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 20, 2014

Don't Throw Billions at an Obsolete Nuclear Arsenal

This week Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced the results of two reviews of current practices for maintaining the nation's nuclear arsenal. A hard look at the troubled nuclear enterprise was certainly needed in the light of the scandals it has experienced in the past several years, from widespread cheating on competency exams to mishandling of weapons. But unfortunately the review panel's recommendations miss the forest for the trees.

Republicans Could Be Gambling Silicon Valley's Support Over Net Neutrality

Republicans are courting Silicon Valley, eager to make inroads with tech companies and the millennials who love them. The Silicon Valley ethos overlaps in tantalizing ways with the GOP agenda: Both are, to some extent, anti-regulation, pro-innovation, anti-union, and anti-tax. Meanwhile, brands like Instagram and Pinterest are deeply popular with a demographic that Republicans want on their side.

'Persecuted For Being Indian,' Claims B.C. Couple Charged With Poaching

KAMLOOPS, B.C. - A First Nations couple facing poaching charges claim they are being “persecuted for being Indian.”

Jay Coutts and Fara Palmer were in provincial court in Kamloops, B.C., on Thursday to fight the charges, saying their aboriginal rights are being violated.

They have been charged with one count each of trafficking in wildlife, while Coutts faces an additional count of hunting during prohibited hours.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs: Not From Keystone -- From Clean Energy

As Congress tries to go around President Obama to approve Canada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, we continue to hear about jobs, jobs, jobs.

If members of Congress are so concerned about jobs, why in the world are they willing to bet our future on the Canadian pipeline while refusing to support crucial, overdue policies that will expand clean energy that's homegrown right here in the USA?

Los Angeles Schools Win Teacher Sex Suit By Blaming 14-Year-Old Girl

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles school district on Friday removed a lawyer who successfully defended it in a sexual abuse lawsuit in which he told jurors that a 14-year-old girl who had sex with a male teacher shared responsibility despite her age.

The trial victory spared the cash-strapped district a potentially pricey verdict, but news of the trial strategy and remarks by attorney W. Keith Wyatt that it was a more dangerous decision to cross the street than to have sex with a teacher drew criticism.

Bill Clinton's Out of Touch Economically -- and That's a Big Deal

He's eloquent, he's popular ... and he's out of touch with the daily lives of most Americans. Bill Clinton's economic worldview spells trouble, both for a party that's still reeling from defeat and for a nation where millions of people struggle just to make ends meet.

Hillary Clinton, the heavily-favored contender for the Democratic nomination, has made Bill's presidency and her role in it an essential part of her resume. But "Clintonism," the Wall Street-friendly economic ideology of a bygone era, has passed its sell-by date. The former president's latest remarks confirm that.

Putin Under Fire Over Ukraine At G-20 Summit

BRISBANE, Australia, Nov 15 (Reuters) - Western leaders warned Vladimir Putin at a G20 summit on Saturday that he risked more economic sanctions if he failed to end Russian backing for separatist rebels in Ukraine.

Russia denied any involvement in an escalation of the separatist war in eastern Ukraine, where more than 4,000 people have been killed since April, but faced strong rebukes from leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The Roth Blunder Barrels On

The Roth IRA, created by Congress in 1997, resulted from "a conscious, contemptible manipulation of the budget rules."
- John Buckley, former chief of staff for the Joint Committee on Taxation and former chief tax counsel, Committee on Ways and Means

What was true then is truer now. Roths have become a bipartisan affliction: They came in under President Bill Clinton, but Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have added their own wrinkles. Thanks to all three, nobody has to go to the Cayman Islands to find a tax shelter; all they have to do is get their money into a Roth. Legislators continually dream up more ways to make it happen. Even the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has become an enabler, issuing a ruling that creates one more route to a federally sanctioned tax haven.

These High School Students Are Fighting For Medically-Accurate Sex Ed: ‘We Have The Right To Know’

High school students in one Las Vegas area school district are speaking up about why they deserve medically-accurate sex ed classes, saying they don’t want their curriculum to be restricted by parents and legislators who are squeamish about important sexual health topics.

There’s been quite a bit of controversy over sexual education in Clark County School District over the past several weeks. Last month, a small group of vocal parents raised concerns about proposed comprehensive sex ed resources that included factual information about topics like masturbation, abortion, and sexual assault. Following significant pressure from parents who said those subjects were inappropriate, district officials halted their plans to update the current curriculum — and instead instituted a series of school board meetings to solicit more feedback from the community about what to include in sex ed classes.

Obama’s new climate change agreement leaves Canada biting the dust

For a lame duck, Barack Obama is looking distinctly frisky.

