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.]

Friday, November 14, 2014

Pope Francis and the G.O.P.’s Bad Science

It’s a shame that there is no provision in the Constitution of the United States that would permit Pope Francis to serve as the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Or, for that matter, that there’s no way for him to lead the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Instead, it looks like we are going to have Republicans James Imhofe, of Oklahoma, and Ted Cruz, of Texas in those jobs.

That’s too bad, because the Pope believes that science, rational thought, and data all play powerful and positive roles in human life. The senators seem as if they do not. Last month, Francis made a lot of news when, in an address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, he said, essentially, that the Catholic Church had no problem with evolution or with the Big Bang theory of the origins of the universe. “When we read the account of Creation in Genesis, we risk imagining that God was a magician, complete with an all-powerful magic wand. But that was not so. … Evolution in nature does not conflict with the notion of Creation,’’ Francis said.

Elizabeth Warren On New Leadership Position: 'Nobody's Clipping My Wings'

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) pushed back Thursday evening against the notion that her new Senate position means that she will be a "liberal liaison" between Democratic leaders and the party's progressive base.

"I don't quite understand it," said Warren of the oft-repeated, informal title that's been used in media reports to describe her new leadership position.

The Most Heartbreaking Place In America Is Called ‘Friendship Park’

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA — When former First Lady Pat Nixon traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border in 1971 to inaugurate what is now Friendship Park just south of San Diego, California, she observed the then-thin string of barbed wire separating the two countries and reportedly said, “I hate to see a fence anywhere.” The implication, people thought, was that neither nation would ever build one.

U.N. human rights investigators denied entry to Israel for Gaza inquiry

Israel said late Wednesday that it would deny entry to representatives of the U.N. Human Rights Council who are investigating potential war crimes committed during the summer’s 50-day war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

While widely expected, the decision was likely to trigger fresh international criticism of Israel. The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is already on the defensive over plans for expanding settlements in the West Bank and a growing Jewish presence in traditionally Arab areas of east Jerusalem, which Palestinians want to be the capital of their future state.

Law in the Raw

Nearly a week has gone by since the Supreme Court’s unexpected decision to enlist in the latest effort to destroy the Affordable Care Act, and the shock remains unabated. “This is Bush v. Gore all over again,” one friend said as we struggled to absorb the news last Friday afternoon. “No,” I replied. “It’s worse.”

What I meant was this: In the inconclusive aftermath of the 2000 presidential election, a growing sense of urgency, even crisis, gave rise to a plausible argument that someone had better do something soon to find out who would be the next president. True, a federal statute on the books defined the “someone” as Congress, but the Bush forces got to the Supreme Court first with a case that fell within the court’s jurisdiction. The 5-to-4 decision to stop the Florida recount had the effect of calling the election for the governor of Texas, George W. Bush. I disagreed with the decision and considered the contorted way the majority deployed the Constitution’s equal-protection guarantee to be ludicrous. But in the years since, I’ve often felt like the last progressive willing to defend the court for getting involved when it did.

Jonathan Gruber’s Comments About Obamacare Are Offensive, But They Are Also Untrue

Health care economist Jonathan Gruber recently claimed at a policy conference that lack of political transparency helped Congressional Democrats pass the health care bill into law, attributing its success to “the stupidity of the American voter.” The comments have caused a firestorm of criticism and may even spark a Congressional investigation into the law. But despite the uproar, Gruber’s analysis does not reflect reality.

