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.]

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Video Shows NYPD Officer Hitting Teen In The Face With His Gun

BROOKLYN — Two NYPD officers are under criminal investigation after punching and bashing a 16-year-old suspect in the face with a gun despite the teen raising his hands to surrender, according to a video obtained by DNAinfo New York.

The surveillance footage obtained exclusively by “On The Inside" shows the two officers catch up to marijuana suspect Kahreem Tribble after a brief chase in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

As the teen stops running, one officer throws a punch at his face. Then, as the suspect raises his hands, the other officer clocks him with his gun.

Walmart Cuts Health Care Coverage For Most Part-Timers In Wake Of Obamacare

NEW YORK (AP) — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to eliminate health insurance coverage for some of its part-time U.S. employees in a move aimed at controlling rising health care costs of the nation's largest private employer.

Wal-Mart told The Associated Press that starting Jan. 1, it will no longer offer health insurance to employees who work less than an average of 30 hours a week. The move affects 30,000 employees, or about 5 percent of Wal-Mart's total part-time workforce, but comes after the company already had scaled back the number of part-time workers who were eligible for health insurance coverage since 2011.

European Union drops plan to label oilsands crude 'dirty'

The European Union has backed off a plan to label oil from Alberta's oilsands as dirtier than other oils and to make it harder to import.​

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, published a proposal early Tuesday that removes one of the biggest hurdles that was standing in the way of Canada exporting its oil directly to Europe, something that isn't currently happening in any significant way.

Embrace the Irony -- Lawrence Lessig wants to reform campaign finance. All he needs is fifty billionaires.

Last spring, Lawrence Lessig, a fifty-three-year-old Harvard legal theorist who opposes the influence of money in politics, launched a counterintuitive experiment: the Mayday PAC, a political-action committee that would spend millions of dollars in an attempt to elect congressional candidates who are intent on passing campaign-finance reform—and to defeat those who are not. It was a super PAC designed to drive its own species into extinction. Lessig adopted the motto “Embrace the irony.”

Others had tried pouring money into politics in order to end the pouring of money into politics, but never on the scale that Lessig wanted. In 2012, Jonathan Soros, a son of George Soros, the billionaire and liberal donor, raised and spent $2.7 million to help nine candidates committed to campaign-finance reform. Lessig and his co-founder, the Republican consultant Mark McKinnon, planned to spend more than four times that amount in the six months leading up to midterm elections, on November 4th. If their efforts succeeded, they aimed to raise hundreds of millions of dollars on as many as eighty races in the 2016 election. Lessig believed that the campaign-finance system needed the political equivalent of an “atomic bomb,” he told me. Change would become impossible, he said, “unless we blow it up now and we find some way to make it so that these bones don’t set.”

The Crooked and the Dead -- Does the Constitution protect corruption?

The fall and winter before last, Daniel J. Halloran III, a Republican city councilman from Queens, met with two men: an undercover F.B.I. agent who was posing as a businessman called Raj and a real-estate developer named Moses Stern, who was coöperating with the F.B.I. in exchange for a reduced prison term. (Stern is facing a four-hundred-and-fifty-five-year sentence for bank fraud, among other charges.) During meetings that were secretly recorded, Raj and Stern gave Halloran almost forty thousand dollars in cash, including hundred-dollar bills crammed into unmarked envelopes, and sixty-five hundred dollars in checks made out to his congressional campaign: in 2012, Halloran ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. The checks were written from other people’s accounts, Raj allegedly told Halloran, because he didn’t want his name to appear in any campaign-finance report. “I can take green,” Halloran said, after he lost the congressional race and was no longer eligible for campaign matching funds. “That’s politics, that’s politics,” he told Stern at a restaurant in Manhattan on a night when he accepted a wad of cash, adding, philosophically, “You can’t do anything without the fucking money.”

Here's Why These Muslims Are Refusing To Criticize ISIS

American Muslim leaders gathered at Washington's National Press Club late last month to release a scathing 17-page letter to the Islamic State that distanced mainstream Muslims from the militant group's actions. But one prominent imam from Northern Virginia refused to give his endorsement.

