Must Muslim Americans Condemn IS? Must Turkish Jews Condemn Gaza War?

During the recent Israeli war on the Gaza Strip, a controversy broke out in Turkey about whether Turkish Jews were required to condemn Israel’s actions, as some pro-Palestinian Turks suggested.

“”Israel’s latest attack on Gaza led, once again, to cries of ‘Why does the Jewish community remain silent?’ A campaign was even launched that claimed that the Jews of Turkey bear responsibility for what Israel does in Gaza.

“No citizen of this country is under any obligation to account for, interpret or comment on any event that takes place elsewhere in the world, and in which he/she has no involvement. There is no onus on the Jewish community of Turkey, therefore, to declare an opinion on any matter at all.

“It is anyway not possible for a community of 20,000 to declare a unified opinion. No human community can be monolithic and the Jewish community is not. Its members include people of all kinds, with a great variety of views.”
Many Jewish organizations stigmatized the demand as Antisemitism. 

Quebec laws keep undocumented children out of school

For two years, 13-year-old Max stayed home while most children his age made their way to school in Quebec. Max and his mother applied to become refugees in Canada and while their application was in process, Max attended school. But when their application got denied, he was ineligible to go to public school for free and his mother would have to pay $5,000 to $6,000 per year. At the time, Max's mother, who cleaned houses to pay rent, could not afford the fees and so Max remained at home. Two years later, the family got their status and he attended school once again. However, advocates argue that being away from school has a long-lasting effect on the social and personal progress of undocumented children like Max.

Black Man Killed By Police In Utah Was Reportedly Carrying A Toy Sword

On Wednesday, 22-year-old Darrien Hunt was shot dead by police in Saratoga Springs, Utah, about 35 miles south of Salt Lake City.
For three days, police said nothing about the cause of the shooting while witnesses reported that he was running away as officers shot outside a Panda Express. On Saturday, police issued a brief statement saying he lunged at them with a sword. But Hunt’s lawyersays an independent autopsy shows Hunt was shot in the back and not in the front, and his mother Susan Hunt says the “sword” was a blunt-edged vanity version of a Japanese “Katana” sword he bought at an Asian gift shop.

Opening act of Duffy saga to get underway

OTTAWA - The curtain is poised to rise on the opening act of what's sure to be the most politically charged courtroom drama to play out in Ottawa in many years.

The first court date for Sen. Mike Duffy — the affable television personality turned fiercely loyal Conservative partisan turned Tory black sheep and poster boy for the Senate scandal — is scheduled for Tuesday morning.

Duffy's not expected to be there, but the way in which the ensuing trial plays out could have major repercussions for Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative government ahead of next year's federal election campaign.

Government under fire for scavenging aircraft parts from museum plane

Canada’s search-and-rescue system is being held together by “tape and baling wire,” say experts and opposition critics, after revelations that the Royal Canadian Air Force had to raid an old Hercules airplane at a museum for parts.

The Citizen reported Monday that air force technicians went through a Hercules on display at the National Air Force Museum of Canada in Trenton, Ont., in July 2012 because they needed navigational equipment for a similar aircraft still in use.

Why An Anti-ISIS Coalition Could Be 'A Problem'

"The terrorist threat is global and the response must be global."

Those were the words of French President François​ Hollande at the outset of an international summit in Paris on Monday that's seeking a way to counteract ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

While the meeting brought together leaders from around the world, Middle East analysts say that given sectarian divisions and individual self-interest, forging a meaningful coalition with countries in the region will be very difficult.

The Demise of a US Group Backing Moderate Syrian Rebels Is a Bad Sign for Obama's Anti-ISIS Campaign

Last week, President Barack Obama outlined his plan for expanding military action against ISIS, the murderous Islamic extremist group that controls territory in Iraq and Syria. His beefed-up campaign includes increased funding previously announced (up to $500 million) to train and arm supposedly moderate rebels in Syria who are fighting the dictatorial regime of Bashar al-Assad and also at times battling ISIS. For the past few years, Washington has assisted Syrian opposition forces deemed non-extremist—even though they might be fighting alongside Al Qaeda-affiliated rebels. But the effort has not been a great success, with hawks accusing the Obama administration of not doing enough, and administration officials skeptical about the moderate opposition's cohesion and military effectiveness and wary of doling out weapons that could fall into the wrong hands. In February, the leader of the moderate Free Syrian Army—who was the conduit for US aid to the rebels—was removed by his own council, partly because the FSA had been taking a beating from the regime and Islamist forces. Now Obama intends to boost the US effort to support these moderate fighters in Syria. But this move comes just weeks after the collapse of the Syrian Support Group, a US-based nonprofit backed by the State Department that boasted it delivered millions in dollars of nonlethal supplies to the FSA. According to former officials of the group, it shut down because of funding problems and divisions among rebel forces.

Australian export risk on China dirty coal ban

Australian coal exporters are scrambling to clarify the fallout from changes to China's coal import rules, which could expose the industry to billions of dollars in lost sales as China seeks to cut air pollution.

The Chinese government is to limit the use of imported coal with more than 16 per cent ash and 3 per cent sulphur from January 1, 2015, in a bid to improve air quality, especially in the major cities such as Beijing and around Shanghai.

No Thanks From an Ungrateful Nation: The Surge of Female Vets Living on the Streets

The female veteran had been raped twice in the service. The first time was at the Twentynine Palms Marine training center in Southern California. It happened again in Iraq. “It was extremely difficult,” she said. On top of that, she was stressed from combat and, after her discharge, experienced depression. “For a year, I only woke up to eat and drink whiskey. ... Not till later did I realize it came from sexual trauma.”

Sexual assault is a major reason for the growing number of homeless female vets. In this particular case, the homeless woman was able to rebuild her life. I heard about it when I talked to her and two other female vets recently at a home provided by New Directions, a Los Angeles organization that offers substance abuse and mental health treatment, as well as transitional housing for homeless veterans or those at risk of ending up on the street.

What I Should've Told My MLA: Teachers Are Worth the Money

Should teachers think like economists? I, for one, don't. I've been a teacher for 13 years and I recently met with my MLA, John Yap, for 40 minutes to ask him for his thoughts on the teachers' dispute and to encourage binding arbitration to end it.

Mr. Yap answered my calm questions about the government's spending patiently and courteously. Roof on BC Place? Good for the economy. Olympics? Good for the economy. Budget surplus? A sign government is making the right decisions for the economy. Give some of that surplus to settle the dispute? Well, $200 million isn't much in a $40-billion or so yearly budget.

Last Stop for High Profile Fracking Suit: Supreme Court

The Alberta Court of Appeal has effectively ruled that one of the nation's most powerful regulators can violate the nation's Charter of Rights and Freedoms by banishing citizens and falsely branding them as a security threats.

That's exactly what happened to oil patch consultant Jessica Ernst. She is now suing the regulator, the Alberta government and Encana Corporation over the alleged contamination of her groundwater by the shallow fracking of coal seams in central Alberta nearly a decade ago.