The Truth About Anonymous’s Activism

This past August, as the outcry grew over the killing of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager who was shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, the hacktivist collective Anonymous took up the cause. On August 14, an Anonymous member posted a YouTube video calling for a “National Day of Rage” to protest the shooting. A computerized voice warbled over an ominous Carl Orff–ripoff score: “We call upon the citizens of the United States to collectively gather in support for those who are suffering in Ferguson.” News sites heralded the heroic arrival of Anonymous. Initially, few of these reports noted that the exact time, date and locations of Anonymous’s National Day of Rage corresponded with a previously planned protest, the National Moment of Silence, spearheaded by black feminist blogger Feminista Jones. Jones was dismayed by Anonymous’s attempt to co-opt her peaceful demonstration and the media’s eagerness to help. “I was bothered that they chose this moment to be destructive, but it showed people just how little they care about the safety and well-being of Black people,” she later told the blog Visual AIDS. “As a Black woman, I’m also used to the historical erasure of our work and theft of our labor.” It only went south from there, after Anonymous’s dramatic claim to have identified the police officer who shot Brown turned out to be wrong.

Watchdog: Wednesday's Big Wall Street Settlement Is "Laughably Inadequate"

On Wednesday, six massive international banks agreed to pay $4.3 billion to settle allegations from regulators in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland that their traders tried to manipulate the $5.3-trillion-a-day foreign-currency exchange market. But Wall Street watchdogs say the banks got off with a slap on the wrist.

From 2008 through 2013, traders at JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, HSBC, the Royal Bank of Scotland, and UBS colluded to coordinate the buying and selling of 10 major currencies to manipulate prices in their favor. The penalties—announced Wednesday by an alphabet soup of American and foreign regulatory agencies—mark the end of the first phase of investigations into the banks that could lead to further fines. They "should be seen as a message to all market participants that wrongdoing and foul play in the financial markets is unacceptable and will not be tolerated," Tim Massad, the chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), said in a statement.

G-20 Meeting Host Australia Determined To Keep Climate On Sidelines

BRISBANE, Australia - G-20 host Australia says climate change and Ebola will be discussed by leaders of the 20 largest economies at a weekend summit here, but those issues will not be allowed to distract from the main agenda of promoting economic growth.

Australia, which is chairing the annual G-20 summit being held this year in the Queensland state capital Brisbane, has resisted pressure from countries including the United States, to make global warming a bigger focus on the economic forum's agenda.

Harper Government's Budget Cuts Killed 37,000 Jobs, Holding Back Recovery: Economists

As Finance Minister Joe Oliver this week touts Canada’s imminent return to balanced budgets, and sells the government’s pre-election tax cuts, some economists argue the Conservatives’ agenda of spending cuts and tax cuts are in part to blame for the country’s slow economic recovery.

The “rush to balance the budget” is “undermining” a return to normal economic conditions, the left-leaning Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) said in a report released Wednesday.

Harper slashes surplus -- take that Mulcair and Trudeau!

Journalists and Official Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair say the Conservatives' latest Fiscal Update is all about the coming election, now less than a year away.
Finance Minister Joe Oliver's bland and predictable financial pronouncement, on Wednesday, was not a serious exercise, just part of the "pre-campaign," they say.
Oddly, though, this year's update is, in fact, not much more than a statement of the current federal fiscal state of affairs.
There is very little, if any, candy for the electorate in Joe Oliver's fall 2014 update.
When the Prime Minister announced income-splitting about two weeks ago he kept the big story for himself and upstaged anything Oliver could have announced this week.

Vladimir Putin Wants to Frighten the World into Respecting Russia

MOSCOW -- At the recent Valdai Discussion Club forum, President Vladimir Putin conducted a three-hour tour of his own special world -- the same world that German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned us he lives in. I must say that Putin's world is more frightening and filled with hidden terrors than any horror movie.

I was most surprised by one of the Russian president's main assertions -- namely, that the collapse of the Soviet Union destroyed a certain system of "checks and balances" that existed during the Cold War.

Peru now has a ‘licence to kill’ environmental protesters

Some of the recent media coverage about the fact that more than 50 people in Peru – the vast majority of them indigenous – are on trial following protests and fatal conflict in the Amazon over five years ago missed a crucial point. Yes, the hearings are finally going ahead and the charges are widely held to be trumped-up, but what about the government functionaries who apparently gave the riot police the order to attack the protestors, the police themselves, and – following Wikileaks’ revelations of cables in which the US ambassador in Lima criticized the Peruvian government’s “reluctance to use force” and wrote there could be “implications for the recently implemented Peru-US FTA” if the protests continued – the role of the US government?