In the days since his Democratic Party took a pasting in the midterm elections, the U.S. president has been moving quickly across a number of contentious policy fronts: immigration, “Net neutrality” and now greenhouse gases.

It’s almost as if he feels liberated, as if he has nothing left to lose. As, in fact, he has.

The climate change agreement just concluded with China is both less and more significant than it appears. Less, because it mostly commits the two countries to doing what they were going to do anyway.

The Power Politics Behind China's Climate Pledge

BEIJING –- President Barack Obama had barely finished shaking Chinese President Xi Jinping’s hand to seal this week’s landmark climate agreement before the predictable responses poured in from Washington. Congressional Republican leaders called the agreement “job-crushing” and part of the president’s “war on coal” that was “creating havoc” around the U.S.

Right-To-Carry Gun Laws Linked To Rise In Violent Crimes: Study

Laws in all 50 states permitting people to carry concealed firearms in public have been connected to a rise in violent crimes, according to a new report from researchers at Stanford and Johns Hopkins universities.

The report, published in September and issued as a National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper last week, adds to a series of studies over the last decade tending to discredit the "more guns, less crime" hypothesis, which argues that right-to-carry laws serve as crime deterrents by allowing ordinary Americans to better protect themselves.

Kinder Morgan Wins Injunction To Rid Anti-Pipeline Activists From B.C. Site

VANCOUVER - Activists facing off against energy giant Kinder Morgan have been ordered off a Metro Vancouver conservation site by a B.C. Supreme Court judge who also noted the importance of considering citizens' opposition to activities they view as destructive.

Associate Chief Justice Austin Cullen granted the company an injunction Friday, saying a group of anti-pipeline protesters must dismantle encampments on Burnaby Mountain by 4 p.m. Monday.

Russia To Create Its Own Wikipedia Because Current One Isn't 'Reliable' Enough

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia plans to create its own "Wikipedia" to ensure its citizens have access to more "detailed and reliable" information about their country, the presidential library said on Friday.

Citing Western threats, the Kremlin has asserted more control over the Internet this year in what critics call moves to censor the web, and has introduced more pro-Kremlin content similar to closely controlled state media such as television.

By Worshiping Silicon Valley, Do We Condone Inequality?

When the 2012 Singularity Summit took place in San Francisco, hundreds of people watched artificial intelligence visionary Ray Kurzweil speak in Nob Hill, one of the city's richest neighbourhoods. Afterwards, they descended a steep slope for drinks in the Tenderloin, one of its poorest. Among them was young B.C. writer (and former Tyee intern) Adam Pez, who found it hard to ignore the symbolism. Kurzweil had used upward-sloping graphs to argue techno-progress is inexorable. The steep slope separating downtrodden Tenderloin from wealthy Nob Hill had a similar shape.

Google’s Political Spending Topped All Other U.S. Companies This Year

A new report from the watchdog group Public Citizen tracks the skyrocketing political spending of the tech giant Google, whose known lobbying and donation activity surpassed all other individual corporations in the first nine months of 2014. Google is shelling out more than a million dollars a month to influence national and state politics, but has so far failed to achieve several of its biggest public goals, including a rule protecting net neutrality, passing comprehensive immigration reform, rewriting the US tax code and patent laws, and electing a pro-tech Congress member to Silicon Valley’s seat.

Alabama Defends Marriage Ban With ‘Largely Unbelievable’ Expert

There are still same-sex marriage lawsuits playing out in several states, and state officials are parading some of the same tired claims that have failed elsewhere. Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange (R) is the latest to rely upon biased experts to defend refusing same-sex couples the right to marry.

In his latest brief, Strange cites the research of both Mark Regnerus and Loren Marks. Regnerus’ study claiming that children of same-sex couples have poorer outcomes has been largely debunked, which is perhaps why Strange relies more on Marks, who he has also retained as an expert witness. Marks emphasizes that none of the studies that have found positive results for children of same-sex couples are valid simply because they utilized convenience samples to find the families they studied.

The right-to-water struggle continues in El Salvador

The Blue Planet Project has supported the call for the right to water to be recognized in El Salvador.
Unfortunately, IPS reports, "On October 30, right-wing lawmakers blocked the single-chamber legislature from ratifying a previously approved reform to article 69 of the constitution, which granted the right to water and food the status of a human right, thus forcing the state to guarantee universal access."

Cameron warns Putin as Russian president lashes sanctions

Vladimir Putin has admitted for the first time that he is prepared for his country to face a “catastrophic” slump in oil prices, as David Cameron said Europe would have no choice but to step up sanctions if the Russian president did not abide by previous agreements to respect Ukraine’s independence.

