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.]

Friday, September 26, 2014

A GOP Senate's First Target: Elizabeth Warren’s Consumer Protection Agency

If the GOP wins the Senate, they'll no doubt use the opportunity to push through a range of measures that are kryptonite to Democratic voters—new abortion restrictions, limits on the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to combat climate change, a relaxation of the rules reining in Wall Street's worst excesses.

But Republicans are particularly keen on handicapping one particular federal watchdog: the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the three-year-old agency that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) devised and helped build in the wake of the financial crisis.

This Republican Who Wants to End the Weekend Is Probably Headed to Congress

Glenn Grothman, a Republican state senator who is on track to be the next congressman from Wisconsin's 6th district, has never been shy about speaking his mind. He's a bomb-thrower, a perpetual outrage machine for his liberal opponents, and a gift to the local and national press corps.

Grothman briefly stepped onto the national stage during the 2011 protests against Republican Gov. Scott Walker's effort to curb public workers' bargaining rights. He was one of the most outspoken critics of the anti-Walker protesters. On MSNBC, he derided those protesting the bill as "a bunch of slobs" and compared those who occupied the state Capitol to "college students and hangers-on having a party."

BC No Winner in South Korea Trade Deal: Unifor Economist

A trade deal signed between Canada and South Korea won't do much for the British Columbian economy because many of the products which will see trade tariffs lifted didn't have high duties to begin with, according to Unifor economist Jim Stanford.

The deal was signed this week and enjoys the support of the NDP, Liberals and Conservatives in the House of Commons.

Why A Mother Took Her Toddler To Live Under The Islamic State

ISTANBUL (AP) — Asiya Ummi Abdullah doesn't share the view that the Islamic State group rules over a terrorist dystopia and she isn't scared by the American bombs falling on Raqqa, its power center in Syria.

As far as she's concerned, it's the ideal place to raise a family.

In interviews with The Associated Press, the 24-year-old Muslim convert explained her decision to move with her toddler to the territory controlled by the militant group, saying it offers them protection from the sex, drugs and alcohol that she sees as rampant in largely secular Turkey.

Dozens Reportedly Killed In Xinjiang, China Terror Attack

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese state media reported Thursday that 50 people, including 40 assailants, were killed in a series of explosions over the weekend in the far western region of Xinjiang, in what officials called a severe terror attack.

Regional authorities had earlier said that the explosions Sunday in Luntai county killed at least two people and injured many others.

The news portal Tianshan Net said bombs exploded at two police stations, a produce market and a store. It said the attack killed two police officers, two police assistants and six bystanders, and that 54 others were injured. It said police took swift action and 40 assailants were either shot dead or died in explosions.

Harper's UN Speech Focuses On Children, Trade-Friendly Canada

UNITED NATIONS, N.Y. - In a year of violence and geopolitical chaos, Prime Minister Stephen Harper used a surprising speech to the United Nations General Assembly to emphasize themes of peace and optimism.

The prime minister's third address to the chamber was remarkable for what it did not include: the words "Iraq'' or "Russia.''

Legal aid cuts: 'The forgotten pillar of the welfare state' – a special report

In March, Caroline Alexander put a request out on Twitter. It read: “I need a law degree by 9am.” It was the evening before she was due in court to cross examine the man she alleges raped and abused her.

Caroline – which is not her real name – had already represented herself at the two civil court hearings previous to this because her access to legal aid had been stopped. Her alleged attacker (her ex-partner) was at both because he was pursuing a civil case for child contact against her.

Doug Ford has clearly revealed why he shouldn’t be Toronto’s mayor

Thanks, Doug. Your debate debut reminded us why you’re so utterly unfit to serve as mayor. Full of bluster, but empty of facts, it was a revealing performance. And what it showed was nasty.

Doug Ford followed a simple strategy in his first debate since entering Toronto’s mayoral race almost two weeks ago. He turned discussion into a shouting match and proceeded to yell loudest.

That’s enough to generate cheers in a hall packed with Ford Nation supporters, but it’s no way to run a city.