Here's What the Supreme Court Could Do to Insurance Premiums In Your State

More than 800,000 Floridians would see their monthly insurance premiums rise, from an average of around $70 to an average of around $350, or roughly a factor of five. More than 600,000 people in Texas, about 325,000 in North Carolina, and another 275,000 in Georgia would see insurance premiums soar by similar amounts.
Nationwide, more than 4 million people living in 37 states would be in situations like these. Most would have no way to pay the higher bills, forcing them to drop insurance coverage altogether. Their sudden absence would destabilize insurance markets in those states, giving carriers reason to raise premiums by additional amounts or to flee the states altogetherwhich would, in turn, lead more people to give up insurance.

Elizabeth Warren Could Join Senate Leadership: Sources

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is under consideration for a leadership position in the Senate Democratic caucus, according to sources familiar with the negotiations.

Senate Democrats will be holding theirleadership elections Thursday morning. A source saw Warren coming out of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) office Wednesday.

Obamacare vs. Scaliacare

Republican leaders in the House and Senate have made clear that they’ll deploy every weapon in the legislative arsenal to repeal the Affordable Care Act. They’ll try to chip away at the taxes that support it and abolish the mandates that make its insurance markets work.

They might even stand on their heads and stop breathing if that would do the trick.

It’s a shame they are approaching matters this way. Various provisions of the ACA have helped well over 100 million Americans, including about 20 million who gained coverage or got new insurance under the law.

The rich are getting richer — and faster than you think

The Onion magazine suggests we should consider the gap between rich and poor the Eighth Wonder of the World — “a tremendous, millennia-old expanse that fills us with both wonder and humility … the most colossal and enduring of mankind’s creations.”

Another aspect of the rich-poor gap that has always filled me with wonder is how the rich manage to keep it off the political agenda.

The dramatic increase in the incomes of the wealthy — even as the incomes of most working people have been stagnant or declining — is surely one of the most significant changes in our society in recent years. Yet it is never treated as a pressing issue that must be addressed — or as much of an issue at all.

Alberta's big problem is the same as Russia's -- so what's Stephen Harper doing about it?

The Globe and Mail, tireless cheerleader for the Harper Government, was gloating Monday about the impact falling oil prices, a declining ruble and the bite of Western sanctions are having on Russia, which, the Report on Business rejoiced, is being pushed toward the brink of recession.
Woo-hoo! That'll teach those Russkies to try to keep NATO missile forces off their strategic front porch!
As we all know, rattling Canada's largely non-existent sabres at the Russians, exaggerating the threat posed to Canada by post-Soviet Russia and caricaturing Russian President Vladimir Putin as the Beast of the East is a key wedge issue in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's 2015 re-election armoury. It's thought to play well in places like Winnipeg and Edmonton.

Russia Stations Warships Off Australian Coast Ahead Of G-20 Summit

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Vladimir Putin is underlining his presence at a major summit of world leaders in Australia by stationing warships in waters off the country's northeastern coast, prompting the Australian prime minister to angrily accuse Russia of trying to reclaim the "lost glories" of the Soviet Union.

The diplomatic drama, which has been simmering since a Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down over an area of Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists in July, threatened to overshadow Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott's goal of keeping this weekend's G-20 summit focused on economic growth.

Al Franken Was Liberal Enough, Tough Enough, and Doggone It, People Reelected Him

One evening a few days before the midterm elections, Sen. Al Franken stood on a low raised platform at Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party's St. Paul headquarters, addressing a few dozen loyal supporters. Chris Coleman, St. Paul's mayor, had introduced the freshman senator by telling the crowd that Franken had fulfilled the legacy of the late progressive icon Paul Wellstone, whose Senate seat Franken now holds. "Thank you for saying I've been your Paul," Franken replied solemnly. "There's no higher compliment." Then he dove into a Wellstone-esque speech selling progressive policy ideas in simple, everyman terms, spelling out exactly how he'd raise taxes on Minnesota millionaires to help students refinance their loans. "We up here believe that the economy—and not just our economy, but our community and our state—it works from the middle up," he said. The speech exemplified how Franken campaigned—and why he won.

