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.]

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Warren in Minnesota: ‘The game is rigged’

NORTHFIELD, Minn. — Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) brought her populist message Saturday to this small college town to rev up the final weeks of Sen. Al Franken's reelection campaign, but also to claim the mantle of the modern liberal movement's political godfather.

Speaking before more than 400 people at Carleton College, Warren repeatedly invoked the spirit of the late Paul Wellstone, the fiery liberal senator who died 12 years ago this month in a plane crash during his reelection campaign. Wellstone remains a revered figure in Minnesota politics, and his brand of populism -- out of step in the Clintonian Democratic Party of the 1990s -- is now mainstream among leading liberal activists. Warren has become the most prominent public face of that movement, and the Wellstone disciples in this town 40 miles south of Minneapolis gave their approval Saturday.

North, South Korea exchange gunfire along heavily fortified border

Troops from the rival Koreas exchanged gunfire Sunday along their heavily fortified border in the second such shooting in less than 10 days, South Korean officials said. There were no reports of injuries or property damage, but the 10 minutes of shooting highlighted rising tensions between the divided countries.

The Koreas' first exchange of gunfire came after North Korea opened fire at balloons carrying anti-Pyongyang leaflets that were floating across the border from the South. Sunday's shootout began after North Korea sent soldiers close to the border line. The move was an attempt by the North to increase worries in the South about what might happen if leafleting continues, analysts say.

How Germany Managed to Abolish University Tuition Fees

If Germany has done it, why can’t we? That’sthe question being asked by many students around the world in countries that charge tuition fees to university. From this semester, all higher education will be free for both Germans and international students at universities across the country, after Lower Saxony became the final state to abolish tuition fees.

It’s important to be aware of two things when it comes to understanding how German higher education is funded and how the country got to this point. First, Germany is a federal country with 16 autonomous states responsible for education, higher education and cultural affairs. Second, the German higher education system – consisting of 379 higher education institutions with about 2.4m students – is a public system which is publicly funded. There are a number of small private institutions but they enrol less than 5% of the total student body.

The United States Is Founded Upon the Model of European Conquest: Dispose of the Disposable People

In Greece, Media Censorship, Self-Censorship, Journalist Arrests and Murder

By all international measures, Greece has seen a stunning decline in its level of press freedom: Murder and intimidation of journalists, including threats of state prosecution or private lawsuits, censorship and propaganda are rife.

This is the fifth in a series of articles that chronicle the long history of corruption, lawlessness and censorship in Greece's media and journalism landscapes. This is a situation that has worsened in recent years in the midst of the country's severe economic crisis, but which has a deeply-rooted history.

Beyond Orwellian Nightmares and Neoliberal Authoritarianism

Those who fight against neoliberalism must not settle for reforming a system that is as broken as it is dangerous. Any viable, transformative struggle will need a boldly democratic vision; durable, longstanding organizations and strategies that make politics meaningful.
To be corrupted by totalitarianism, one does not have to live in a totalitarian country.
- George Orwell
Central to George Orwell's nightmarish vision of a totalitarian society was a government so powerful that it not only dominated all of the major institutions in a society, but it also was quite adept at making invisible its inner workings of power. This is what some have called a shadow government, deep state, dual state or corporate state. (1) In the deep state, politics becomes the domain of the ultra-wealthy, the powerful few who run powerful financial services, big corporations and the imperious elite of the defense industries and other components of the military-industrial complex. Corporate interests such as ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel companies, megabanks such as Bank of America, and defense industries such as Boeing, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin are powerful lobbying groups and as such have control of the major seats of political power and the commanding institutions necessary to insure that the deeply anti-democratic state rules in the interests of the few while exploiting and repressing the many.

Greedy financiers undermine free markets

For more than a decade, Roger Martin, one of Canada’s leading business thinkers, has tracked the rise of a new breed of executives with the talent and chutzpah to command multi-million-dollar pay packages.

In the early days, as dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, he regarded these high flyers with admiration. “What we’re seeing is the strengthening of economic returns to knowledge balanced talent,” Martin told an audience of academics and policy analysts at a public debate in 2009. “The poor aren’t getting poorer and the middle class isn’t collapsing.”

