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, January 22, 2015

Five Years After Citizens United, Billionaires Are Buying Democracy

Five years after the Supreme Court's disastrous 5-4 decision in Citizens United, there's a lot to be angry about.

With election spending out of control, and super PACs empowering giant corporations and billionaires like no time since the Gilded Age, Big Money is not just influencing who's elected to office in this country, but what elected officials do.
Consider how the new Congress has opened: A House of Representatives leadership effort to skirt normal procedure and rush through a repeal of key Dodd-Frank provisions to rein in Wall Street speculative activities. A House of Representatives vote to authorize construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. A House vote to handcuff consumer, health, safety, environmental and other regulatory agencies so that they cannot issue new rules to address corporate abuse and protect the American public. Another House vote to repeal the Dodd-Frank measure, after the initial rush effort failed to garner a needed two-thirds majority. Meanwhile, in the slower-moving Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has decided Keystone legislation will be the first significant matter taken up.

Israel’s Netanyahu Was Imported by GOP to Ensure a War with Iran

Republican House Majority leader John Boehner secretly invited Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to Washington to address Congress and then once it was set up he let Barack Obama know about it.

The reason for bringing Netanyahu is that Boehner wants to craft a super-majority in Congress that can over-ride Obama’s veto of new sanctions on Iran.  He doesn’t have enough Republican votes to do so, but if he can get Democrats beholden to the Israel lobbies of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to join the veto over-ride effort, he might succeed.

Breathing Air Shouldn't Be This Dangerous

Looking at China's recent surge of toxic smog, it's clear the nation's air pollution crisis isn't going away any time soon. Now we have some fresh statistics that reveal the extent of the problem.

New rankings released today by Greenpeace reveal that 90 percent of Chinese cities that report their air pollution levels are failing to meet China's own national standards—the latest indication of the monumental challenges facing the Chinese government in cleaning up the air breathed by tens of millions of people. It's a worry that has become a political thorn in the side of the Communist Party, intent on maintaining its power in the face of growing public restlessness over environmental degradation.

City Wifi: Fast, Cheap, and No You Can't Have It

It's Friday afternoon in San Francisco and, to be honest, I'm sick of being in the office. So I've slipped out and headed over to Union Square Park, where I'm sitting on a bench watching Japanese tourists taking selfies on the ice rink. But before you call me a slacker, you should know I'm also online and working, courtesy of the free wireless internet service the city provides.

Since October, visitors to most San Francisco parks as well as a stretch of Market Street, the city's main business corridor, have been able to access to the city's fast-growing municipal broadband network. City-owned networks have been gaining popularity nationwide as a way to bridge the digital divide between rich and poor, foster competition with cable companies, and provide high-speed internet in underserved areas. Last week, President Barack Obama talked them up as a way to promote "better products and cheaper prices." In Tuesday's state of the union speech, he pledged to bring the internet to "every community and help folks build the fastest networks, so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world."

Wolf Cull a Necessary, 'Desperate' Strategy to Save Caribou, Says Conservationist

While many conservationists have spoken out against the B.C. government killing nearly 200 wolves in an attempt to protect endangered mountain caribou, others are offering cautious support for the cull.

"A wolf cull is a desperate measure made necessary by ongoing habitat loss and degradation," said John Bergenske, the conservation director for Wildsight, an environmental group in the East Kootenay, in an email. "It is not a solution; it is an unfortunate and distasteful stopgap measure that may buy time for recovery."

On Jan. 15, the provincial government announced it would immediately begin killing between 120 and 160 wolves in the South Peace region of northern B.C., and 24 wolves in the South Selkirk in southeastern B.C. In both cases, the plan is for ministry staff in helicopters to shoot the wolves before the snow melts.

How Inequality Became the Status Quo

When Oxfam recently published its new report, "Wealth: Having It All and Wanting More," the media fuss was surprising. After all, we've been hearing about inequalities of wealth and income for many years (especially here at The Tyee).

But it was still shock to learn from Oxfam that just 80 people saw their collective wealth rise from $1.3 trillion in 2010 to $1.9 trillion in 2014. (All figures in U.S. dollars.)

What's more, Oxfam predicted that by 2016 those 80 individuals will be as rich as the poorest half of humanity -- some 3.6 billion people -- whose total wealth has actually been decreasing since 2010.