"It sounded like they were apologizing for something they haven't done, like they were running for cover," Imam Johari Abdul-Malik said in an interview with The Huffington Post.

Hong Kong Protests Shrink After Tumultuous Week

HONG KONG (AP) — The students whose calls for democratic reforms sparked the most dramatic challenge to authorities since Hong Kong returned to Chinese control are vowing to keep up the fight.

But as the numbers of protesters dwindled Monday from tens of thousands into the hundreds, it was unclear where the tumult of the past week would lead.

Schools reopened and civil servants returned to work after protesters cleared the area outside the city government headquarters, a focal point of the demonstrations that began Sept. 26. Crowds also thinned markedly at the two other protest sites, and traffic flowed again through many roads that had been blocked.

Spanish Nurse First To Contract Ebola Outside West Africa

MADRID (AP) — In the first known transmission of the outbreak of Ebola outside West Africa, a Spanish nurse who treated a missionary for the disease at a Madrid hospital has tested positive for the virus, Spain's health minister said Monday.

The female nurse was part of the medical team that cared for a 69-year-old Spanish priest who died Sept. 25 in a Madrid hospital designated for treating Ebola patients after he was flown home from Sierra Leone, where he served as the medical director of a hospital there treating infected Ebola patients, Health Minister Ana Mato said.

Rogue donors not ready for Hillary?

Hillary Clinton is facing the beginnings of a backlash from rich liberals unhappy with her positions on litmus test issues and her team’s efforts to lock up the Democratic presidential nomination before the contest starts.

Elizabeth Warren says she’s not running, but donors are pledging big money to get her to reconsider. Joe Biden, Martin O’Malley and Jim Webb have found polite and occasionally receptive audiences among potential sugar daddies. Even Bernie Sanders has support from some wealthy donors.

Walmart And Whole Foods Are Slowly Killing Traditional Supermarkets

The days of buying all of your food at a local grocery store are coming to an end. And that could be a problem for the supermarket industry.

The share of the grocery market held by traditional supermarkets like Kroger, Safeway and Publix will fall to about 37 percent in 2018 from about 40 percent in 2013, according to a recent research note from Jones Lang LaSalle, a investment management firm specializing in real estate. At the same time, wholesale clubs like Costco, grocery delivery sites and so-called fresh format stores like Whole Foods are poised to grow.

Pan-Mideast War Escalates as IS and al-Qaida Attack Hezbollah Outposts Near the Lebanese Border

qalamoun-mapISIL and al-Qaeda have, according to Hizbullah, launched attacks in Syria’s Qalamoun district (abutting the Lebanese border near Baalbek) on Hizbullah military outposts on the Syrian side. 

Hizbullah is acting in Syria as an adjunct to the Syrian Baath Army and helped reduce Qusayr and Homs last spring.  The Syrian rebels were exploring for weaknesses in the Shiite party-militia’s positions in the mountainous area.

These 10 Countries Have Pledged $2.3 Billion to Fight Climate Change. The US Isn't One of Them.

Poorer countries typically get the rough end of global warming: Not only are they more likely to feel the brunt of its impacts—like rising sea levels or increased extreme weather—they also don't have enough money to face the problem. This split between the rich and poor has become a major source of frustration in the global fight against climate change. Put simply, some poorer countries say they are being asked to give up the rapid, fossil-fuel-powered development the rest of the world enjoyed while simultaneously being hit with the costs of a problem they didn't create.

Here's The Letter Calling On Mark Zuckerberg To Help 'Servant'-Like Bus Drivers

Facebook's bus drivers are treated like "servants" who shuttle the company's "noblemen" employees to and from work every day, according to a letter sent to Mark Zuckerberg last week.

The letter, written by Rome Aloise, principal officer of the Teamsters Union branch in Northern California, calls out Zuckerberg for the unfair treatment of Facebook's shuttle bus drivers, who are seeking union representation.

Moving cost for election watchdog kept secret

OTTAWA - The Harper government is refusing to disclose how much it will cost taxpayers to separate the commissioner of elections from Elections Canada — a move Conservatives insisted upon even though electoral experts said it was unnecessary.