The final front: Veterans versus Harper in 2015

John Ralston Saul is probably right — our Maple Leaf Mussolini would have impressed old Benito himself, shiny boots and all.

Canada’s Master Confuser has hit all the hot buttons in recent weeks and many Canadians responded exactly as he had hoped. They stampeded like a herd of gazelles pursued by starving lions.

Stephen Harper emerged from the storage closet following the attack on Parliament Hill to declare Canadians would not be intimidated. He linked two disturbed killers to terrorism long before the shaky ‘proof’ was produced.

Canadian officials deny reports of secret fighter jet purchase

Senior Canadian government officials say Canada will under no circumstances be purchasing F-35s on an expedited basis and that no decision has been made on which new warplane to buy.

In the face of a U.S. military report that Ottawa has made a secret decision to buy U.S. F-35 stealth fighters, officials say the lack of firm details on cost and capabilities has not instilled confidence. They say Lockheed Martin has not provided Canada with enough basic information to justify acquiring the overbudget F-35s, which constitute the most expensive military procurement program in U.S. history. The fact that glitches prevented Lockheed Martin from flying the F-35 at this summer’s Farnborough airshow in Britain only increases caution in Ottawa, a senior Canadian official said.

Tax cuts for the affluent the real Harper government priority

What is a Fiscal Surplus For?

For the Harper Conservatives, a fiscal surplus is the means to provide tax cuts for the affluent while posing as good fiscal managers.

To achieve a balanced budget, the federal government has imposed deep cuts to federal program spending. The impact of these cuts on services to Canadians is real, and will be felt even more in the future.

We were told that these cuts were necessary to balance the books. But the real priority is tax cuts for the affluent.

Angry Veterans To Soldiers: Help Us Beat Harper In Next Election

OTTAWA - A group of angry veterans, who want the Harper government defeated in the next election, is appealing to serving members of the military to join them in protest.

Ron Clarke, a member of Canada Coalition for Veterans who has been campaigning against the closure of Veterans Affairs offices, made the appeal Wednesday during a Parliament Hill news conference.

It may put those in uniform in an awkward position, but Clarke says they need a government sensitive to veterans and their needs.

Ontario's Job Numbers Point To A Reversal Of Fortune In Canada's Economy

We’re all used to hearing about Alberta being the place in Canada to find work, but here’s something we’re not used to hearing: Ontario is leading job growth in the country, and by a mile.

It’s a clear indicator that slumping oil prices, coupled with a recovery in the U.S. economy, are turning economic fortunes around in Canada. The West may not be the best for much longer.

Mulcair: Harper Government's Projected Surplus 'A Mirage'

TORONTO - Federal New Democrat Leader Tom Mulcair says the Harper government's projected surplus for next year is a "mirage" because it is based on billions of dollars in cuts to much needed programs.

Mulcair made the comments in Toronto moments after Finance Minister Joe Oliver delivered the government's fall fiscal and economic update, which predicts a $1.9-billion surplus for next year.

Will Republican Know-Nothings Torpedo Climate Progress?

The first order of business for the new GOP majorities in both houses of Congress is to dismantle as much of President Obama’s agenda as possible—starting with climate change. This is not mere speculation: the first two items prospective Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell cited to reporters the day after the elections were authorization of the Keystone XL pipeline and rollback of the Environmental Protection Agency’s recently announced but not yet implemented rules on carbon dioxide emissions. Then, reacting to Obama’s November 11 announcement of a genuinely historic climate accord with China—for the first time, China agreed to an absolute limit on its emissions (by 2030), while the United States pledged to accelerate its own reductions through 2025—McConnell attacked the deal as an “unrealistic” job killer.