France To Get Better Guns, More Intel Agents To Fight Terror

PARIS (AP) — Reeling from the Paris terror attacks, France announced broad new measures to fight homegrown terrorism like giving police better equipment and hiring more intelligence agents, as European officials sought to strike the right balance between rushing through tough counterterrorism laws and protecting treasured democratic rights.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls laid out the counterterrorism initiatives just as the Paris prosecutor announced preliminary charges against four men for allegedly providing logistical support to one of the attackers behind a three-day spree of violence this month that killed 17 people before the three gunmen were shot dead by police.

North Dakota Pipeline Leaked 3 Million Gallons Of Brine In Oil Drilling

Cleanup is underway after nearly 3 million gallons of brine, a salty, toxic byproduct of oil and natural gas production, leaked from a pipeline in western North Dakota, the largest spill of its kind in the state since the current energy boom began.

The full environmental impact of the spill, which contaminated two creeks, might not be clear for months. Some previous saltwater spills have taken years to clean up. A contractor hired by the pipeline operator will be on site Thursday, assessing the damage.

Operator Summit Midstream Partners LLC detected the pipeline spill on Jan. 6, about 15 miles north of Williston and informed North Dakota officials then. State health officials on Wednesday said they weren't given a full account of the size until Tuesday.

NAFTA’s Pioneering Investor-State Rules Force Democratically-Elected Governments to Pay to Govern

The year was 1994. Corporate Capital was King. Canada’s Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, America’s Ronald Reagan and Mexico’s Carlos Salinas sat down together to draft what was dubbed a North American New World Order. Henceforth, at least in North America, the rights and interests of multinational business took precedence over the rights of citizens.

More than two decades later, the situation has worsened, according to Scott Sinclair, research fellow with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, where he directs its Trade and Investment Research Project. While there is a growing global backlash against Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), it is still eagerly embraced by Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservatives.

Harper government policies risk more terrorist attacks: Mourani

Canada risks being the target of more terrorist attacks and reprisals for its positions on the Middle East because the Harper government is doing little to try to prevent young Canadian Muslims from becoming radicalized, says MP Maria Mourani.

Mourani, who is set to joined by NDP Leader Tom Mulcair Wednesday evening when she’s acclaimed as the New Democratic Party’s candidate in the Montreal riding of Ahuntsic-Cartierville, says Canada’s military mission in Iraq is being used in propaganda that jihadists are putting online to try to recruit disillusioned young people – many of whom are being discriminated against in Canada because of their ethnic backgrounds.

Terrible optics: Connecting the dots to Jim Prentice's sweet little T-Bird

On its own, the story about Premier Jim Prentice’s $59,400 classic car auction payout in Arizona, at the tail end of a government business trip to Texas, is not much more than a curiosity worthy of a chuckle or two about how some people just don't seem to get the obvious.
Yes, the optics seem terrible at a time when Albertans are being told they'll have to tighten their belts because of the plummeting price of oil, all the more so if you ask me when it's revealed our One Percenter premier bought the white and baby blue '56 T-Bird as an eventual gift to his grandson.

Carrier Sekani Chiefs to Province: Reset Talks on Natural Resource Development

The "Premier's BC Natural Resource" Forum this week in Prince George provides an important opportunity for First Nations and the provincial government to refocus and develop a new way to address government-to-government engagement.

The present approach by the Crown to addressing land, resource development decision-making and environmental, social and other significant impacts raised by First Nations has not been successful.

The unanimous decision of the Supreme Court of Canada on June 26, 2014 provides clear guidance to governments and industry proponents when it said:

GOP Plans To Give Explosive Document Back To CIA

WASHINGTON -- The new GOP chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee intends to give back to the CIA an explosive, secret document that has been at the center of a years-long struggle between Congress and the executive branch.

The chairman, North Carolina’s Richard Burr, is also asking executive branch agencies to return unredacted copies of the 6,600 page torture report, he told The Huffington Post in an interview Tuesday night.

Twenty Pounds of BS in a Ten-Pound Bag

Let me be perfectly clear from the jump: It was a fine speech, one of the best of President Obama's political career, which makes it automatically one of the best in the State of the Union's august history. The last fifteen minutes, in particular, were absolutely soaring, not just in rhetoric, but in the delivery as well. The man parked it as deep as it can be parked, like a majestic David Ortiz line drive deep into the bleachers at Fenway, thanks for coming, turn out the lights when you leave. No one does it better that Barack Obama when the bright lights are on.

...and when it was over, my immediate thought was of Steven the Irishman, the self-declared madman from the film Braveheart. Mel Gibson had just given his rousing speech to keep the Scots from fleeing before the battle at Stirling Bridge.