The government says all briefing materials on the cost and logistics of transferring the election commissioner's operations to the director of public prosecutions are cabinet confidences.

As such, they can't be released in response to an access-to-information request.

Moving the election commissioner under the auspices of the public prosecutor was a key measure in a controversial overhaul of election laws pushed through Parliament by the Conservatives last spring despite near-universal condemnation by electoral experts at home and abroad.

Private Security Outnumber Border Services in Big Cities

In Canada's major cities, Canada Border Services Agency enforcement officers are now outnumbered by private security hired to guard and transport immigration detainees.

As an inquest resumed yesterday into the suicide of a Mexican woman in the custody of CBSA-contracted private guards, the union representing agency officers is raising alarms over the growth in outsourcing -- pointing to poor training and understaffing -- while a coalition of immigration rights groups say the problems with Canada's immigration policies run much deeper.

3 New Findings On ISIS Weapons That You Should Know About

Islamic State militants are wielding arms manufactured in 21 different countries -- including the United States -- according to a new report released Monday.

The study of ammunition captured during the Islamic State's battles with Kurdish forces in northern Iraq and Syria in July and August highlights the diverse array of arms sources fueling the extremist group, also known as ISIS. Investigators from the arms monitoring group Conflict Armament Research cataloged more than 1,700 bullet cartridges by their country of origin and their date of manufacture. The report says most of the related arms appear to have been seized by ISIS from opposing forces -- from national armies to foreign-backed rebel groups across Syria and Iraq.

'A Terrible Slaughter Is Coming'

The theme of the week in the Syria conflict—that airstrikes are of only limited use in the struggle to degrade and destroy the Islamic State terror group—is about to be underscored in terrible fashion in the besieged border town of Kobani, which is under sustained, and mainly unanswered, assault by as many as 9,000 ISIS terrorists armed with tanks and rocket launchers.

I just got off the phone with a desperate-sounding Kurdish intelligence official, Rooz Bahjat, who said he fears that Kobani could fall to ISIS within the next 24 hours. If it does, he predicts that ISIS will murder thousands in the city, which is crammed with refugees—Kurdish, Turkmen, Christian, and Arab—from other parts of the Syrian charnel house. As many as 50,000 civilians remain in the town, Bahjat said.

Police Violated Constitutional Rights Of Ferguson Protesters, Federal Judge Rules

WASHINGTON -- Police overseeing security at protests in Ferguson, Missouri, in August violated the constitutional rights of demonstrators and journalists by forcing them to stay in constant motion and not stop walking, a federal judge ruled on Monday.

Chief U.S. District Judge Catherine D. Perry held that the "practice of requiring peaceful demonstrators and others to walk, rather than stand still, violates the Constitution." She issued a preliminary injunction banning St. Louis County Police and Missouri State Highway Patrol officers from using the tactic.

A New Alabama Law Lets Judges Appoint Lawyers for Fetuses. Here's What That Looks Like.

This spring, Alabama Republicans passed an extreme new law that would force minors who want to have an abortion without a parent's permission to undergo a grueling court trial—and it would give judges the right to appoint a lawyer for the fetus. Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union asked a federal court to block the law, prompting national headlines.

But years before Alabama passed this new law, some state judges were already appointing lawyers for fetuses. The results weren't pretty.

Postmedia-Quebecor Deal: Media Ownership Worries Are 'Beside The Point': Expert

TORONTO - Postmedia's plans to buy Quebecor's stable of English-language newspapers and websites may resurrect concerns about whether the concentration of media ownership in Canada will narrow the range of editorial voices the public relies on for information, experts say.

But some say it may be the only way to keep newspapers alive in an industry that's struggling to survive.

"What we're talking about here is one threatened company ... buying properties whose future was in doubt," said Ivor Shapiro, chair of the Ryerson School of Journalism in Toronto.

White House responds to Netanyahu: American values gave Israel the Iron Dome

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at his daily briefing on Monday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks that American criticism of Israeli settlement construction was against American values, “did seem odd.”

“It did seem odd for him to defend Israel's position by saying US position is un-American,” Earnest said. “American values are why this country's support for Israel has been unwavering.” Earnest repeated the U.S. criticism of settlement construction and said that continuing it “will send a troubling message” about Israel’s intentions.

