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 25, 2014

Jeff Bezos Makes Big Cuts To Washington Post Benefits

Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos will make significant cuts to its retirement plans for both union and nonunion employees, the newspaper said in a letter to staffers on Tuesday.

From the Post's report on the cuts, which slash medical and pension plans for staffers:

The changes will hit hardest at employees hired before 2009 who could plan on receiving pension payments based on their income and years of service. Each of those employees could see scores — or hundreds — of thousands of dollars less over the course of a retirement. More recent hires do not have traditional pension plans.

Federal Court Lifts Injunction In Scott Walker Case

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A federal appeals court on Wednesday removed one barrier to restarting an investigation into possible illegal coordination between Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's campaign and more than two dozen conservative groups, a legal setback for the Republican who is locked in a tough re-election campaign.

The three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling that halted the probe, but the judges found state courts are the proper venue to resolve legal issues with the case.

Critics accuse Harper of using UN, foreign affairs for domestic gain

OTTAWA - A broad coalition of former diplomats and public servants is questioning whether Stephen Harper's return to the United Nations this week is politically motivated.

The World Federalist Movement renewed its criticism Wednesday that the prime minister has snubbed the UN and downgraded Canada's relations with the world's most influential multilateral body since taking power in 2006.

John Trent, a University of Ottawa expert on international political science, said Harper's return to the UN is welcome — but could well be motivated by the prospect of a coming federal election at home.

Speaker chastises NDP, urges all MPs to elevate tone of Commons debate

OTTAWA - The Speaker issued a broad plea for better behaviour in the House of Commons on Wednesday as he chastised the Opposition New Democrats for openly questioning his neutrality during question period.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair called Andrew Scheer's impartiality into question Tuesday after Conservative MP Paul Calandra responded to Mulcair's question on the Iraqi mission by raising a completely unrelated subject.

G.O.P. Error Reveals Donors and the Price of Access

WASHINGTON — In politics, it is sometimes better to be lucky than good. Republicans and Democrats, and groups sympathetic to each, spend millions on sophisticated technology to gain an advantage.

They do it to exploit vulnerabilities and to make their own information secure. But sometimes, a simple coding mistake can lay bare documents and data that were supposed to be concealed from the prying eyes of the public.

17 Numbers That Will Make You Realize Just How Pathetic The Federal Minimum Wage Is

If you have a job that pays the federal minimum wage, an hour of your work is worth $7.25, before taxes. Activists and lawmakers from around the country say this amount and slightly higher state-based rates don't offer workers enough to pay for life's basics. President Barack Obama and his administration have called for Congress to raise the federal minimum wage, but Republicans have resisted a proposal to raise the federal minimum to $10.10 an hour over three years, claiming businesses can't afford to pay workers more. A wage hike would lead to devastating job losses, they say, and would do nothing to increase job opportunities or address poverty.

Stephen Harper considers U.S. request for further military help in ISIS fight

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Canada is considering a U.S. request for further military contribution in the fight against ISIS in Iraq.

Harper's comments came during a question and answer session with Gerard Baker, editor in chief of the Wall Street Journal, before a business audience in New York.

Asked by Baker if he would rule out "a directly military contribution" to any effort, Harper said no.

CEOs Get Paid Too Much, According to Pretty Much Everyone in the World

Rumblings of discontent about executive wages, the 1 Percent, and wealth gaps know no borders. And neither does fierce debate about income inequality in general. But until now, it's been relatively unclear how much people think CEOs should really make compared to other workers on a global scale.

Top Liberian Official Warns Ebola Crisis May Plunge The Country Back Into Conflict

A top official in Liberia's government warned on Wednesday that the Ebola outbreak ravaging through West Africa may have disastrous consequences for the peace and stability of the region.

Liberia's Information Minister Lewis Brown told the Agence France Presse that the slow response to the Ebola outbreak could cause the region to "slip back into conflict."

A 91-Year-Old Man Gives Incredibly Moving Speech on the Importance of Universal Health Care

Speaking at the Labour Party’s conference in Manchester, England, on Wednesday in what seems like poetic verse, the nearly century-old Harry Smith recalls his youth in the tenements of Britain, the “desperation of poverty” and the horrors of life before the National Health Service was implemented, all of which inspired him to vote for the first time. Though Smith starts off with a joke about the BBC show “Downton Abbey,” the rest of his speech is gut-wrenching as he recounts the preventable death of his 10-year-old sister due to lack of funds and the cries of a neighboring woman dying of cancer without being able to afford morphine. In the middle of his talk, the 91-year-old British citizen received a standing ovation from an emotional crowd.