Chinese hack U.S. weather systems, satellite network

Hackers from China breached the federal weather network recently, forcing cybersecurity teams to seal off data vital to disaster planning, aviation, shipping and scores of other crucial uses, officials said.

The intrusion occurred in late September but officials gave no indication that they had a problem until Oct. 20, said three people familiar with the hack and the subsequent reaction by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which includes the National Weather Service. Even then, NOAA did not say its systems were compromised.

Pope To G20: 'Unbridled Consumerism' Damages The Planet

In what has become an annual ritual, Pope Francis now sends a letter to whomever is chairing the G20 each year to express his concerns about the global economy and the state of world affairs. Here is his letter this year to Tony Abbott, the prime minister of Australia, who is chair of the G20 Leaders' Summit that convenes in Brisbane Nov. 15-16:
THE VATICAN -- The G20 agenda in Brisbane is highly focused one efforts to relaunch a sustained and sustainable growth of the world economy, thereby banishing the spectre of global recession.

Israel Says Will Not Cooperate With UN Gaza Investigation

JERUSALEM, Nov 12 (Reuters) - Israel said on Wednesday it would not cooperate with a United Nations Human Rights Council investigation into this year's Gaza war because its findings were "pre-determined."

The U.N. panel, due to make its first report by March, is meant to look into the conduct of both Israel and Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls Gaza, during the 50-day conflict.

Ukraine's Army Prepares For Possible Rebel Offensive

KIEV/DONETSK, Ukraine, Nov 12 (Reuters) - Ukraine said on Wednesday it was redeploying troops in the east because of fears separatists will launch a new military offensive, despite Russia's denials it has sent troops to reinforce the rebels.

A ceasefire agreed by the pro-Russian rebels and government forces more than two months ago is now all but dead, and Western fears of a return to all-out conflict are growing.

U.S. General Philip Breedlove, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, said the alliance had seen Russian troops and tanks entering Ukraine in the past few days, confirming reports by international observers.

Farm owner fears his horses will be “swimming in oil”

“The horses graze 5-10 feet from the pipeline, if there’s a spill, which I’m sure there will be, our horses will be swimming in oil,” said Ryan Theriault, owner of Tranquil Acres, a therapeutic equestrian centre outside of Ottawa.
The existing pipeline, which carries natural gas, runs just on the opposite side of Theriault’s property line and through wet lands that he owns.

Fast Food Marketing Disproportionately Targets Kids In Black Neighborhoods: Study

Kids are a lucrative prize for the fast food industry: Studies have found that kids can form strong bonds with certain brands, and that those bonds can last for their entire lives.

A new study from Arizona State University has found that fast food restaurants more aggressively target certain kinds of children with marketing: specifically children living in middle-income neighborhoods, rural communities and majority black neighborhoods. The research will be published in the December edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Spanish shepherds, sheep protest in Madrid streets

Shepherds guided a flock of 2,000 sheep through Madrid's streets on Sunday in defence of ancient grazing, droving and migration rights increasingly threatened by urban sprawl and modern agricultural practices.

Tourists and city-dwellers were surprised to see the capital's traffic cut to permit the bleating, bell-clanking parade to pass the city's most emblematic locations.

Fearing Bombs That Can Pick Whom to Kill

On a bright fall day last year off the coast of Southern California, an Air Force B-1 bomber launched an experimental missile that may herald the future of warfare.

Initially, pilots aboard the plane directed the missile, but halfway to its destination, it severed communication with its operators. Alone, without human oversight, the missile decided which of three ships to attack, dropping to just above the sea surface and striking a 260-foot unmanned freighter.

GOP Sets Its Top Priority For 2016: Defeating Harry Reid

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans, riding high after capturing the majority, said Wednesday that a top priority in 2016 will be defeating Democratic leader Harry Reid.

"It's not just about being in the majority, it's about expanding the majority at this point," Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., told reporters. "We'll do whatever it takes to make that happen."