Why the ISIS mission is Obama's real 'red line'

The United States, the world's most powerful country, is being challenged by a motley collection of sadistic torturers and killers called ISIS with pretences of being a religious state.

As odd as it may seem, the U.S. and its allies, Canada included, have gone into this fight with one hand tied behind their backs.

They have ruled out sending in ground troops because the risk of heavy casualties would be politically unacceptable to their home constituencies.

Foreign caregivers backlog grows as families wait for residency

The number of individuals waiting for permanent resident status under a program that brings foreign caregivers and nannies to Canada has ballooned to more than 60,000, according to documents released under an access to information request.

More than half of those individuals waiting for permanent residency are the spouses and children of foreign caregivers already living in Canada, according to documents obtained under access to information and given to CBC News.

Harper warns about spread of Ebola

TORONTO - Prime Minister Stephen Harper is warning Canadians not to be complacent about Ebola virus, suggesting it would be all too easy for the disease to come to Canada.

He brought up the current Ebola crisis on Saturday as he accepted the Rotary Foundation Polio Eradication Champion Award for Canada's efforts to eliminate polio globally.

Harper said that much like polio, Ebola must not be underestimated.

Kinder Morgan questions how much B.C. First Nation still eats fish

How much do First Nations still catch and eat fish? That appeared to be a key line of questioning at a National Energy Board hearing underway this week in Chilliwack regarding Kinder Morgan's $5.4-billion oil pipeline expansion.

The forum is designed to gather oral evidence from Aboriginals on the Texas-based company's proposed Trans Mountain expansion pipeline that would cross dozens of rivers considered sacred to B.C. First Nations.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Pens Scathing Dissent On Texas Voter ID Law

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a six-page dissent early Saturday morning, blasting the court's decision to allow Texas to use its new voter ID law in the November elections. She was joined in the dissent by Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.

"The greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters," Ginsburg wrote.

Ginsburg disputed the Fifth Circuit court of appeals' argument that it was too close to the November election to stop the law. Early voting begins on Monday in Texas.

Hong Kong Protesters Retake Mong Kok Streets From Police

HONG KONG, Oct 19 (Reuters) - Violent clashes erupted early on Sunday in a Hong Kong protest hotspot as unarmed pro-democracy activists once again confronted riot police despite the confirmation of talks between protest leaders and officials early this week.

Hong Kong's 28,000 strong police force have been struggling to contain a youth-led movement that has shown little sign of waning after three weeks of standoffs in which hundreds of thousands of people have occupied city streets to demand full democracy in the former British colony.

'We're a floating petri dish': Panic onboard the 'Ebola cruise'

It was supposed to be an escape to the Caribbean sunshine for a week of partying, relaxation, and sipping champagne while watching gorgeous sunsets from the decks of a luxury cruise ship.

But four days after the Carnival Magic set sail from Galveston, Texas rumours began swirling that all was not well on board.

The ship, complete with a swimming pool, an array of water slides, and a giant cinema screen, inexplicably stopped off the coast of Belize and the whispers began.

A New Documentary Profiles Liars for Hire

The New York Film Festival, now in its fifty-second year, is unusual in that it combines big-money extravaganzas like Gone Girl and Birdman with small, worthy films whose publicity budgets would barely cover the cost of Ben Affleck’s body waxings. Given the presence of so much of the film world in one place, the festival allows these latter movies to vastly increase their ability to secure media attention without the tens of millions of dollars that the studios devote to their superheroes.

Canadian firms stamped out

OTTAWA -- First, Canada Post announced it was cutting door-to-door service, prompting fierce criticism in defence of the rights of the elderly, infirm and others. Now, it has turned to an American company to supply the new community mailboxes to replace door-to-door mail delivery over the next five years.

The Free Press has learned the Crown corporation chose the same cluster boxes used by the United States Postal Service for at least the first wave of cluster-box installations in 11 cities this fall.

The GOP's Dangerous Demagoguery on Ebola

How would President Mitt Romney have responded to the global Ebola threat? Or President Ted Cruz? Dropping the hypotheticals, what about House Speaker John Boehner, who is not just the current highest-ranking Republican in the U.S. government, but second in the line of presidential succession?