The real war over inequality isn’t between old and young

I turn to Maclean’s if I want to know what idea conservatives will be pushing next. So when I saw a recent copy of the magazine featuring a jarring photo of an old person’s wrinkled hand with the middle finger raised, I realized the Right is gearing up to make generational conflict the next big thing.

Paired with that pic was a cover photo of a smiling, white-haired older woman holding a wad of $50 bills, with many more floating around her head, as if money were raining down on her. The cover headline: “OLD. RICH. SPOILED.”

The Fight to Keep Toxic Mining Out of El Salvador

For miners, investors and artisans, few things are more precious than gold. But for human life itself, nothing is more precious than water.

Just ask the people of El Salvador.

Nearly thirty years ago, the Wisconsin-based Commerce Group Corp. purchased a gold mine near the San Sebastian River in El Salvador and contaminated the water. Now, according to Lita Trejo, a native Salvadoran and school worker in Washington, DC, the once clear river is orange. The people who drink from the arsenic-polluted river, she says, are suffering from kidney failure and other diseases.

Barbara Lee Was Right in 2001. She’s Still Right Now.

It has been thirteen years since Congresswoman Barbara Lee cast her lonely vote against authorizing President Bush to launch what she warned could be an ill-defined and endless war. Days after she cast that vote, the California Democrat appeared before hundreds of students at Mills College in Oakland and was greeted for the first time by the chant, “Barbara Lee speaks for me.”

At time when media and political elites said Lee had isolated herself politically, she was embraced by Americans who questioned why Congress was not living up to its constitutionally defined responsibility to check and balance the tendency of executives to “blank check” powers for continual warmaking.

Gov. Susana Martinez's Emails Have Mysteriously Disappeared

One of the central themes in my April cover story about New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, a rising star in the Republican Party touted as a potential vice presidential candidate, was the paranoia displayed by Martinez's 2010 gubernatorial campaign. Here's one of the juiciest nuggets illustrating this behavior:
Martinez's [2010] crew saw enemies everywhere. A former staffer recalls the campaign on multiple occasions sending the license plate numbers of cars believed to be used by opposition trackers to an investigator in Martinez's DA office who had access to law enforcement databases. In one instance, a campaign aide took a photo of a license plate on a car with an anti-Martinez bumper sticker and emailed it to the investigator. "Cool I will see who it belongs to!!" the investigator replied.

Bride And Father Of Groom Contradict Levant's Take On Trudeau Wedding Photo

OTTAWA — The father-in-law of a bride who posed for a photo with Justin Trudeau says a Sun News Network rant about a kiss on the cheek has been completely misunderstood by personality Ezra Levant.

“Wow! As the Grooms father you couldn't be farther from the truth on the events leading up to and during that photo,” Glenn O'Neill wrote on Facebook in response to an article on The Huffington Post Canada about Levant’s segment.

“We invited Justin to pose for a picture with the bridal party and our daughter-in-law and her family where thrilled to have a picture with the future Prime Minister of Canada. Shame on you for trying to turn this into a political punch. Call me I'd like to talk,” O’Neill writes as if speaking to Levant.

Police Caught On Video Throwing Pregnant Woman To The Ground

hereSandra Amezquita, a pregnant woman shown on video being thrown, belly-down onto the street by a New York police officer says she fears that the incident could have damaged her baby. She still experiences abdominal pain, according to an interview with Amezquita conducted by the New York Daily News. After her encounter with the police, she says that she bled from her vagina and that she suffered bruises on her arm and her belly.

New York Plan Misses The Whole Point Of Drug Policy Reform

Three years ago, police officers in Seattle took a chance on a radical and unprecedented approach to the city's drug problem: They stopped automatically locking up everyone arrested for drugs and, instead, began referring addicted people to social workers, who provided them with free apartments, referrals to psychiatrists and anything else they needed to get off the streets and off drugs.

Cresent Hardy, Nevada GOP Candidate, Says Mitt Romney Was Right About The 47 Percent

A Republican candidate running for Congress in Nevada says former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was right when he made his controversial "47 percent" remarks.

"Can I say that without getting in trouble like Gov. Romney," Cresent Hardy, a state assemblyman, said in a video posted online by the Nevada State Democratic Party. "The 47 percent is true. It's bigger now."

During the 2012 presidential campaign, a secretly recorded video from a private fundraiser caught Romney declaring that 47 percent of the electorate would "vote for the president no matter what."

