Democracy Gone Astray

Democracy, being a human construct, needs to be thought of as directionality rather than an object. As such, to understand it requires not so much a description of existing structures and/or other related phenomena but a declaration of intentionality.
This blog aims at creating labeled lists of published infringements of such intentionality, of points in time where democracy strays from its intended directionality. In addition to outright infringements, this blog also collects important contemporary information and/or discussions that impact our socio-political landscape.

All the posts here were published in the electronic media – main-stream as well as fringe, and maintain links to the original texts.

[NOTE: Due to changes I haven't caught on time in the blogging software, all of the 'Original Article' links were nullified between September 11, 2012 and December 11, 2012. My apologies.]

Thursday, November 06, 2014

2014: The Year of Koch

The 2014 election season acquired its fair share of nicknames: the Nothing Election, the Seinfeld Election, and the Meh Midterms. Here's another: The Year of Koch.

Big money from outside spenders like the Koch brothers' political network and the pro-Democratic Senate Majority PAC dominated this year's elections. In the battleground states, a voter couldn't watch five minutes of television, listen to the radio, or cue up a YouTube clip without being bombarded by political ads, most of them of the minor-chord, attack-ad variety. Broadcasters in Alaska, North Carolina, Colorado, and other critical states collected money by the fistful. Major candidates galore had a deep-pocketed super-PAC or a political nonprofit in his or her corner.

Pro-Democracy Protesters Clash With Hong Kong Police

HONG KONG (AP) — Pro-democracy protesters clashed with police in Hong Kong early Thursday for the first time in more than two weeks as pressure grows on demonstrators to abandon more than a month and a half of street occupations.

The skirmishes lasted for about four hours in the bustling Mong Kok neighborhood, the most turbulent of three protest sites that have snarled swaths of the city.

English Canada! It's time to support Quebec's pipeline resistance.

Quebec culture and politics are foreign to Canada's oil industry, and to the English-speaking climate movement. This is changing.  
TransCanada is proposing a pipeline bigger than its infamous Keystone XL, named Energy East, to be built through the province. Enbridge hopes to soon reverse its Line 9 to Montreal. Bitumen just started arriving by rail in Sorel-Tracy to be shipped out via the St Lawrence River on mega-tankers.
Quebec is now key to the oil industry's plan to get bitumen out of the ground and out of the country as fast as possible.  

Luxembourg tax files: how tiny state rubber-stamped tax avoidance on an industrial scale

An unprecedented international investigation into tax deals struck with Luxembourg has uncovered the multi-billion dollar tax secrets of some of the world’s largest multinational corporations.

A cache of almost 28,000 pages of leaked tax agreements, returns and other sensitive papers relating to over 1,000 businesses paints a damning picture of an EU state which is quietly rubber-stamping tax avoidance on an industrial scale.

The documents show that major companies — including drugs group Shire, City trading firm Icap and vacuum cleaner firm Dyson, who are headquartered in the UK or Ireland — have used complex webs of internal loans and interest payments which have slashed the companies’ tax bills. These arrangements, signed off by the Grand Duchy, are perfectly legal.

Million Mask March Activists Clash With Police In London, Russell Brand Joins Crowds

Thousands of anti-capitalist activists took to the streets of central London on Bonfire night to protest against "political oppression", with ten people arrested as masked marchers clashed with police.

Demonstrators wearing Guy Fawkes masks and carrying banners and placards descended on Trafalgar Square before marching towards Parliament Square at 6.30pm. Protesters chanted anti-establishment slogans as they milled around, and some who had climbed on to the base of Nelson's Column let off fireworks.

Kissinger: Putin Is Not Stalin

The growing conflict between the West and Russia today is not the same as that during the Cold War, Henry Kissinger told the Council on Foreign Relations in New York this week at a symposium marking the 25th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Nevertheless, the former secretary of state, who at 91 remains a strong and influential voice in the foreign policy arena, said, "I am very distressed by the situation that is evolving, which is bringing neither peace to the Ukraine, nor stability to the international system."

My Co-op Is Falling Down

[Editor's note: Deteriorating conditions at reporter Katie Hyslop's 27-year-old co-op housing unit in East Vancouver mirror that of thousands of other co-ops across Canada, as federal and provincial subsidies dry up. The once-promising co-op experiment, which provided affordable housing to a generation of tenants, is eroding.

