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, October 11, 2014

Hobby Lobby's Hypocrisy, Part 2: Its Retirement Plan STILL Invests in Contraception Manufacturers

When Obamacare compelled Hobby Lobby to buy employee health insurance plans that covered emergency contraception, the Green family, who own the national chain of craft stores, fought the law all the way to the Supreme Court. So what happened when Mother Jones reported that Hobby Lobby contributed millions of dollars to employee retirement plans with stock in companies that make emergency contraception?

Stephen Harper intervenes in purchase of new missiles: Source

Prime Minister Stephen Harper settled a dispute between Treasury Board and the Defence Department to approve an $800-million, sole-source purchase of next-generation Sea Sparrow missiles for the Royal Canadian Navy’s aging frigates, sources familiar with the situation say.

The decision was taken early this week following a written request earlier this month by three ministers — Industry Minister James Moore, Defence Minister Rob Nicholson and Public Works Minister Diane Finley — that won out over the objections of Treasury Board president Tony Clement, sources say.

Meet the Alabama Judge Who Figured Out How to Unravel Roe v. Wade

ProPublica profiles Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker, whose “rulings over the last nine years have fueled the biggest threat to abortion rights in a generation.”

Parker is a religious man, who, in 2005, said, “The very God of Holy Scriptures, the Creator, is the source of law, life, and liberty.”

‘An Awfully Expensive Hammer to Hit a Couple of Cheap Nails’

“Last Saturday’s strikes” against Islamic “are indicative of a key complexity of the U.S.-led campaign in Iraq and Syria,” Foreign Policy’s Justine Drennan writes at Stars and Stripes. “In throwing its hugely expensive 21st-century weaponry at a band of insurgents, the Pentagon is using planes that can cost nearly $200 million apiece against pickup trucks costing virtually pennies in comparison.”

The Merger of ISIS and al-Qaeda Could Cripple the Civilized World

As ISIS continues to advance on the Syrian town of Kobani and close in on Turkey’s border, experts in Islamic radical movements think the terror group may merge with its al-Qaeda mother organization soon. Together, the group would represent the greatest terror threat to the civilized world.

“I think Britain, Germany and France will witness significant attacks in their territories by the Islamic State. Al-Baghdadi [the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, otherwise known as ISIS] may reconcile with al-Zawhiri [the leader of the al-Qaeda central organization] to fight the crusader enemy. The attacks by the United States and her allies will unite the two groups,” said Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi researcher who just finished writing a book about ISIS based on his unique access to the organization’s documents and years of research and advising Iraqi security forces.

Voter Suppression Backfires in Texas and Wisconsin

It’s been a bad week for voter ID laws.

On Wednesday, the Government Accountability Office released a comprehensive study showing that strict voter ID laws in Kansas and Tennessee decreased voter turnout by two to three points from 2008 to 2012 compared to similar states without voter ID laws, leading to 122,000 fewer votes.

Last night, a federal district court struck down Texas’s voter ID law, the strictest in the country, calling it “an unconstitutional poll tax.”

Deadly Force, In Black And White

Young black males in recent years were at a far greater risk of being shot dead by police than their white counterparts – 21 times greater i, according to a ProPublica analysis of federally collected data on fatal police shootings.

The 1,217 deadly police shootings from 2010 to 2012 captured in the federal data show that blacks, age 15 to 19, were killed at a rate of 31.i7 per million, while just 1.47 per million white males in that age range died at the hands of police.

Hong Kong Protesters Regroup

HONG KONG, Oct 10 (Reuters) - Thousands of protesters regrouped in central Hong Kong on Friday to push their demand for democracy, a day after the government called off talks with students amid a two-week standoff that has shaken communist China's capitalist hub.

The political crisis has seen tens of thousands take to the city streets to push for free elections and seek the resignation of Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying.