Prosecutor Says Rick Perry Seeking 'Special Favors'

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — In a story Sept. 23 about Gov. Rick Perry's indictment, The Associated Press misspelled the special prosecutor's last name on first reference. He is Michael McCrum, not Michael Crum.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Prosecutor says Perry seeking 'special favors'

Special prosecutor: Perry making 'mockery' of legal system, shouldn't skip court appearance

These Maps Show How Ebola Spread In Liberia

Last Tuesday, the White House announced plans to send 3,000 US troops to Liberia to coordinate medical care and deliver humanitarian aid to combat the spread of Ebola there. The troops' command center, and much of their work, will be in Monrovia, the nation's capital. But as the maps below show, controlling the disease in and around the sprawling city will not be an easy task.

Canadian Dollar To Fall Below 85 Cents U.S., CIBC Predicts

The loonie will continue its long, slow slide from parity with the U.S. dollar and will fall below 85 cents U.S. in the third quarter of next year, CIBC says in a new forecast.

That would mark the lowest point for the loonie since the financial crisis of 2008-09, when it briefly fell below 80 cents U.S. The loonie hasn't regularly traded at levels that low since around 2006.

CIBC sees the lower Canadian dollar as a good thing, because exports still aren’t strong enough to generate enough jobs.

It's Time For B.C. Teachers To Stop Lying To Parents

I work in the arts. I work an average of 57 hours a week, and last year I broke even for the first time in my 11-year career.

I will never own a home in my hometown. We don't have nearly enough saved up for retirement, or our daughter's university tuition. We live paycheque to paycheque. (My husband's paycheques. Because I work in the arts.)

Analysis of Russia sanctions: Canada’s toughest, but not when it comes to oil

NEW YORK - For all its much-touted toughness in imposing economic sanctions against Russia, Canada has been significantly more timid against one particular target: the oil industry.

A database of sanctions compiled by The Canadian Press suggests Canada has been almost three times less likely to penalize Russian oil companies than the United States.

The Harper government has imposed economic penalties against five Russian oil companies, compared to 13 firms targeted in that same sector by the U.S.

Federal government media monitoring keeps tabs on political opponents

The Conservative government is being accused of using some of its multi-million-dollar media monitoring contracts for political purposes to keep an eye on opponents and potential scandals that could derail the party’s electoral hopes.

The government has spent more than $20 million on media monitoring contracts since December 2012, despite maintaining more than 3,300 communications staff across government.

Included within the government’s media monitoring contracts are more than 1,100 pages of search terms (half English, half French) that show the government keeping an eye on what reporters, critics and its own spokespersons are saying. The media monitoring search terms are for contracts entered into, or in force, on or since March 21, 2013 to June 2014.

ISIS: Their barbarism… and ours

The incessant drumbeat of war, accompanied by the harsh propaganda of "barbarism" and "brutality" directed at individuals in Syria and Iraq, is as wearily familiar as that used to demonize the German "Hun" a century ago and dozens of other "enemies" in the interim. The PR industry, which is the landing pad for many politicos from the Conservatives to the NDP, is having a field day, from allegations that "Islamic militants" are murdering seniors in hospital rooms (perhaps an update of the Hill & Knowlton-created falsehood that Iraqis ripped babies from incubators after the 1991 invasion of Kuwait) to claims that a group with no air force, weapons of mass destruction, overseas military bases, aircraft carriers, and hundreds of billions in other war infrastructure presents the greatest threat known to our generation.

Benjamin Netanyahu: Confront ISIS ‘poison’ tree before it grows

The world needs to confront ISIS before it gets too big, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday in an exclusive interview with CBC News.

Speaking to Evan Solomon, host of CBC News Network's Power & Politics, Netanyahu said he fears the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria will continue to grow if it isn't confronted.

But the decision on whether to put combat troops on the ground to fight ISIS will have to come from "those leading this effort."

Canada's Plan To Tackle Climate Change – Follow The U.S.

UNITED NATIONS - Barack Obama didn't just make announcements for his own country at a United Nations climate summit Tuesday – he got to make Canada's, too.

Canada made two main commitments at the summit, where countries were urged to bring bold policies to fight climate change. And both borrow heavily from industrial regulations the U.S. president has already set in motion.

One was to match American vehicle-emissions standards. The other, to curb the use of HFC coolants – several days after the White House announced plans for executive orders, and convened a meeting of business leaders who've committed to slashing hydrofluorocarbons by 80 per cent by 2050.

Andrew Nikiforuk to Speak on LNG in Squamish Thursday

Getting the lowdown on B.C.'s LNG gold rush from journalist and author Andrew Nikiforuk is not a brief conversation.

His extensive research spills out of him at a remarkable rate, and the urgency behind it stems from what he sees as the many follies in tapping LNG in remote parts of the province and exporting it to Asian markets via the repurposed Woodfibre terminal on Howe Sound.