The housing news isn't all bad. Across Vancouver, fed-up innovators are field-testing a wave of new ideas for breaking out of our affordable housing gridlock. David P. Ball digs into some of those ideas in a new Tyee Solutions Society series, starting Friday.]

Co-ops played a big part of my life growing up in Newfoundland. My mom helped people set up co-op businesses for a living. We shopped at co-op grocery stores and bought generic co-op products. Our canvas shopping bags displayed advertisements of co-op conferences Mom attended.

Key Health Ministry Advisor Was Surprised Firings Targeted Just 'Low Level People': Emails

After the health ministry announced in 2012 that seven people had been fired or suspended, the person who had started things rolling expressed surprise that people higher up in the bureaucracy had not been affected.

"Basically they are going for low level people," Alana James wrote in a message to a contact in the Auditor General's office on Sept. 6, 2012, the day former health minister Margaret MacDiarmid held a press conference saying the ministry had asked the RCMP to investigate allegations related to potential conflicts of interest, contracting and responsible data management.

James is a lawyer who at the time was a senior health information advisor for the ministry. She has since left the government.


People who like money too much ought to be kicked out of politics, Uruguayan President José Mujica told CNN en Español in an interview posted online last Wednesday.

“We invented this thing called representative democracy, where we say the majority is who decides,” Mujica said in the interview. “So it seems to me that we [heads of state] should live like the majority and not like the minority.”

Dubbed the “World’s Poorest President” in a widely circulated BBC piece from 2012, Mujica reportedly donates 90 percent of his salary to charity. Mujica’s example offers a strong contrast to the United States, where in politics the median member of Congress is worth more than $1 million and corporations have many of the same rights as individuals when it comes to donating to political campaigns.

Mob Lynches Christian Couple In Pakistan, Dozens Arrested

LAHORE, Pakistan, Nov 5 (Reuters) - Police in Pakistan arrested dozens of people on Wednesday after a mob beat a Christian couple to death and burned their bodies for allegedly desecrating a Koran.

Blasphemy is a serious offense in conservative Muslim Pakistan where those accused are sometimes lynched on the spot.

The latest incident took place in a village in Punjab province on Tuesday when a local cleric told his community through the loudspeakers of his mosque to punish the couple for burning a few pages of the Koran, a police source said.

Harper Ignored Mulcair's Concerns Over CSIS Watchdog Picks, Documents Reveal

OTTAWA - The Conservative government appointed two members to Canada's spy watchdog despite objections raised by NDP Leader Tom Mulcair during formal consultations on the nominees, documents reveal.

Correspondence with Prime Minister Stephen Harper shows Mulcair opposed appointing former MP Deborah Grey due to her lack of experience with intelligence issues. He also feared the possibility of conflict of interest in the case of Gene McLean, a former security consultant.

Tories rejected recommendation on workplace harassment nine months ago

OTTAWA—Sexual harassment on Parliament Hill — whether among politicians, staffers or media — has long been the subject of whispers or occasional rumours, but never has anyone come out into the marbled halls with direct allegations.
Yet it was partly the subject of parliamentary study by a Commons committee just nine months ago.
As part of a broader report, the committee issued a call on Status of Women Canada — a federal agency — to work with Parliament to raise “awareness of the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace.”

Federal pension board used offshore 'scheme' to skirt foreign taxes

The federal agency that invests civil servants' pensions set up a complex scheme of European shell companies and exploited loopholes that helped it avoid paying foreign taxes — a move that could undermine Canada's standing internationally as its allies try to mount a crackdown on corporate tax avoidance.

The arrangement involved two dozen entities, half of them based in the financial secrecy haven of Luxembourg, and all of them set up in order to invest money in real estate in Berlin by a Crown corporation called the Public Sector Pension Investment Board.

National Energy Board review of Trans Mountain pipeline called a 'farce'

The National Energy Board (NEB) is currently reviewing a proposal from Texas-based Kinder Morgan to twin the Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline from Hardisty, Alberta to Burnaby, British Columbia and expand its volume from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels per day.
This week, former BC Hydro CEO and Suncor Energy Board member Marc Eliesen withdrew from the NEB hearings.

Has The National Energy Board Been ‘Captured By Industry'?

The notion of “regulatory capture” — a regulator essentially becoming a tool of the industry it’s meant to regulate — is not new in the U.S.