Supreme Court Allows Texas Voter ID Law

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court said Saturday that Texas can use its controversial new voter identification law for the November election.

A majority of the justices rejected an emergency request from the Justice Department and civil rights groups to prohibit the state from requiring voters to produce certain forms of photo identification in order to cast ballots. Three justices dissented.

Three Things Conservatives Wrote This Week That Everyone Should Read

Welcome to TP Ideas‘ weekly roundup of the best conservative writing! Every Friday, we take a look at three pieces by right-leaning writers that constructively articulate core elements of their worldview. The goal isn’t to find conservatives telling us how right liberals are, but rather to pick out writing that helps liberals understand where their ideological foes are coming from.
So let’s get started.

China's Silk Road Revival -- and the Fears It Stirs -- Are Deeply Rooted in the Country's History

NEW DELHI - The phrase "Silk Road" evokes a romantic image -- half history, half myth -- of tented camel caravans winding their way across the trackless deserts and mountains of Central Asia. But the Silk Road is not just part of a fabled past; it is an important feature of China's current foreign policy.

The historical Silk Road comprised an overland and a maritime route, both of which facilitated the transfer to Europe of South and East Asian goods and ideas, from Chinese tea to inventions like paper, gunpowder and the compass, as well as cultural products like Buddhist scripture and Indian music. Likewise, the Silk Road -- primarily the overland route, which also passed through the Arab world to Europe -- gave China access to Indian astronomy, plants and herbal medicines, while introducing it to the Buddhist and Islamic faiths.

Answering Four Key Questions About China's Rise

"Is China going to compete for world power?"

Most people in China, if asked such a question, would show little interest in seeing the country fighting for world power with the U.S., and still less in becoming another U.S.

However, in the U.S. and some European countries, many may ask: How can we trust that China won't be like that? They are concerned that China may try to set up a new regional order under its rule.

Fresh Clashes In Hong Kong

HONG KONG, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Hong Kong pro-democracy activists recaptured parts of a core protest zone early on Saturday, defying riot police who had tried to disperse them with pepper spray and baton charges.

About a thousand protesters, some wearing protective goggles and helmets, helped to build fresh barricades from wooden fencing and other materials in the gritty, densely populated Mong Kok district. Some chanted "black police" after the police struck demonstrators' umbrellas with their small metal batons.

Ebola Outbreak In Senegal Over: WHO

GENEVA (AP) — The U.N. health agency officially declared an end Friday to the Ebola outbreak in Senegal, a rare bit of good news amid the public outcry and fear over the deadly disease that remains out of control in three West African countries.

The World Health Organization said it "commends the country on its diligence to end the transmission of the virus," citing Senegal's quick and thorough response.

Keystone XL Oil Pipeline Owner Wins Climate Leadership Award

WASHINGTON -– The company that wants to build the Keystone XL pipeline was recognized this week for leadership on climate change -– to the shock of environmental activists.

Alberta-based TransCanada, which has been seeking permission to build the 1,660-mile pipeline from Canada's oil sands to refineries in Texas, was included as a corporate climate leader on the Carbon Disclosure Project's Climate Performance Leadership Index 2014. The Carbon Disclosure Project, or CDP, is a United Kingdom-based nonprofit that works with companies to tally and report their greenhouse gas emissions. TransCanada was one of five energy sector companies included on the "A List" in this year's report.

How Much "Free" Health Care Really Costs Canadians

"Don't touch my free health care," is a common refrain from defenders of the status quo whenever anyone broaches the topic of reforming Canada's health-care system.

While politicians and interest groups no doubt share a portion of the blame for perpetuating the myth of a $0 price tag for health care in Canada, their ability to carry public opinion with them stems from the murky manner in which health care is funded.

Individuals and families never see a bill for medical services, are not subject to any level of cost-sharing, and only pay a small so-called "premium" for health insurance (in provinces that impose them) that in no way represent the true cost.

Stephen Harper and the ‘merchant of venom’

In 1988, Steve Harper ran for the Reform Party in Calgary West against his former boss, Progressive Conservative MP Jim Hawkes.

The world wasn’t quite ready for Reform back then, and Harper came a distant second and went back to Ottawa to work for Deborah Grey, Reform’s first MP.