The Gargoyle: Even with "army" of communications staff, Conservatives defend tens of millions of dollars spent on media monitoring

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government defended Thursday in the House of Commons the tens of millions of dollars it’s spending on media monitoring when there are more than 3,300 communications staff working in government.

The Citizen reported this week that the Conservative government has spent more than $20 million on media monitoring since late 2012 — including keeping tabs on the Tories’ political opponents — even when it has thousands of communication staff costing taxpayers an estimated $263 million this fiscal year.

U.S. says Canada offered to help in Iraq – not the other way around

OTTAWA – The United States government says it was Canada that asked what more it could do to help in Iraq – an offer that led to the letter Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he recently received from the U.S. requesting further military help in the fight against ISIS.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Secretary of Defense told Global News the Canadians reached out to ask how to help in “countering” Islamist rebels.

The $1-Billion-a-Year Right-Wing Conspiracy You Haven’t Heard Of

Are you female, gay, non-Christian, or otherwise interested in the separation of church and state? Get to know The Gathering, a shadowy, powerful network of hard-right funders meeting Thursday in Florida.

Have you heard of the $1,750-per-person “Gathering,” which starts Thursday in Orlando, Florida?

Probably not. But if you’re female, gay, non-Christian, or otherwise interested in the separation of church and state, your life has been affected by it.

3 New York City Firefighters Die From 9/11-Related Cancers In The Same Day

NEW YORK -- Three retired New York firefighters died within hours of one another earlier this week, succumbing to cancers related to their relief work after the Sept. 11 attack.

Daniel Heg­lund, 58, who had bone cancer; Robert Leaver, 56, who had leukemia; and Lt. Howard Bischoff, 58, who had colon cancer, died on Monday. Leaver and Bischoff grew up in Brooklyn together and considered themselves lifelong best friends, and Heglund was one day shy of his 59th birthday.

How ISIS Is Using Us to Get What It Wants

"O crusaders, you have realized the threat of the Islamic State, but you have not become aware of the cure, and you will not discover the cure because there is no cure. If you fight it, it becomes stronger and tougher. If you leave it alone, it grows and expands... So mobilize your forces, O crusaders. Mobilize your forces, roar with thunder, threaten whom you want, plot, arm your troops, prepare yourselves, strike, kill, and destroy us. [Yet] this will not avail you. You will be defeated " -- Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani's lateststatement in response to U.S. President Barack Obama.

No evidence of ISIS plot to attack subways, U.S. official says

Iraq's prime minister said Thursday that captured Islamic State militants have told Iraqi intelligence agents of an alleged plot to attack subways in the United States and Paris, but French and American officials said they had no such information.

A senior Obama administration official said no one in the U.S. government is aware of such a plot, adding that the claim was never brought up in meetings with Iraqi officials this week in New York. President Barack Obama met with Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi on Wednesday. The administration official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

How Wall Street Really Is Failing The Planet

On Monday, thousands of protesters marched through lower Manhattan to call attention to Wall Street's role in causing global climate change. They weren't wrong to do so.

Financial markets are failing to put enough funding into renewable energy. At the same time, they continue to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in fossil fuels. The chart below, using data provided by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, shows the gulf between the money raised by oil, gas and coal companies and the money raised by renewable energy companies over the past decade. Public equity investment in renewable energy is dwarfed by investment in fossil fuels.

Father Of John Crawford III: Police Murdered My Son At Ohio Wal-Mart

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — The father of a man fatally shot by police as he held an air rifle inside an Ohio Wal-Mart said Thursday that he believes his son was murdered, despite a special grand jury declining to criminally charge the officers.

John Crawford Jr., whose son was shot on Aug. 5 at a Wal-Mart in the Dayton suburb of Beavercreek, said at a news conference that he was appalled the officers weren't indicted. He said he welcomed an announced U.S. Justice Department probe to determine if his 22-year-old son's civil rights were violated.

"The officer went in and virtually shot him on sight," Crawford Jr. said. "He did not have a chance."