There, stories abound about banking regulators aggressively ignoring signs of malfeasance and even criminality in the years ahead of the financial collapse.

But that sort of short-sighted abrogation of regulator responsibility would never happen in Canada, right? Well it can and it is, says a former energy industry insider.

Woman Accused Of Witchcraft Burned Alive In Paraguay

ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) — An indigenous woman was burned alive in Paraguay after being accused of witchcraft, a local prosecutor confirmed Wednesday.

Prosecutor Fany Aguilera said that members of the Mbya Guarani ethnic group tied 45-year-old Adolfina Ocampos to a wooden pole and shot arrows at her before they burned her alive. Ocampos was sentenced to death last week by the community's chief in Tahehyi, a village some 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of the capital, Asuncion. The date of the killing was unclear.

Hank Greenberg Sued The Government For Bailing Out AIG, And He Actually Might Win

Of all the crazy things people have said about former AIG chief Maurice "Hank" Greenberg's lawsuit against the government, the craziest was that he just might win.

It's sounding less crazy all the time.

The possibility of a Greenberg victory at trial, which began six weeks ago is no longer unthinkable. According to a Bloomberg report, Greenberg has a real shot of winning his argument that the U.S. government bailed out the insurance firm he founded on "unfair" terms. Greenberg and his star lawyer, David Boies, may walk away with a $25 billion judgment in the case.

Supreme Court Calls Lying by Politicians an Expression of Their Religion

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court of the United States declared on Tuesday that lying by politicians is protected by the First Amendment because it is an expression of their religion.

By a 5–4 majority, the Court struck down an Ohio law that would make it harder to lie in political ads, arguing instead that “any attempt to restrict or punish lying by politicians is an unconstitutional infringement on a religion they have practiced for decades.”

How Ronald Reagan and the Supreme Court Turned American Politics Into a Cesspool

The dominating significance of the mid-term American legislative elections just finished has been the occasion’s dramatic confirmation of the corruption of the American electoral system. This has two elements, the first being its money corruption, unprecedented in American history, and without parallel in the history of major modern western democracies. How can Americans get out of this terrible situation, which threatens to become the permanent condition of American electoral politics?

The second significance of this election has been the debasement of debate to a level of vulgarity, misinformation and ignorance that, while not unprecedented in American political history, certainly attained new depths and extent.

Public pays for ads promoting Tory tax pitch

OTTAWA - The Harper government is spending more public funds advertising measures that have not yet been legislated by Parliament.

Radio ads have already hit the air promoting the recently announced income-splitting plan for families with children and changes to the Universal Child Care Benefit.

The radio spots end with a brief caveat: the tax changes are "subject to parliamentary approval."

The Conservative majority in the House of Commons passed a ways and means motion this week adopting the tax-cut plan, but legislative approval won't come until next year.

Del Mastro could keep gold-plated pension if he chooses resignation over suspension

Convicted Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro could collect hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gold-plated pension benefits if he resigns voluntarily rather than force the House of Commons to expel him as MP for Peterborough.

If, however, Del Mastro toughs it out and ends up being expelled from the House of Commons following his conviction for violating election financing rules, under the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowance Act he could end up walking away with only what he has already contributed to the MPs pension plan plus the interest it has earned.

Meet The Newest Wave Of Tea Party Congressmen

If there is a silver lining to be gleaned from a night of storm clouds for liberals, it’s this: they will no longer have to utter the words “Rep. Michele Bachmann.” Nor “Congressman Steve Stockman.” Nor a host of other lawmakers with fringe right-wing views on gay people, science, poverty, and other important issues.
However, with every election comes a host of new politicians looking to fill their shoes. Unsurprisingly, there is no shortage of new Tea Party blood in Congress this year.

Meet the Newly Empowered Right-wing Radicals

Some of the most extreme right-wing radicals got elected to Congress Tuesday. Let's begin with Glenn Grothman, who won Wisconsin's 6th District. Grothman wants toeliminate weekends, and believes "no about Kwanza, just white left-wingers." He co-sponsored a bill that equated single-parenthood with child abuse. In addition...

Jordan Recalls Its Ambassador From Israel

JERUSALEM/AMMAN, Nov 5 (Reuters) - Increasing strife over Jerusalem's most volatile holy site plunged relations between Israel and Jordan into crisis on Wednesday with Amman recalling its ambassador for the first time since the countries' 1994 peace treaty.

