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, November 11, 2014

The Supreme Court Is Now a Death Panel

Back in March 2011, when the biggest threats facing Obamacare were the Supreme Court and the 2012 elections, I argued that the demise of the Affordable Care Act would put people’s lives in immediate danger.

At the time, the law had relatively few beneficiaries—people under 26 covered by their parents’ health plans, a small population of people with pre-existing medical conditions. But some of them had already used their new coverage to finance the kinds of life-saving treatments that would leave them in need of chronic care for the rest of their lives. Take away the health law, and most of these organ transplant recipients and other patients would have become unable to afford their medications, and some of them would die.

Why Warnings on Climate Spark Aggressive Denials

LONDON—If you don’t like the message on climate change, it seems that the answer is to shoot the messenger.

According to a new book by veteran environmentalist George Marshall, thousands of abusive emails—including demands that he commit suicide or be “shot, quartered and fed to the pigs, along with your family”—were received by climate scientist Michael Mann, director of Pennsylvania State University’s Earth System Science Centre, who drew and published the “hockey stick graph”  that charts a steep rise in global average temperatures.

How Renewables In Developing Countries Are Leapfrogging Traditional Power

Lots of poorer countries may be gearing up to largely skip fossil fuel reliance in favor of renewables, if a report released last week is any indication.
It’s long been assumed that developing nations — particularly those in Africa and Asia — would need to follow the same course as the United States and other western powers, relying on traditional fossil fuels to build their economies before transitioning onto renewable energy. It’s one of the reasons many critics think efforts to keep global warming under 2°C are either doomed or would be hopelessly destructive.

Mitch McConnell Says His Top Priority Is To ‘Get The EPA Reined In’

On Thursday, incoming Senate Majority Leader and Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell said that when it comes to serving his home state, his top priority is “to try to do whatever I can to get the EPA reined in.”
In his first one-on-one interview since his landslide re-election for a sixth term, McConnell told the Lexington Herald-Leader that he is convinced that coal has a future and that he feels a “deep responsibility” to stop the EPA from regulating carbon dioxide emissions at coal-burning power plants. He said he won a number of coal-producing counties for the first time this election, but that it was a “disappointment” that the state House didn’t go to the GOP on Tuesday night as it would have helped him in his crusade to block the Obama administration’s efforts to promote low carbon, clean energy.

What You Should Know About Obama’s Leading Candidate For Attorney General

CNN reports that President Obama is “expected to nominate Loretta Lynch,” the top federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, to serve as the next Attorney General of the United States. If confirmed, Lynch will be the first African American woman to lead the Justice Department.
Much of Lynch’s appeal to Obama may stem from the fact that she is removed from many of the political battles that would render a nominee who has often been at odds with Republicans unconfirmable in a GOP-controlled Senate. Lynch has a distinguished, but relatively apolitical, career as a prosecutor. After earning both her undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard, Lynch was an associate at a large law firm before joining the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Eastern District of New York in 1990. There, she rose to hold several senior career roles, including Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney from 1998 to 1999, when she was confirmed to lead the office at U.S. Attorney during the Clinton Administration. Shortly after President Clinton left office, Lynch became a partner at another large law firm until President Obama reappointed her as U.S. Attorney in 2009.

The Jane and John Does of Kinder Morgan's injunction

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
-- Dylan Thomas
There's nothing more unambiguous in the battle against global ecocide than placing one's body between the fertile earth and a giant fossil fuel company. This is why when one spends a few minutes with the caretakers of Burnaby Mountain, one develops a genuinely abiding allegiance to their cause. This is direct witness to the existential immediacy of the climate crisis that threatens the future of our planet. This is appropriate response to the danger climate change entails. In comparison, reading Simon Fraser University President Andrew Petter's letter in response to calls for support to the "Kinder Morgan Five" leaves a lingering question: where does he and the university really stand?

Mikhail Gorbachev warns world on 'brink of a new Cold War'

Tensions between the major powers have pushed the world closer to a new Cold War, former Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev said Saturday.

The 83-year-old accused the West, particularly the United States, of giving in to "triumphalism" after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the communist bloc a quarter century ago. The result, he said, could partly be seen in the inability of global powers to prevent or resolve conflicts in Yugoslavia, the Middle East and most recently Ukraine.