Republicans Slam China Climate Deal As They Welcome Their Senate Majority

WASHINGTON -- The only climate change Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was interested in Wednesday was the one coming to the U.S. Senate, as he greeted a new crop of GOP senators-elect on Capitol Hill.

As for President Barack Obama's announcement on Wednesday of a climate agreement with China, McConnell was far less impressed, and slammed the White House for ignoring the desires of the GOP.

The likely Senate majority leader's warm welcome of new Republican lawmakers, coupled with his harsh assessment of Obama, was the latest sign suggesting that the relationship between Congress and the White House will be even more contentious over the next two years.

Climate Crisis, the Deindustrialization Imperative and the Jobs vs. Environment Dilemma

Since the 1990s, climate scientists have been telling us that unless we suppress the rise of carbon dioxide emissions, we run the risk of crossing critical tipping points that could unleash runaway global warming, and precipitate the collapse of civilization and perhaps even our own extinction. To suppress those growing emissions, climate scientists and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have called on industrialized nations to slash their carbon dioxide emissions by 80 to 90 percent by 2050. (1)

Food Banks Were Meant to be Temporary. So Why Are They Growing?

The recent Hunger Count by Food Banks Canada is now a week old, but with the way things are digressing it might very well be next year's news, and that of the year after, and the year after.

This is one of the reasons why The Economist reversed its judgment of a decade ago and now labels us as, "Uncool Canada (The Moose Loses Its Shades)." Any nation, or its people, that continues to tolerate the proliferation of food banks in a world of financial abundance has clearly lost its appeal to the better angels of our nature. We've all known for some time now that democracy and economics seem to be veering off on different courses. The wealth that so easily flows around the globe isn't settling on middle-class families and the fate of those on the financial margins now appears permanently precarious.

Alberta's Oil Boom Had Strong Impact On Canada's Wealth

Many Canadians have a love-hate relationship with the energy sector.
We love it for the jobs but hate the fact that Canada is often seen as a climate change villain, whether the description is fair or not.
But just how much does the Canadian economy, especially the job market, depend on the energy sector?

Mussolini would have envied Harper’s style: John Ralston Saul

Stephen Harper is running Parliament in a manner that fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and Argentinian strongman Juan Perón would admire, says John Ralston Saul in his latest book.

In The Comeback, a book about the social and political progress being made by Canadian aboriginals, Saul says the prime minister’s use of gigantic omnibus bills makes a mockery of democracy.

“This was a direct negation of our democratic system,” Saul writes in reference to two omnibus bills — C-38 and C-45 — which he says amended 133 laws.

PS jobs disappearing faster than expected, report says

Canada’s Conservative government has wiped nearly 37,000 people off the federal payroll and reduced key services for Canada’s veterans and the unemployed and budgets for food safety in the “rush” to pay for its promised tax cuts, according to a new report.

The report, by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, concludes that the Conservatives are able to realize their promised surplus and tax breaks at the expense of front-line services, corroded by steady spending cuts that will continue for another two years — even after the books have been balanced.

“Those cuts to services aren’t being reversed. There are no plans to bring back any of those services,” said David Macdonald, senior economist at the CCPA.

Why America is the most unequal society in the developed world

The American people have spoken. But what did we really say about inequality?
At first glance, it seems that extreme inequality mattered little to the majority of voters who put pro-business candidates into office. After all, the Republicans, along with far too many Democrats, are certain to cater to their Wall Street/CEO donors. Do Americans really want an ever-rising gap between the super-rich and the rest of us?

‘Secretive’ Tory dining clubs bankrolling election campaign in key seats

“Secretive” Tory dining clubs are bankrolling the party’s general election campaign in key marginal seats that will determine the result of next year’s vote, according to an analysis of official figures.

Labour accused the Tories of “secrecy rather than transparency” after the figures showed the clubs have provided £642,634 to its key battleground seats since the last election.

Jon Ashworth, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, said the Tories were exploiting a loophole in the law, which permits anonymous donations of up to £7,500 to “unincorporated associations”. Individuals who give more than £1,500 to a local party have to reveal their identity.