Video Shows South Carolina Cop Shooting Black Man Without Any Apparent Provocation

South Carolina state trooper Sean Groubert was arrested on Wednesday and charged with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature after a video emerged of him shooting a driver named Levar Jones that he pulled over for a seat belt violation. In the video, Groubert’s vehicle is seen pulling up to a black man exiting a white SUV, and Groubert is heard telling Jones “can I see your license please?” When Jones turns around to recover his license from the vehicle, however, Groubert immediately begins screaming “get out of the car! get out of the car!” and firing his gun at the unarmed man.

Petronas threatens to pull out of LNG project

CALGARY - B.C. Premier Christy Clark says a threat by Petronas to quit a proposed liquefied natural gas project is just part of negotiations over the province's tax take, but experts say the Malaysian firm's message should be cause for worry.

The Financial Times quotes Petronas chief executive Shamsul Abbas as saying he's ready to call off the $10-billion project to be built near Prince Rupert, B.C., amid a delayed regulatory approval process, plans by the provincial government to impose an LNG tax and a "lack of appropriate incentives."

Our Public Education System Needs Transformation, Not ‘Reform’

Charter-school advocates and others who claim the mantle of education reform have now seen their ideas put into practice in a number of areas—from high-stakes testing to digital learning to the takeover of struggling public schools. The results are in. How are they doing? Suffice it to say, if this were a high-stakes test, they’d fail.

As the articles in this issue illustrate, the strategies pursued by education reformers frequently dovetail with those of austerity hawks. The latter burnish their conservative credentials by cutting budgets and defunding schools. The reformers sweep in to capitalize on the situation, introducing charter chains like Rocketship and K12, which produce real no benefits for students. The chains do, however, generate cash for investors, as a new trove of public money is directed to private coffers. Far too many poor kids, meanwhile, are consigned to schools like Philadelphia’s Bartram High: buffeted by violence, wracked by relentless budget cuts and choked by the “white noose” of wealthy suburbs (in the evocative phrase of former Mayor Richardson Dilworth) that soak up a disproportionate share of resources.

The Real Reason We Are Bombing Syria

The administration's response to the conjunction of this weekend's People's Climate March and the International Day of Peace?

1) Bomb Syria the following day, to wrest control of the oil from ISIS which gained its foothold directly in the region through the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Jordan funding and arming ISIS' predecessors in Syria.

2) Send the president to UN General Assembly, where he will inevitably give a rousing speech about climate and peace, while the destruction of the environment and the shattering of world peace is on full display 5,000 miles away.

Smoke, Mirrors And Home Sales: Why Some Experts Don't Trust Canada's Housing Numbers

Carleigh Pawlikowski is a bit of a control freak. So when it came to the biggest purchase of her life — a first home — she was lucky to find herself in Nova Scotia, one of the only places in Canada where home buyers can get direct access to property information.

The 30-year-old project coordinator and her partner relocated from Ontario and rented for three years before deciding to plunge into home ownership in Dartmouth, N.S. They recruited family back home in Ontario for help with the search, and their relatives were astounded by the amount of information accessible online — down to a home’s sale history, number of days on the market, even scheduled garbage pick-up days.

Human trafficking research reveals Canada's role in violence against Aboriginal women

Canada's response to the safety concerns of Indigenous women and girls has garnered significant attention in recent months. Alongside high-profile debates about Canadian sex work laws and the experiences of Aboriginal women and girls in sex industries, significant attention has focused on Canada's response, or lack of response, to the nearly 1,200 murdered and missing Aboriginal women and girls.
Similarly, recent discussions of human trafficking have foregrounded the vulnerability of Indigenous girls and women. In 2012, both an RCMP report and the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking specifically label Aboriginal women and girls as having heightened risk of becoming victims of human trafficking.

Voting strategically in the 2015 federal election? Here's why you shouldn't.