Atheists Score Major Win In Federal Court

A federal district court in Oregon has declared Secular Humanism a religion, paving the way for the non-theistic community to obtain the same legal rights as groups such as Christianity.
On Thursday, October 30, Senior District Judge Ancer Haggerty issued a ruling onAmerican Humanist Association v. United States, a case that was brought by the American Humanist Association (AHA) and Jason Holden, a federal prisoner. Holden pushed for the lawsuit because he wanted Humanism — which the AHA defines as “an ethical and life-affirming philosophy free of belief in any gods and other supernatural forces” — recognized as a religion so that his prison would allow for the creation of a Humanist study group. Haggerty sided with the plaintiffs in his decision, citing existing legal precedent and arguing that denying Humanists the same rights as groups such as Christianity would be highly suspect under the Establishment Clause in the U.S. Constitution, which declares that Congress “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

Harper discusses Garratts with China

BEIJING - Stephen Harper and Chinese officials signed a flurry of trade and currency deals on Saturday worth as much as $2.5 billion while tensions seemingly lingered between the two countries about the detention of a Canadian couple accused of espionage.

The prime minister raised his concerns about the three-month imprisonment of Kevin and Julia Garratt with Premier Li Keqiang (KUH-chee-yahng) during a closed-door meeting at the ornate Great Hall of the People, a spokesman for Harper said.

In Defense of Obama

When it comes to Barack Obama, I've always been out of sync. Back in 2008, when many liberals were wildly enthusiastic about his candidacy and his press was strongly favorable, I was skeptical. I worried that he was naive, that his talk about transcending the political divide was a dangerous illusion given the unyielding extremism of the modern American right. Furthermore, it seemed clear to me that, far from being the transformational figure his supporters imagined, he was rather conventional-minded: Even before taking office, he showed signs of paying far too much attention to what some of us would later take to calling Very Serious People, people who regarded cutting budget deficits and a willingness to slash Social Security as the very essence of political virtue.

And I wasn't wrong. Obama was indeed naive: He faced scorched-earth Republican opposition from Day One, and it took him years to start dealing with that opposition realistically. Furthermore, he came perilously close to doing terrible things to the U.S. safety net in pursuit of a budget Grand Bargain; we were saved from significant cuts to Social Security and a rise in the Medicare age only by Republican greed, the GOP's unwillingness to make even token concessions.

House Science Chair Says Latest Climate Report Is 'Clearly Biased,' But He Only Read The Summary

Lamar Smith, the Republican chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, hasn't read the latest report from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, but he says he knows enough to conclude that “most of the predictions have been wrong," he told Bloomberg TV on Friday.

“Congressman, it’s science. It’s 800 scientists," Bloomberg host Cory Johnson interrupted. "It’s not some random guy making a prediction.”

USDA Approves GMO Potato Designed By Simplot

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved commercial planting of a potato that is genetically modified to resist bruising and to produce less of a chemical that has caused cancer in animals.

Boise, Idaho-based J.R. Simplot Co. developed the potato, and it was approved by the USDA Friday.

Reaping the Whirlwind, Again

I am tired. I am tired of speech
and of action. In the heart of me
you will find a tiny handful of
dust. Take it and blow it out
upon the wind. Let the wind have
it and it will find its way home.

- Tennessee Williams
Here in rural New Hampshire, in this town without a traffic light, with a population so small that it would have trouble filling a Pop Warner football stadium, the old folks came out to vote in force on Tuesday.

Rob Nicholson Blocked Our Tour Of Military Site: NDP MPs

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Two New Democrat MPs are accusing Defence Minister Rob Nicholson of playing politics after they were denied a tour of a new Canadian Forces station in St. John's, N.L.

Ryan Cleary and Peter Stoffer planned to visit the new military site Friday but say they were notified the visit was off because it's just outside Cleary's riding.

Canadian Federal Scientists, Professionals Union Launches Anti-Harper Campaign

OTTAWA - The union representing scientists and other professionals in the federal public service is abandoning its tradition of neutrality in elections to actively campaign against Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) says delegates to its annual general meeting have agreed the union should be more politically active heading into next year's federal election.

UBC's Vantage College: Canadians need not apply

The University of British Columbia is building an exclusive new college at a cost of more than $127 million, but Canadian students need not apply. The college will house only high-paying international students, most of them from China.

It may only be a big hole in the ground right now, but the Vantage College project has already angered many university students who say the money could have been better spent to improve student housing and limit tuition increases.

Conservatives Don't Hate Climate Change, They Hate The Proposed Solutions: Study

Conservatives who reject the science of climate change aren't necessarily reacting to the science, according to a new study from researchers at Duke University. They're reacting to the fact that they don't like proposed solutions more strongly identified with liberals.