In a sign of festering tensions, a Palestinian rammed his car into pedestrians in Jerusalem's city center on Wednesday, killing an Israeli paramilitary border policeman before he was shot dead by police. More than a dozen people were injured.

If You Want To Understand Putin, You Have To Know These 15 Facts

When the crisis in Ukraine first escalated in February, many German experts on Russia were caught off guard. Almost none of them had foreseen that the revolution in Kiev would be followed by the events in Crimea. Not least because many journalists and scientists had misjudged Vladimir Putin.
While much has been said about Russia's president since then, Vladimir Putin continues to surprise audiences worldwide. These 15 facts will make you better understand the Russian leader.

The Dawn of the Age of McConnell

Last week, just days before the election that would elevate the Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell to Majority Leader of the Senate, his campaign glimpsed potential disaster. In a Fox News interview, McConnell mentioned arithmetic, noting that repealing Obamacare would require sixty votes in the Senate and Presidential approval. That was a grave political blunder, because it led some conservatives to suspect that he did not intend to dedicate the Senate’s time to a fruitless symbolic pageant of protest. The Senate Conservatives Fund, which backs Tea Party candidates, declared, “Mitch McConnell Surrenders on Obamacare Repeal.”

Texas oil town makes history as residents say no to fracking

The Texas town where America’s oil and natural gas boom began has voted to ban fracking, in a stunning rebuke to the industry.

Denton, a college town on the edge of the Barnett Shale, voted by 59% to ban fracking inside the city limits, a first for any locality in Texas.

Organisers said they hoped it would give a boost to anti-fracking activists in other states. More than 15 million Americans now live within a mile of an oil or gas well.

Anti-Prostitution Bill Approved By Senate, Could Be Law By December

OTTAWA - The Conservative government's controversial anti-prostitution bill passed third reading in the Senate on Tuesday and requires only royal assent to become law.

The government had wanted to get the bill through the legislative process by the middle of this month, so it could become law by December.

Why Scotiabank is cutting jobs while earning billions

Why is Scotiabank cutting 1,000 Canadian jobs while earning billions in profits? It seems crazy.

But in the end, it all comes down to a conflict between risk and prudence.

On Tuesday, the Bank of Nova Scotia set aside nearly half a billion dollars to cover the cost of shutting down overseas branches and getting rid of 1,500 jobs, two-thirds of them here in Canada.

America, Meet Your New Republican Bosses

WASHINGTON -- Republican victories in Tuesday's Senate elections push out a Democratic old guard and usher in a new crop of hungry GOPers, some just getting their feet wet in politics.
Republicans won control of the Senate partly with the help of newcomers who ousted Democratic incumbents and whipped rivals for seats vacated by retiring liberal lions, whose political service spanned decades that included some of the biggest moments in modern U.S. political history. These departing senators have chaired powerful committees, authored landmark bills, exposed torture in Vietnam, debated CIA interrogation methods, and voted on the Iraq war.

UK gains £20bn from European migrants, UCL economists reveal

European migrants to the UK are not a drain on Britain’s finances and pay out far more in taxes than they receive in state benefits, a new study has revealed.

The research by two leading migration economists at University College also reveals that Britain is uniquely successful, even more than Germany, in attracting the most highly skilled and highly educated migrants in Europe.

The study, the Fiscal Impact of Immigration to the UK, published in the Economic Journal, reveals that more than 60% of new migrants from western and southern Europe are now university graduates. The educational levels of east Europeans who come to Britain are also improving with 25% of recent arrivals having completed a degree compared with 24% of the UK-born workforce.

Israel accused of war crimes during campaign in Gaza

Amnesty International has accused Israel of committing war crimes during its campaign in Gaza.

A report released by the group on Wednesday says Israel displayed “callous indifference” launching attacks on family homes in the densely populated coastal strip and in some cases its conduct amounted to war crimes. It adds that war crimes were also committed by Palestinian militants.

300,000 more people live in poverty than previously thought, study finds

The number of people living in dire poverty in Britain is 300,000 more than previously thought due to poorer households facing a higher cost of living than the well off, according to a study released on Wednesday.

A report produced by the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that soaring prices for food and fuel over the past decade have had a bigger impact on struggling families who spend more of their budgets on staple goods.