Members of the House of Commons returned to Ottawa last week, and as many observers have noted, this marks the beginning of the run up to the 2015 federal election. This also marks the beginning of a discussion among Canadian progressives about how to defeat Stephen Harper and elect a government that will implement progressive change.
With two national parties trying to court progressives, the scheme of so-called "strategic voting" to defeat the Conservatives has become the battle cry of some. However, putting aside one's principles and trying to vote strategically often has an outcome far different than what one intends.

Israel gives military 10% spending boost, covers Gaza campaign costs

On the eve of the Jewish New Year, the Israeli PM and Finance Minister have showered the Defense Ministry with gifts, agreeing to boost the military budget by 10 percent in 2015 and cover the one-time costs of the latest Gaza bombing campaign.

By 2015 the country’s military budget will be increased by 10 percent and will reach 57 billion shekels (or $15.5 billion), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on Wednesday.

These Mississippi Defendants Have Been In Jail For As Long As A Year Without Even Being Charged

There is an epidemic of individuals in the United States jailed for extended periods of time before they’ve been convicted of anything. Many of them are stuck behind bars because they can’t afford bail, in a system that in too many jurisdictions punishes defendants simply for being poor, not because they are considered at risk of fleeing pending trial.

Yahoo Parts Ways With ALEC

Another tech giant is parting ways with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Yahoo's withdrawal from the group was confirmed in a statement to Common Cause late Wednesday.

"We've decided to discontinue our membership in ALEC. We periodically review our membership in organizations and, at this time, we will no longer participate in the ALEC Task Force on Communications and Technology,” the company stated.

How Does This GOP Senate Candidate Keep Getting Away With Such Terrible Gaffes?

This year's Iowa Senate race—a key contest that could determine whether Republicans gain control of the upper body—has so far not been shaped by titanic policy issues. Instead, farm animals have played a larger role. GOP state Sen. Joni Ernst, who is up against Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley in this much-watched face-off, got a boost from an ad in which she bragged about castrating hogs. Braley has been hurt by the news that he allegedly threatened* a lawsuit against a neighbor whose chickens had wandered into his yard. Ernst has accused Braley of sexism for including stock footage of baby chickens—i.e., "chicks"—in an ad that asserted she had not made a "peep" about cutting government pork.

$26 Billion in US Aid Later, the Iraqi Military Is a Total Disaster

As US bombs rain down on ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria, analysts agree that this war will ultimately be won on the ground. Too bad the Iraqi defense forces are a shambles. The New York Times reports that the United States still has to train the country's 26 "intact and loyal" brigades. And the Iraqi government has yet to recruit and set up national guard units. "It is not going to be soon," says a State Department official.

Harper: U.S. Wants More Help From Canada In Middle East

NEW YORK, - Canada is now weighing the possibility of an extended military role in the Middle East and will be making an announcement on the matter very soon, Prime Minister Stephen Harper indicated Wednesday.

Harper said he has just received a request from the U.S. government in the past several days for further Canadian involvement in the fight against Islamist rebels. At a public appearance in the U.S. on Wednesday, the prime minister expressed general support for the American-led mission, while adding that he's not yet ready to announce Canada's next move.

Canadian Red Cross Finds Immigration Detainees Held In Inadequate Conditions

OTTAWA - A confidential Red Cross investigation found numerous shortcomings at Canadian facilities for immigrant detainees including triple-bunked cells, lack of support for detained children and inadequate mental-health care.

In addition, because there are no dedicated immigration cells in many parts of the country, newcomers are often held in provincial jails or police facilities alongside suspected gang members and violent offenders, says the Canadian Red Cross Society's inspection report.

Commentary: Commons Speaker needs to resign

On Monday, Andrew Scheer, Speaker of the House of Commons, killed a vote to extend hate crime protection to transgender people, citing an obscure parliamentary rule.

On Tuesday, Scheer ignored an obscure parliamentary rule as he allowed a government MP to make a mockery of question period.

As the House’s referee, it is the Speaker’s job to interpret and enforce many obscure rules. Scheer is a soft-spoken, amiable and utterly likable guy. And what he has allowed to happen under his watch is a travesty.