The paper, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, looks at the relationship between political ideology and rejection of scientific evidence. The researchers look most closely at climate change and other environmental challenges, an area where those who identify as liberals or Democrats mostly accept scientific conclusions while conservatives or Republicans largely reject them. The researchers conclude that on climate and other important societal issues, this denial is "rooted not in a fear of the general problem, per se, but rather in fear of the specific solutions associated with that problem."

An Unpresidential Election

Two days before the midterm elections, Barack Obama arrived at a high school in Bridgeport, Connecticut, to campaign for Governor Dannel Malloy, who was then locked in a statistical tie with his Republican opponent in his reëlection race. The President gave a rousing speech, concluding with the obligatory photo op of him raising Malloy’s hand in presumptive victory. Nothing about the event was noteworthy, yet something about it seemed discordant. The most salient element of that image was not the President offering assurances on behalf of an embattled governor—rather, it was that the governor thought those assurances were still worth having. By contrast, Allison Lundgren Grimes, during her run for the Senate, would not even admit to having voted for Obama, and Michelle Nunn, in Georgia, had to be prodded to do so. The President was utilized so rarely by Democrats this past election season that the appearances he did make served only to underscore his near-pariah status. Nationally, Obama’s approval rating was just forty-two per cent. But he had a seventy-six-per-cent approval rating among Democrats and eighty-four-per-cent approval among black voters. Tuesday’s electoral returns may have been a referendum on Obama’s leadership, but they also commented on the efficacy of the obstruction and recalcitrance that has attended his time in office nearly since his swearing in.

Why Mitch McConnell Plans To Troll Elizabeth Warren

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), looking forward to a GOP Senate majority, laid out the Republicans' 2015 financial policy platform: trolling Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

"The [Senate] Banking Committee is certainly going to be taking a look at Dodd-Frank," said McConnell, who is widely expected to be the next Senate majority leader, in a Wednesday press conference. "I've called it frequently 'Obamacare for banks.'"

He continued, "The big guys are doing just fine under Dodd-Frank. The community bankers are struggling. I do think the Banking Committee will want to take a look at how much damage it's done to the little guys who had nothing whatsoever to do with the meltdown in 2008. I'd be surprised that the Banking Committee isn't going to look at it."

Triumph of the Wrong

The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet midterms to men of understanding. Or as I put it on the eve of another Republican Party sweep, politics determines who has the power, not who has the truth. Still, it’s not often that a party that is so wrong about so much does as well as Republicans did on Tuesday.

I’ll talk in a bit about some of the reasons that may have happened. But it’s important, first, to point out that the midterm results are no reason to think better of the Republican position on major issues. I suspect that some pundits will shade their analysis to reflect the new balance of power — for example, by once again pretending that Representative Paul Ryan’s budget proposals are good-faith attempts to put America’s fiscal house in order, rather than exercises in deception and double-talk. But Republican policy proposals deserve more critical scrutiny, not less, now that the party has more ability to impose its agenda.

Treasury Department Endorses Student Loan Deals Slammed By Elizabeth Warren

TAMPA, Fla. -- The U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday praised a move, already panned by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), to increase the amount of money the federal government pays its student loan contractors.

In a speech here to consumer rights advocates, Deputy Treasury Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin said her colleagues at the Education Department had recently boosted the amounts paid to companies that handle borrowers’ monthly payments in hopes that better financial incentives will drive them to improve their customer service and work harder to help borrowers avoid costly loan defaults. These companies include Nelnet Inc. and Navient Corp., the former loan servicing arm of student loan giant Sallie Mae.

Judge Approves Bankruptcy Exit Plan For Detroit

DETROIT (AP) — A judge cleared Detroit to emerge from bankruptcy Friday, approving a hard-fought turnaround plan with a fervent plea to the people of this one-time industrial powerhouse to "move past your anger" and help fix the Motor City.

"What happened in Detroit must never happen again," federal Judge Steven Rhodes said in bringing the case to a close a relatively speedy 16 months after Detroit — the cradle of the auto industry — became the biggest city in U.S. history to file for bankruptcy.

Republicans Got Only 52 Percent of the Vote in House Races

As the final Election Day votes are being counted, national attention has focused on the Republicans’ near-sweep of close elections for Senate and governor. But elections for the other congressional branch deserve more scrutiny. Given that Republicans will only win about 52 percent of votes in House races, how are they ending up with 57 percent of seats? Why did Democrats concede control of the House months ago, even when congressional approval is so low?

NAFTA's Commission On Environmental Cooperation 'Dying A Slow Death': Ex-Director

Attempts by NAFTA's environmental watchdog to look into the Harper government's record on salmon farming and the oilsands are at an impasse after deadlines passed for member countries to vote on the investigations.