A living wage lifts workers and the economy

As of October 1, minimum-wage earners in Manitoba will earn $10.70 per hour -- just over $20,800 annually. This leaves a family of four, with both parents working, with an income that is more than $1,500 below the poverty line. Single-parent families are worse off with incomes more than $8,000 short. It is widely agreed that a job can be the best pathway out of poverty. But this is only true if wages meet basic needs.
Approximately 38,600 Manitobans work for minimum wage and they are not just teenagers looking to earn extra cash. The majority are over the age of 20 and nearly half work for companies with more than 500 employees. Given that so many minimum-wage earners are adults, we need to ask why our minimum wage does not provide a sufficient income to raise a family.

Energy giant rains on B.C. throne speech

VICTORIA - A major player in British Columbia's liquefied natural gas sweepstakes has rained on Premier Christy Clark's throne speech, which laid out the government's plans for the industry in the coming months.

Malaysian energy giant Petronas, which is planning a multibillion-dollar LNG export facility near Prince Rupert, B.C., chose the opening of the legislature Monday to issue a statement, saying it may delay development for a decade unless it can reach cost and environmental agreements with provincial and federal governments by month's end.

You Have Mail A For-Profit Alternative To Canada Post Home Delivery

A new privately owned company called You Have Mail is preparing to fill the niche of home delivery once Canada Post stops delivering mail to individual homes.

“Continue to receive your mail at home,” promises the website of the Canadian upstart. "We know that with busy schedules, retrieving mail is the last thing you want to worry about, and we can help."

The company will start its service on Oct. 20 — the same day several urban communities start losing door delivery, as per Canada Post’s five-year transition plan.

Report: New York Governor’s Office Altered And Delayed Fracking Study

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration edited and delayed a fracking study commissioned by the state, according to a review by Capital New York.
The New York news outlet reported Monday that the Cuomo administration had altered a report on the natural gas extraction technique commonly referred to as fracking. The report was commissioned in 2011 and was “going to result in a number of politically inconvenient conclusions” for the governor. A comparison of the original draft of the report, which was put together by the U.S. Geological Survey, and the final version, showed that some of the original descriptions and mentions of fracking-related health and environmental risks were “played down or removed.”

The Invisible Oil in Louisiana’s Senate Race

Dean Blanchard says three prayers at night: “An Our Father, a Hail Mary… and I pray that the idiot in North Korea can figure out how to blow up Washington, DC, so we can start over.”

The Louisiana shrimp processor sat looking over the marina at Grand Isle, a ramshackle resort destination south of New Orleans on the Gulf of Mexico. Blanchard’s business was hit hard by the BP oil spill in 2010 and is still struggling. BP, he noted, is doing fine. Just two years after the spill, the company announced a record profit.

Free flight for EU leaders not needed, German official says

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's offer of a free ride home for visiting European leaders — at a cost of more than $300,000 — is raising eyebrows on both sides of the Atlantic.

Already, opposition politicians in Canada have called the use of a Canadian A310 Airbus to ferry the visitors home an "outrageous" waste of taxpayers' money. Now, there are complaints in Europe that the trip violated the European Union's code of conduct, and that the excuses offered for the free ride were bogus.

Privatizing the Alberta government air fleet in haste was a lousy business decision

Alberta's mainstream media seems to have discovered at last that selling off the government's air fleet to expunge the embarrassment of Alison Redford's premiership is not necessarily an astute business move, and is most definitely unfair to the 27 good people who flew and serviced the four planes.
"Government fleet staff sacrificed on alter of political expedience," revealed the headline over a story yesterday by the Edmonton Journal'spolitical columnist.
They most certainly were. This realization by the media is a positive development and illustrates that if you give them long enough, mainstream journalists can sometimes connect the dots after the warm glow from reading the official press release wears off.
Back on Sept. 16, when the government of Alberta announced it would ground and privatize the fleet of four small propeller-driven aircraft, it wasargued here in the blogosphere that this decision would end up costing Albertans more and change nothing as the big shots of whatever provincial government is in power take to the skies aboard chartered planes and party like it’s 2012.