Putin was speaking before a bilateral meeting with Cameron on the margins of the G20 summit in Brisbane. The meeting is likely to be a bruising affair, especially after the British prime minister likened Russia to Nazi Germany, saying Europe had learned lessons from history about how a big country could bully others. Sideline talks between EU leaders and Barack Obama over the Ukraine crisis have also been scheduled.

Senate Democrats Are About to Do Something Truly Stupid

In a cockeyed attempt to save one of their own, Senate Democrats are poised to do something truly stupid. Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu, after failing to win enough votes to avoid a runoff in her Senate race, is centering her prolonged bid for re-election on a bill to fast-track the Keystone XL pipeline. Democrats have long blocked such legislation in the Senate, but all of a sudden they’ve decided to bring it up for a vote, likely before Thanksgiving.

The decision is both hypocritical and irrational. Landrieu’s victory or loss will not alter the balance of the Senate. More importantly, there is no evidence to suggest that passing a pro-KXL bill will improve Landrieu’s chances in the runoff, where she faces Representative Bill Cassidy, a Republican who is just as pro-Keystone as she is. (He sponsored the House version of Landrieu’s bill, and the lower chamber is scheduled to vote Friday.) Landrieu’s entire re-election campaign centered on her being big oil’s best friend; voters know that already, and it wasn’t enough.

Are We Repeating Old Mistakes With the Oil Sands?

Canada's most contaminated site, the Yellowknife Giant Mine, has reached a milestone in its $1 billion taxpayer-funded remedial plan. The dangerous and badly contaminated roaster building, which created hundreds of thousands of tonnes of highly poisonous arsenic trioxide, (enough to kill every human in the world) has finally been demolished.

Trudeau Treats Protesters Very Differently Than Harper. He Talks To Them

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau took a novel approach to dealing with climate protesters who interrupted an event over the weekend. He encouraged them to speak and listened to what they said.

Why the economy sucks, in one chart

The following is something I've prepared for the next issue of CUPE's Economy at Work, a popular economics quarterly publication I produce.
In his annual Economic and Fiscal Update (EFU), finance minister Joe Oliver told Canadians that while the federal government will finally record a surplus next year after seven years of deficits, we can't expect the economy to grow much faster than the slow growth we've experienced since the financial crisis, with economic growth expected to average just 2.4 per cent over the next four years.
Economic growth in this recovery is a third slower than in the recoveries of the '80s and '90s while job and wage growth has also been dismal. And despite all the spending cuts they've made, we also can't expect the federal government to have much extra money because the additional tax cuts they've promised are eating up a lot of the surplus.

Scott Walker: Denying Health Care To Low-Income People Helps Them ‘Live The American Dream’

Defending his fellow Republican governors’ decision to block Medicaid expansion in their states, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) on Friday suggested that denying health coverage to additional low-income Americans helps more people “live the American Dream” because they won’t be “dependent on the American government.”

Walker has recently leveled some criticism at other GOP leaders for accepting Obamacare’s optional Medicaid expansion, saying they shouldn’t necessarily trust the government to come through with the federal funds to cover the policy. During an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Friday, Walker was asked whether his position stemmed from an “ideological criticism,” and if he believes the handful of Republican governors implementing this provision of the health law are not “genuine conservatives.”

Dark side of Canadian mining activities overseas brought to light

Compared to the oil industry, Canada's mining industry isn't known for controversy.

In poorer parts of the world, however, the Canadian mining sector is seen in a different light.  Canada's reputation on this front is being scrutinized once again and the picture remains an ugly one.

In recent weeks, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held its 153rd hearings. The Commission heard of massive human rights abuses—including killings and sexual assaults of Indigenous protesters—at the hands of security forces in the employ of Canadian mining companies and their associates. These acts were in response to protests motivated by concerns over environmental degradation related to mining activities, which ultimately threaten the very survival of the communities in the regions affected by the mines.

Remembrance Day is about the past, not the present

Remembrance Days grow clearer in retrospect. They remember past wars after all, not wars happening now or about to happen. Those are contentious; they involve arguments and disagreements about whether they should proceed. Past wars are simply past. The remembrance focuses on those who suffered or died in them and didn't deserve to, which is the vast majority in all wars.

U.S.-China climate deal poses special challenge for G20-bound PM

Two things happened this week that may come to shape Stephen Harper's leadership, both at home and on the world stage, as he gets set to attend this weekend's G20 summit in Australia.

The first happened Wednesday when Finance Minister Joe Oliver confirmed that the federal budget is back in surplus for the first time since 2008, when Harper agreed to run the biggest budget deficit in Canadian history to try to stimulate the economy out of a global recession.