It's the latest blow to an organization formed to preserve environmental enforcement, but which has now been almost neutered by the governments that created it, said a former director of the Commission on Environmental Cooperation.

F-35 purchase by Canada suggested in Pentagon briefing

A leaked Pentagon briefing says Canada has signalled to Washington that it wants to buy at least four F-35 stealth fighters, but a spokesman for Public Works Minister Diane Finley insisted Friday that no decision has been made.

The slide presentation, delivered to the secretary of the U.S. Air Force on Oct. 27, 2014, shows Canada has asked to swap places with the Americans and place the order in the current fiscal year, which means a possible delivery date of either 2016 or 2017.

“We do not consent to this,” Nisga’a members say of agreement to pursue LNG project

Moments before the official signing of the document, peaceful protester and Nisga’a member Grant Barton walked towards the presidents with a sign and mentioned that he represented 20 family members who were not consulted regarding the agreement.
“Turn around, where are the Nisga’a?” asked Barton. “This is a sad day. We have people over here to say we do not consent to this.”

SFU shows support for professors targeted by Kinder Morgan

More than 300 faculty, librarians, staff and students at Simon Fraser University have signed a letter in support of two SFU professors currently at the heart of a legal attack by Texas-based Kinder Morgan, over a contentious pipeline project on Burnaby Mountain.

Biochemistry professor Lynne Quarmby and literature professor Stephen Collis were named as defendants in a high profile injunction application and civil suit designed to prevent people from interfering with the company’s survey work for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Ukraine Says Tank Column, Artillery Systems And Trucks Have Crossed Into Eastern Ukraine From Russia

KIEV/MOSCOW, Nov 7 (Reuters) - Ukraine's military accused Russia on Friday of sending a column of 32 tanks and truckloads of troops into the country's east to support pro-Russian separatists fighting government forces.

Thursday's cross-border incursion, if confirmed, is a significant escalation of a conflict that has killed more than 4,000 people since the separatists rose up in mid-April and would call into question Russia's commitment to a two-month-old ceasefire deal.

Mia Love: Representative From Nowhere

Of all the victories conservatives are crowing about this week, none seem as welcome as that of Utah's Mia Love, the first black Republican woman ever to be elected to Congress. She's been the subject of fawning profiles and officially dubbed a "rock star" by Michelle Malkin and other right-wing pundits. But Mia Love is a rock star mostly to people who don't live in Utah.

To a person like me, born and raised in Utah, Love's victory is a symbol of our trend toward nationalized elections. Her issues are generic, conservative hobby horses—defund Obamacare, abolish the Department of Education, etc.—the opposite of Tip O'Neill's old adage about all politics being local. She has adopted precisely one Utah-specific platform point from state conservatives—the demand that the federal government turn over to the state all the land it owns in Utah, a long-running and hopeless quest that is deeply opposed by the state's environmentalists. Beyond that, Love, a persona preternaturally well suited for Fox News, has an embarrassingly weak grasp of policy—particularly as it relates to her adopted home state.

Canada fields controversial delegate in China trip

As the Prime Minister meets with top Chinese officials and business leaders to smooth rocky relations and pursue trade deals, it helps to have friendly faces in his entourage – Canadian leaders who may be able to speak Mandarin, know what (or what not) to say, and perhaps navigate the vagaries of guanxi, China’s unique business culture of personalized networks.

One member of the delegation is arguably overqualified. He is a leader of a pro-Beijing Canadian group frequently criticized for its close ties to the Toronto consulate. He is also travelling on taxpayer dollars.

Government spent $121K on Canada-EU summit reception

The federal government spent $121,454 on a Toronto reception for leaders of the European Union in September — a reception which, in turn, led Prime Minister Stephen Harper to offer his guests a $338,000 ride home on a government Airbus.

The reception was a late add-on to a Sept. 26 summit in Ottawa where the leaders celebrated the end of negotiations towards a free trade agreement with Europe, known as CETA [the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement]. 

Homeless woman charged for building her own home

A First Nations woman in Northern Ontario has been issued with a stop work order and faces thousands of dollars in fines for attempting to build a cabin in the place where she grew up.​

Darlene Necan is a member of the Ojibways of Saugeen First Nation, but she's been unable to acquire housing in that community, about 400 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay, since the reserve was created in the late 1990s.

Last year, Necan began building with donated materials on land where her family home once stood, 20 kilometres south of her reserve, in the unorganized township of Savant Lake, Ont.