The other trial Stephen Harper would rather avoid

The prime minister’s legal team is attempting to shield Stephen Harper in a defamation lawsuit launched against him by a national Muslim group, according to new court documents obtained by iPolitics.

But the National Council of Canadian Muslims’ (NCCM) lawyer says he expects Harper will be questioned, as he remains a party in the organization’s case against him and his director of communications, Jason MacDonald.

Obama Calls On The World To Help Destroy ISIS

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama on Wednesday appealed to the global community to help the United States bring down Islamic State militants, saying it will take a broad coalition "to dismantle this network of death."

In remarks before the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Obama conveyed a strong message of collectivism, calling not just on the international community to reject violent extremism but also on the Muslim community to reject it. He used the word "collectively" four times; "together" 12 times; and "cooperation" four times.

Minimum Wage Hike Has Strong Support Among Employers, Survey Finds

Poll after poll indicates that the vast majority of Americans believe the minimum wage isn't high enough. Apparently, a lot of U.S. employers agree.

A national survey of 2,000 human resource and hiring managers done for the job search site CareerBuilder found that most of those managers think the minimum wage in their state should be at least $10 per hour. No state currently has a minimum wage of $10, although many have a higher wage floor than the federal level of $7.25.

U.S., Allies Launch More Airstrikes In Syria

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. and two Arab allies took aim Wednesday at a key source of financing for Islamic State militants, bombing 12 of the oil refineries controlled by the terrorist group in Syria, the military said.

Black market oil contributes up to $2 million a day to the militant group, and the attacks targeted the small-scale refineries in remote sections of eastern Syria in an effort to choke off its funding. U.S. Central Command said the refineries produce between 300 barrels and 500 barrels of refined petroleum daily.

Colleges Win, Student Borrowers Lose In Obama Administration Absolution

The U.S. Department of Education is turning its back on at least 1,000 borrowers in favor of shielding their former colleges from potentially crippling sanctions that would have resulted from high rates of default on federal student loans.

The move, announced late Tuesday and further detailed on Wednesday, concerns an Obama administration decision not to punish as many as 20 schools for loan defaults caused by questionable servicing practices overseen by the Education Department.

Cities Reject Minister's Proposal They Help Pay for BC Ferries

Representatives of British Columbian municipalities meeting in Whistler this week rejected Transportation Minister Todd Stone's suggestion that local governments should contribute money to run BC Ferries.

"Local governments don't provide funding to BC Ferries because it is a provincial transportation system, and that's the end of the conversation," said Sheila Malcolmson, chair of the Islands Trust.

How Downloaded Costs Are Steamrolling Local Governments

From public transit and recreation facilities, to drinking water treatment, sewage infrastructure, and policing and fire services, local government services are at the centre of our daily lives, our health and our economic prosperity. And in Canada, sewer, water, garbage and recycling infrastructure and services come from your local government for less than the price of a home cable, Internet and television package.

People who live in Maple Ridge, B.C., for example, pay much less for municipal fire services monthly than the typical monthly cost of a home security alarm service. Put another way, the municipality charges less to have a fire truck sent to your house than a private security company charges just to call the fire department or police when an alarm is triggered.

With FIPA, Harper Shows There's More than One Way to Skin a Constitution

Is Stephen Harper on crack? Why would someone who was such an outspoken critic of communist China sign the Canada-China FIPA -- a three decade investment treaty so disadvantageous to this country that the Financial Post called the terms "unbecoming a nation state." So bad is this deal for Canada that experts worry that it would effectively allow closed door trade tribunals to undermine the authority of Parliament or even our constitution.

Could it be that Harper signed the FIPA because it was such a terrible deal? Let me explain. Harper's abiding preoccupation during his tenure has been scaling up resource exports, particularly Alberta's bitumen by pipeline to the B.C. coast. To that end, the Harper government has gutted Canadian environmental laws and made National Energy Board rulings subject to cabinet approval.