At Least A Third Of All Women Murdered In The U.S. Are Killed By Male Partners

It's a sobering fact. At least one third of all female homicide victims in the U.S. are killed by male intimate partners -- husbands and ex-husbands, boyfriends and estranged lovers. While both men and women experience domestic violence, the graphics below should put to rest the myth that abuse occurs equally to both sexes.
The States Where Women Are Most Likely to Be Killed By Men

Every year, the Violence Policy Center tracks which states have the highest rate of incidents in which one man kills one woman, a typical indicator of domestic homicide. The Huffington Post crunched the data to find the worst offenders over the past decade. Between 2003 and 2012, Nevada had the highest rate, at 2.447 women killed per 100,000. In 2012, however, the most recent year for which data is available, Nevada's rate dropped to 1.83, and Alaska took the top spot with 2.57 women killed per 100,000. 

Over 18,000 Women Were Killed By Men Since 2003

Since the landmark Violence Against Women Act was passed in 1994, annual rates of domestic violence have plummeted by 64 percent. But still today, an average of three women are killed every day. More often than not, women are shot. Over half of all women killed by intimate partners between 2001 to 2012 were killed using a gun

Note: In 2012, as in years past, the state of Florida did not submit any data to the FBI Supplementary Homicide Report. In 2012 and 2011, data from Alabama was not available from the FBI. Data from Florida and Alabama was not requested individually because the difference in collection techniques would create a bias in the study results. In addition, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, limited SHR data was received from Illinois for 2009-2012.
Sources: Violence Policy Center, Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Institute of Justice, Center for American Progress
Infographic by Alissa Scheller for The Huffington Post.

Original Article
Author: The Huffington Post | By Melissa Jeltsen & Alissa Scheller

This Is Scott Walker's Idea Of A Living Wage

WASHINGTON -- Linda Branch, a 50-year-old personal care worker in Milwaukee, works 20 hours a week making $11 an hour, or around $400 every two weeks. That's barely enough to make her rent, she told the state's Department of Workforce Development in a recent filing. She added that she recently had to borrow money to keep her electricity running, and that she could not afford to send her grandson, whom she raises, to his recent homecoming dance.

"I was not providing him with a proper childhood because I cannot afford to," Branch said in her statement.

From 2001 to today: The never-ending War on Terror

On October 6, 2014, a U.S. judge decided to make information public about thehorrific force-feeding of Abu Wa'el Dhiab, a Guantanamo detainee.
The news didn't make the headlines on CNN or Fox news. The treatment was not denounced over and over by every big or small Muslim organization, as they have done when it comes to the treatment of minorities and journalists by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). In some media outlets, the news was portrayed as a victory for transparency and government accountability.

Open government plan silent on updating law

OTTAWA - The Conservatives' new draft plan on open government makes no mention of reforming the Access to Information Act, despite widespread calls to revise the 32-year-old law.

The draft plan would see the government make information and data — including scientific research, federal contract details and archival records — more readily available by default.

But it proposes no legislative changes to the access law, which allows people who pay $5 to request government records ranging from correspondence and briefing notes to audits and hospitality receipts.

Lewis Black Says F**k Voter Suppression In New ACLU Voting Rights Video

Comedian Lewis Black has made a career out of being outraged so his new role as the celebrity ambassador on voting rights for the American Civil Liberties Union should suit him just fine.
A new video released by the ACLU shows what's supposedly a behind-the-scenes look at a photo shoot in which Black learns about efforts to suppress voters through voter ID laws, restrictions on early voting and more.
His reaction is classic Black: "No fucking way."
On Thursday, the Supreme Court blocked Wisconsin's voter ID law. In an unrelated case, a federal judge in Texas struck down that state's voter ID law, calling it an "unconstitutional poll tax."
"Elected officials shouldn't get to choose who gets to choose elected officials," Black declares in the video. "Look, people marched and fought and died for the right to vote and they want to legislate away that sacrifice to stay in power? Not on my watch, baby!"
Black also penned an open letter "to all politicians who've ever tried to block access to voting," which you can read here.
And if you want to join Black in saying "fuck voter suppression," you can add your name to the ACLU's petition.