In 1993, with Reform on the rise and Mulroney’s government collapsing, Harper ran again — calling himself Stephen this time — and trounced Hawkes, with a little help from an American political consultant named Arthur Finkelstein.

Bill C-36: No safety or security for sex workers

The Protection of Communities and Exploited persons act, Bill C-36, passed in the House of Commons last week. The vote was 156-124. The bill follows a Supreme Court decision in December, which ruled that several provisions in Canada's prostitution laws were unconstitutional.
Bill C-36 is based on a belief that sex workers are universally victimized, yet many of its provisions will contribute to sex workers' rights violations.
The idea that sex work is inherently exploitative is being used to justify criminal laws that deny or ignore sex workers' right to security of person.

Air Christy Hits New Milestone: $355,000

Premier Christy Clark spent more than $66,000 on charter jet flights between December and July, according to invoices released under Freedom of Information.

The latest spending puts the cost of jetting Clark, cabinet colleagues and staff around the province at more than $355,000 since she was sworn-in March 14, 2011.

The records do not include the invoice from Clark's Aug. 7 trip to assess the Mount Polley disaster.

Lawyer Offers to Help Media Fight Harper Gov't Copyright Changes

A prominent law professor says he considers a Conservative plan to allow political parties to expropriate news footage for advertising to be such an abuse of power, he's willing to offer his services to media pro bono to fight any attempts to pass such legislation.

Earlier this month, documents leaked to the media showed the Conservative party is considering adding legislation to an omnibus bill that would enable political parties -- and only political parties -- to use news footage in partisan ads without permission or financial compensation to the producers.

Don't Believe Media Hype - Seniors Are Not the Wealthy Generation

Working as an advocate for seniors' issues can feel like pushing water uphill. Yet, after a challenging few years which has seen headlines of flood and fire, bad food, bed sores, and a chronic shortage of affordable seniors' housing, it finally looked like we might move forward.

Citing a severe facilities shortage, then PC leadership candidate Jim Prentice came on strong as a voice for the elderly. He vowed to overhaul the system, proceeding at "twice the pace." We hung on every word, and then cheered at now Premier Prentice's pronouncement that there will be a brand new seniors' ministry. Hopefully this will mark an end to the musical chairs of responsibility that have impeded progress and approvals like we have endured in past years. I'm not overstating it when I say we are allowing ourselves to be profoundly optimistic this will actually come to pass.

Still No Charges 3 Months After Eric Garner's Chokehold Death

NEW YORK -- Chokeholds are dangerous and prohibited by the New York City Police Department. Yet on July 17, Officer Daniel Pantaleo wrapped his arm around the neck of Eric Garner, who had resisted arrest for selling untaxed cigarettes on Staten Island. In a viral video of the encounter, Garner can be heard repeatedly screaming, “I can’t breathe!” before his body goes still.

The medical examiner ruled the death a homicide, and “I can’t breathe!” became a rallying cry at a massive protest against police brutality in Tompkinsville, the neighborhood where Garner -- who’d been caught on multiple occasions selling cigarettes illegally -- was arrested for the last time.

Republican Joni Ernst Admits Why Republicans Really Hate Obamacare

Conservatives have made a series of specific predictions about the effects of Obamacare — overall costs would rise, insurers would flee the exchanges, premiums would go up, the ranks of the uninsured would not even fall. All these predictions have failed. And yet conservative opposition to the law has not diminished. If you want to know why this is, listen to these secretly recorded comments from Iowa Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst, via Radio Iowa and Greg Sargent. Here Ernst, speaking candidly to supporters, gets to the root of conservative opposition:

Lawmakers Ignore Experts, Push For Ebola Travel Ban

WASHINGTON -- Growing numbers of lawmakers on Thursday called for a ban on travel from the West African nations at the center of the Ebola epidemic, spurning the advice of the nation's top health officials who testified that such an action would be counterproductive.

Cries to cut off travel from the affected nations escalated dramatically with the arrival in Texas of Thomas Eric Duncan, who contracted the disease in Liberia and became sick after he arrived in the United States, and whose infection has spread to two nurses who cared for him.