Canada’s Unwanted: Non-citizens paid to leave, jailed without charge, die in secret

Canada is built on generations of multifarious foreigners. But its treatment of those without the imprimatur – or protection – of citizenship remains troubling.

As a country we’ve crafted a narrative of welcoming persecuted persons. A federal government website, “A History of Refuge,” showcases centuries of asylum-seekers, from Quakers to Rwandans, and Canada’s Nansen Refugee Award in 1986.

Toronto Star's Paywall Gone In 2015

TORONTO - Torstar Corp. (TSX:TS.B) says it plans to tear down the digital paywall at the country's largest newspaper, the Toronto Star, as it focuses on developing a new tablet app to be launched next year.

The owner of the Toronto Star and other publications is switching gears in its digital strategy of delivering content across multiple platforms — a move it's betting will attract more readers and bring national advertisers back into the fold.

Arrested For Feeding The Homeless: Ministers, 90-Year-Old Man Nabbed In Fort Lauderdale Beach

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A 90-year-old man and two ministers have been accused of breaking a new ordinance that severely restricts public feeding of the homeless.

Police arrested homeless advocate Arnold Abbot and ministers Dwayne Black and Mark Sims on Sunday as they handed out food to homeless people in a Fort Lauderdale park. The city ordinance took effect Friday.

5 Facts About How America Is Rigged for a Massive Wealth Transfer to the Rich

A recent posting detailed how upper middle class Americans are rapidly losing ground to the one-percenters who averaged $5 million in wealth gains over just three years. It also noted that the global 1% has increased their wealth from $100 trillion to $127 trillion in just three years.

The information came from the Credit Suisse 2014 Global Wealth Databook (GWD), which goes on to reveal much more about the disappearing middle class.

Canada Food Bank Use Increases Across The Country: Report

More people across the country are using food banks compared to last year, and according to a recent report, over 14 million visits will be made to Canadian food banks in 2014 alone.

The annual HungerCounts report released by Food Bank Canada on Tuesday, revealed 841,191 people used a food bank in March — an overall 1 per cent increase since 2013. Although the number may not seem that large upon first glance, the report found food bank use in six out of 10 provinces increased this year, and 37 per cent of those helped were children.

Tories lost July court ruling on CSIS spying overseas

OTTAWA—The Conservative government revealed that it lost an important Federal Court of Appeal ruling that found CSIS hid the extent of its overseas spying activities from a judge.

A redacted version of the decision of the Federal Court of Appeal, dated July 7, 2014, was posted on the court’s website Tuesday with no notice to the media — a highly unusual move.

It upheld an earlier Federal Court ruling by Justice Richard Mosley that rebuked the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the federal government for hiding the fact that CSIS had turned to CSE, Canada’s electronic spy agency, and its allied partners in the “Five Eyes” international spying network to carry out intrusive surveillance abroad on two Canadians.

An open PMO door for a private anti-union bill

OTTAWA—Stephen Harper’s backdoor assault on the labour movement, delivered through a private member’s bill from an obscure backbencher, has been rightly labelled hypocritical, punitive and an unprecedented invasion of privacy.

The bill, actually a tax amendment measure known as C-377, has been gutted and rightly been tossed aside as roadkill on the legislative highway.

But it’s back from the dead.

Fed Up with 'Captured' Regulator, Exec Quits Kinder Morgan Review

Marc Eliesen, a senior energy executive who once served as CEO of BC Hydro, has quit his role as an intervenor in the federal review of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline and oil tanker expansion project, calling the National Energy Board "a truly captured regulator."

Eliesen has worked in the nation's energy sector for 40 years. In addition to running the nation's largest hydro utilities, he served in a variety of senior positions in both federal and provincial governments of all stripes, including as Ontario's deputy minister of energy.

Last-Minute Problems At The Polls In Ferguson

Several issues have come up at Ferguson polling locations during the evening rush tonight. One voter alleges that only 1 in 4 voting machines is up and running, a claim Election Protection is currently verifying. Nearby locations ran out of paper ballots, causing long lines. Officials requested additional ballots at 1:45pm, according to Denise Lieberman, the lead attorney at Election Protection’s command center. Fifty additional ballots were sent at 5:00pm.
Lieberman was quick to point out the consequences of such ballot shortages: people who leave a voting site due to problems are unlikely to come back.