Original Article
Author: The Huffington Post | By Ed Mazza

Here's How Nigeria Beat Ebola

Ebola first arrived in Lagos, Nigeria—one of the largest cities in the world—on July 20. Global health officials feared the worst, warning that the disease could wreak untold havoc in the country.

But it hasn't turned out that way. To date, Nigeria has reported only 20 confirmed or probable Ebola cases in a nation of 174 million people. Equally remarkable, there have only been eight deaths—about half the fatality rate experienced by other countries involved in the current outbreak. In fact, Nigeria could be declared Ebola-free as early as October 12. (That date would be 42 days after the last case was diagnosed, or double the maximum amount of time needed for the disease to incubate in a human body—the standard used by global health authorities.)

Stop Telling "Moderate Muslims" What To Do

Ali A. Rizvi recently wrote an open letter to "moderate Muslims." I'm not sure if Rizvi's letter was directed toward me, as I don't measure my faith in chicken wing flavours, but I'm going to respond anyway.

Rizvi begins by telling Muslims he won't accuse us of "staying silent in the face of the horrific atrocities being committed around the world" or "being sympathetic to fundamentalists' causes." Thanks for that Ali, very generous of you.

Ottawa slow to monitor temporary foreign worker program compliance

Newly released details on the temporary foreign worker program reveal that only a handful of public servants – and for many years none at all – were assigned to investigate whether employers were following the rules.

Before 2010, not a single government worker was responsible for monitoring compliance with the program, even as about 200 federal employees processed employers’ applications to bring in foreign workers.

Amazon Must Be Stopped

Before we speak ill of Amazon, let us kneel down before it. Twenty years ago, the company began with the stated goal of creating a bookstore as comprehensive as the great Library of Alexandria, and then quickly managed to make even that grandiloquent ambition look puny. Amazon could soon conjure the full text of almost any volume onto a phone in less time than a yawn. Its warehouses are filled with an unabridged catalogue of items that comes damn close to serving every human need, both basic and esoteric—a mere click away, speedily delivered, and as cheap as capitalism permits.

Canada Post's Finances Should Receive Auditor General Report: NDP

OTTAWA - The NDP wants auditor general Michael Ferguson to produce a report into Canada Post's financial situation.

MP Alain Giguere is calling on Ferguson to bring forward the report by five years.

In theory, the auditor general tables such a document every 10 years.

Tories cite dismissed terror report to bolster case for more powers

OTTAWA—The Conservative government pressed its case Thursday for tougher anti-terror powers for police and spies by raising an alarming American news story dismissed by Canadian security sources.

NBC News reported Wednesday night that Canadian officials are concerned about potential Islamic State sympathizers threatening “knives and gun” attacks on “malls and embassies” here.

Enbridge Line 9B pipeline delayed by NEB over major water body concerns

Energy company Enbridge will have to take more safety measures to protect major waterways before it gets permission to start up its Line 9B oil pipeline.

The order from the National Energy Board this week will delay plans to start up the pipeline project by at least three months and possibly longer. It may force the company to do even more work to bring its pipeline up to standards before the oil flows.

Why Does the Government Need a Copyright Exception for Political Ads?

Reports from CTV and the Globe and Mail indicate that the government is planning to introduce a new copyright exception for political advertising. The reports suggest that the exception would permit the use of news content in political advertising without authorization provided that it meets three conditions:

News content would have to meet three criteria for this exemption, the cabinet memo says. It would have to be published or made available through TV broadcasts or platforms such as YouTube. It would have to be obtained from a news source such as a news program or newspaper or periodical. And it would have to feature a political actor operating in that person's capacity as a politician, or relate to a political issue.

Ex-Grit Minister Sergio Marchi: Harper Plays Politics With ISIL Mission

OTTAWA - A former Liberal cabinet minister says his party and the NDP had no choice but to refuse to support Canada's combat mission against Islamic extremists.

Sergio Marchi, trade minister under Jean Chretien and former ambassador to the World Trade Organization, blamed Prime Minister Stephen Harper for backing the opposition into an untenable position.