Canada’s true role in the Mideast conflict

When I travel to any corner of Canada, complete strangers from every walk of life come up to me on street corners, in restaurants, in airports, to take a moment to talk to me. Sometimes, they thank me for my service during my long career in public life.

There is one sentence that I hear over and over again: “Mr. Chrétien, thank you for keeping us out of the war in Iraq.” It is gratifying to hear, because that decision, more than 10 years ago, was not easy. The country was divided. Many columnists, pundits and editorialists were in favour of participating. Some within my own party disagreed with me, the business community opposed me, and no one was a louder critic than Stephen Harper, then leader of the Official Opposition. He even went on U.S. television and wrote an article in The Wall Street Journal denouncing the Canadian government’s policy.

Harper Fears 'Back Door' Resurrection Of Long Gun Registry

SAULT STE MARIE, Ont. - He says he doesn't want to sound paranoid, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper is concerned his own federal bureaucracy is trying to bring back the long gun registry "through the back door."

Harper courted gun owners and anglers on Friday in northern Ontario with a carefully stage-managed question and answer session with invited representatives of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters.

Killing the long gun registry was a long-standing Conservative government promise — and fundraising cash cow. Now that it's dead and buried, a governing party in election mode is reviving alleged threats of its resurrection in repeated donation appeals to Conservative faithful.

Paper Bill And Statement Fees Continue To Frustrate Canadians

Despite a promise in last year’s throne speech to eliminate paper bill fees for Canadians, the federal government has yet to take action to cut the charges that annoy many consumers.

Canadians haven’t hesitated to share their frustrations about those fees, something CBC’s Marketplace discovered when the show called on people to nominate the fee they think is Canada’s Dumbest Charge.

The GOP Is Winning the War on Voting

Since the 2010 election, the Republican Party has waged a long and aggressive war on voting. In 2011 and 2012, at least 180 new voting restrictions were introduced in forty-one states, with twenty-seven election changes passing in nineteen states. The attack on voting rights intensified after the Supreme Court’s June 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision striking down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). It freed states with a history of the worst voter suppression from getting approval from the federal government for voting changes.

Why We Need International Recognition of the State of Palestine

Sweden’s recent responsible decision to officially recognize the State of Palestine was quickly followed by the British Parliament’s vote for similar recognition. The Swedish and British moves, clearly grounded in a desire for peace, are a last-ditch effort to save the two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. These developments reflect the shift in European public opinion in favor of a free Palestine. The Swedish and British acts, which put new moral pressure on Israel to end the occupation, have created greater space to address a range of unfulfilled Palestinian rights.

Quebec Offshore Oil Drilling May Soon Be Possible In The Gulf Of St. Lawrence

Canada and Quebec are set to introduce legislation that would eventually allow for offshore oil and gas development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The federal government announced Tuesday plans to implement 2011's Canada-Quebec Accord, which sets the groundwork for them to jointly manage petroleum resources in the region.

It is estimated that there are 39 trillion cubic feet of gas and 1.5 billion barrels of oil in the Gulf.

Rising Inequality: Janet Yellen Tells It Like It Is

The extent of and continuing increase in inequality in the United States greatly concerns me. … It is no secret that the past few decades of widening inequality can be summed up as significant income and wealth gains for those at the very top and stagnant living standards for the majority. I think it is appropriate to ask whether this trend is compatible with values rooted in our nation’s history, among them the high value Americans have traditionally placed on equality of opportunity.

No, that wasn’t Elizabeth Warren, or the editor of the Nation, or Paul Krugman (or even me) banging on about how the rich are getting richer and most everybody else is struggling to keep up. It was Janet Yellen, the chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, addressing a conference in Boston on Friday morning. It’s not unheard of for a Fed chief to discuss rising inequality: Ben Bernanke addressed it in a 2007 speech. But Yellen’s speech is surely the first time a Fed chief has pointed out that rising inequality threatens America’s sense of itself.

Secret space plane lands at US air force base after unknown two-year mission

A top-secret space plane landed Friday at an air force base on the southern California coast.

The plane spent nearly two years circling Earth on a classified mission. Known as the X-37B, it resembles a mini space shuttle.

It safely touched down at 9.24am Friday, officials at Vandenberg Air Force Base said.