3 Charts That Show What's Wrong With EI And Canada's Job Market

Canada’s employment insurance program has a surplus, which means employers and employees are contributing more to the fund than unemployed Canadians are drawing out.

Good news, right? Canada’s budget watchdog doesn’t seem to think so.

Cable Lobby Admits to Funding Stealth Campaign Against Net Neutrality

On a recent Monday evening, two bearded young men in skinny jeans came to a parklet in San Francisco’s trendy Hayes Valley neighborhood and mounted what looked like an art installation. It was a bright blue, oversized “suggestion box” for the Internet.

The boxes, sometimes accompanied by young people in futuristic costumes, have been popping up on both coasts for weeks, soliciting messages of support - but their sponsor has been a mystery. The web site for the campaign, Onward Internet, does not say. Their domain registration is private. And the site includes no contact information, only an animated video heavy on millennial lingo: “The internet was made to move data…we got blogs, likes, selfies and memes, OMG, BRB and TTYL.”

This Week, Two Incidents Of Street Harassment Escalated Into Violent Attacks Against Women

One woman in Detroit was shot and killed after refusing to give a stranger her phone number. Another woman in New York got her throat slashed for refusing to go on a date with a stranger.
Those are just two examples of violence perpetrated against women over the past week. And while those cases grabbed news headlines, other acts of aggression on the street may have very well gone unreported. Advocates working to stop street harassment say the two incidents are a clear illustration of why catcalls and come-ons aren’t harmless for the people on the receiving end.

Hong Kong Government Calls Off Talks With Student Protest Leaders

HONG KONG, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Hong Kong called off talks with protesting students on Thursday, dealing a heavy blow to attempts to defuse a political crisis that has seen tens of thousands take to the streets to demand free elections and calling for leader Leung Chun-ying to resign.

The government's decision came as democratic lawmakers demanded anti-graft officers investigate a $6.4 million business payout to Leung while in office, as the political fallout from mass protests in the Chinese-controlled city spreads.

Ferguson police continued crackdown on protesters after federal, state interventions

Despite federal and state attempts to intervene during the two months since 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed, the Ferguson Police Department continued — and even accelerated — efforts to suppress peaceful protests using arbitrary and inconsistently applied arrest policies, according to Justice Department officials who are investigating the department and county police officials who have since taken over for the city.

A Washington Post review of city, county and state arrest records, and interviews with Justice Department officials, Ferguson and St. Louis County police chiefs, dozens of protesters and several civil rights officials reveal numerous questionable practices.

Breitbarting to be legally facilitated by Harper government

The Harper government wants to legalize theft -- the appropriation of newsclips without permission for political advertising.
So much for property rights, eh, fellas? But that’s always been a bit of a code term anyway, meaning ours and not theirs. Just ask any First Nation whose ancestral lands have beendrilledfracked and dug upby outsiders, backed up by cops and courts when folks dare to protest. The powers that be will whine about property missing from the Charter and put a pipeline up your backyard at the same time. But when the Conservatives want to hit their opponents below the belt, they come up with an utterly self-interested exception to copyright law to make it all legal.

Suncor sneaks tar sands tankers into St. Lawrence and Great Lakes

Suncor is setting a precedent around the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River Basin with its new shipments of bitumen on the St. Lawrence River.  On September 24, the first ever tanker to ship bitumen on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River Basin left the port of Sorel-Tracey in Quebec. The tanker, the Minerva-Gloria, carried an estimated 700,000 barrels of bitumen to Sardinia, Italy which arrived on Tuesday at 4:22 p.m. local time. A second tanker, the Genmar Daphne, is expected to arrive in Sorel on Sunday, October 12 where it will be loaded, travel along the St. Lawrence River and transport another load of Alberta bitumen to Italy. There are plans to ship 20 to 30 vessels like this each year along the St. Lawrence River.

Conservatives’ EI policy will cost economy 9,000 jobs, watchdog says

The Conservative government’s approach to Employment Insurance premiums will cost the economy more than 9,000 jobs over two years, according to a new report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

The report assesses the impact of last month’s decision by Finance Minister Joe Oliver to maintain E.I. premiums at existing levels, while offering a credit on premiums for small businesses. At the time, the government pointed to a report from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business that said the credit would create 25,000 person years of employment over the next two to three years.

Climate Change Legal Liability Could Cost Canadian Oil Firms Billions: CCPA

Advances in climate change science could be creating a huge legal liability for major Canadian energy companies, especially from foreign judgments being enforced locally, a new study suggests.

The study, released Thursday from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and West Coast Environmental Law, joins a growing body of research considering how the law might be used to recoup the costs of climate change from companies that contribute to it.

Detroit Faces "Humanitarian Crisis" as City Shuts Off Water Access for Thousands of Residents

We are on the road in Detroit, broadcasting from the "Great Lakes State" of Michigan, which has one of the longest freshwater coastlines in the country. But its residents are increasingly concerned about their access to affordable water. A judge overseeing Detroit’s bankruptcy recently ruled the city can continue shutting off water to residents who have fallen behind on payments after a judge concluded there is no "enforceable right" to water. The city began cutting off water to thousands of households several months ago, prompting protests from residents and the United Nations. Today, some 350 to 400 customers reportedly continue to lose water service daily in Detroit, where poverty rate is approximately 40 percent, and people have seen their water bills increase by 119 percent within the last decade. Most of the residents are African-American. Two-thirds of those impacted by the water shutoffs involve families with children. We speak with Alice Jennings, the lead attorney for residents who have lost their water access. "What’s happening here is nothing short of a humanitarian crisis," Jennings says. "In a military way, the truck would start at one end of the street, and by the time it reached the other end maybe 50 percent of the homes were shut off."

Author: --

Fair Elections Act: Activists Plan Court Challenge To 'Anti-Democratic' Law

OTTAWA - The Council of Canadians and the Canadian Federation of Students will ask the courts to overturn parts of the Harper government's Fair Elections Act.

The two groups and three individual electors will file their suit in Ontario Superior Court.

They are targeting provisions which make it harder for voters to prove their identity at the polls and reduce the powers and responsibilities of the chief electoral officer.

How the World Let the Ebola Epidemic Spiral Out of Control

Before Ebola became an epidemic that has killed more than 3,400 people, before it jumped borders and crossed oceans, it was a deadly, if rare, disease that had been contained during each of its twenty-four previous outbreaks. This is crucial to remember as the disease churns through Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, because it underscores a troubling conclusion: today’s wildfire Ebola epidemic was not inevitable.

Despite its frightening virulence, Ebola can be contained through robust public health efforts. It thrives in chaotic and impoverished environments where public health systems are frayed and international assistance weak. Though experts will debate the roots of this current crisis for years, one point on which many agree is that local poverty and global indifference played starring roles. “This isn’t a natural disaster,” international health crusader Paul Farmer told The Washington Post. “This is the terrorism of poverty.”

The Supreme Court Approves the Country’s Worst Voting Restrictions in North Carolina

On Wednesday evening, the Supreme Court overruled a Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision reinstating same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting in North Carolina for the midterms. Because this was an order to stay the injunction, not a decision on the full merits of the law, the Court’s majority did not explain its reasoning. Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor dissented.

It’s the second time the Supreme Court has ruled against voting rights in the past ten days, after the court also overruled an appeals court decision reinstating a week of early voting and same-day registration in Ohio.

Walmart Is Cutting Health Insurance for 30,000 Part-Time Employees, but That’s Not All

Despite the fact that members of the Walton family, which founded Walmart, are consistently at the top of the list of the richest individuals in America, and even though some of Walmart’s workers are being paid such low wages that employees at one of its stores actually started a food drive for co-workers in need last year, the retail giant has decided it has to cut corners. The United States’ largest private employer, The Wall Street Journal reports, will raise health insurance premiums for its workers and stop providing coverage for thousands of its employees working less than 30 hours a week in an effort to “contain costs in the wake of the federal health-care law.”