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, February 12, 2015

New Tory employment minister brings American-style right-wing agenda to the job

The Harper administration has just appointed Pierre Poilievre, the former Conservative minister for democratic reform, to minister of employment and social development.

Maclean's magazine once described the controversial and fiercely partisan 35-year-old MP as "the baby face of Canadian conservatism." For the past few years, he has pushed right-wing policies similar to those advocated by the American Koch brothers and the Tea Party movement they fund.

Minister Poilievre expressed his desire to implement anti-union "right to work" legislation in 2012, at the same time that U.S. states such as Wisconsin and Michigan passed legislation that undermined unions.

Republicans Eye Changes to Food-Stamp Program

House Republicans are laying the groundwork for a revision of the food-stamps program after its sharp expansion during the recession.

The effort kicks off Feb. 25 when the House Agriculture Committee holds the first of several hearings scheduled this year on food stamps, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R., Texas), who is leading the charge, said he wants to stay away from the type of party politics that can doom reforms before they are proposed. But as the son of a roughneck on oil rigs, he said he favors the kind of hard work that “built America,” suggesting any changes will lead to a smaller program and fewer recipients.

Bill de Blasio Is Caving to New York Cops -- What happened to the mayor's pledge to reform the NYPD?

It would be a mistake to interpret the charging of Peter Liang, the officer who shot and killed unarmed Akai Gurley in Brooklyn, as a sign that the grand jury system works and that New York City is making strides in the field of police accountability. Mayor Bill de Blasio, for all his talk of peace-building between communities and police, could barely even muster a three-sentence statement, calling Gurley’s death “an unspeakable tragedy” and urging “everyone to respect the judicial process as it unfolds.”

Why Public Banks Outperform Private Banks

In November 2014, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Bank of North Dakota (BND), the nation’s only state-owned bank, “is more profitable than Goldman Sachs Group Inc., has a better credit rating than J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and hasn’t seen profit growth drop since 2003.” The article credited the shale oil boom; but as discussed earlier here, North Dakota was already reporting record profits in the spring of 2009, when every other state was in the red and the oil boom had not yet hit. The later increase in state deposits cannot explain the bank’s stellar record either.

A Field Guide To Europe's Radical Right Political Parties

From Greece and France to Sweden and Denmark, Europe's far-right parties have taken the spotlight in recent months. Trading on sometimes vitriolic anti-euro, anti-immigrant sentiment, as well as renewed security fears, parties of the far-right have taken the center stage in protests and elections.

These parties have not emerged overnight. In fact, many have lingered on the fringe of Europe's political landscape for decades. The WorldPost presents a guide to some of the most prominent radical right parties active in Europe today.

Obama Isn't Ready to Give Up His Broad War Powers

“I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF’s mandate," President Barack Obama said at the National Defense University in May 2013, referring to the 2001 authorization to use military force. "And I will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate further."

It appears only one of those two statements was true.

Selective Outrage and Public Health: There Are Greater Dangers Than Anti-Vaxxers

Outrage at the public health threat posed by anti-vaxxers is necessary, but we also need to scrutinize corporate corruption and systemic fraud that engenders faulty science, and poses an arguably larger threat to public health.

The recent measles outbreak with its epicenter in Disneyland has highlighted a problem in media discourse around public health and vaccines, though it may not be the problem that first comes to mind: The problem is selective outrage.

While a minor outbreak of measles may certainly be newsworthy, there have been several, more serious recent outbreaks stemming not from an anti-vaccination movement, but rather from the purveyor of MMR vaccines itself: Merck & Co Inc.


When the RCMP announced an anti-terrorism arrest in Ottawa last week, the timing could not have been better for a federal government that appears to thrive on national security hysteria.

After all, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, positioning himself as a wartime leader protecting Canadians from terrorists, had just introduced Bill C-51, legislation that would vastly increase the powers of Canada's state security agencies.

Facebook feeds were immediately full of Conservative-sponsored clickbait about "Protecting Canadians From Terrorist Threats" and Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney's personal message proclaiming that "jihadists have declared war on us all."

Government wonders: What’s in your old emails?

WASHINGTON — If you’ve been remiss in cleaning out your email in-box, here’s some incentive: The federal government can read any emails that are more than six months old without a warrant.

Little known to most Americans, ambiguous language in a communications law passed in 1986 extends Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure only to electronic communications sent or received fewer than 180 days ago.

The language, known as the “180-day rule,” allows government officials to treat any emails, text messages or documents stored on remote servers – popularly known as the cloud – as “abandoned” and therefore accessible using administrative subpoena power, a tactic that critics say circumvents due process.

The failure that is food policy in Nunavut

The Canadian government's food policy is having dire consequences for communities in Nunavut. Aside from being proof of further deterioration of government-Indigenous relations, Canada's food policy has been an illustration of mismanagement and the consequences of what occurs when a program lacks transparency and denies power to those it claims to protect.
Historically, it's always been more expensive to transport food to Nunavut (or any rural community) but costs of $55 for infant formula and $105 for a case of water is causing Canada's Nutrition North Program to be seen as a failed attempt by the Canadian government to subsidize the food that gets to Nunavut.

HSBC files reveal how UK's non-dom tax concession is being exploited

The leaked HSBC Swiss files reveal how widely Britain’s unique “non-dom” tax concession is being exploited.

The government says the controversial tax status is supposed to be to the nation’s benefit, by encouraging wealthy foreign investors to spend time in Britain.

But the account records, previously a closely guarded secret, show that many other types of people have been exploiting its loose terms, and depriving the UK and other countries of tax revenue.

With These Hires, Congress Becomes Even More Like a Corporation

Until a few weeks ago, Joel Leftwich was a senior lobbyist for the largest food and beverage company in the United States. During his tenure at PepsiCo—maker of Cheetos, Lay’s potato chips and, of course, Pepsi-Cola—the company had played a leading role in efforts to beat back local soda taxes and ensure that junk food remained available in schools. But PepsiCo also faced new challenges at the federal level. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, championed by Michelle Obama, had placed new nutrition standards on school lunches. PepsiCo sent teams of lobbyists to Capitol Hill, deluged political candidates with donations, and fired off letters to regulators asking them to weaken the new rules. One such PepsiCo letter requested the redefinition of a “school day” so the company could continue to sell its sugary sports drinks at “early morning sports practices.” Leftwich, a former congressional liaison for the Department of Agriculture, was well positioned to help PepsiCo shore up its allies in the House and Senate.

Hey Harper, Mosques Don't Create Terrorists

I've prayed in downtown Toronto mosques, on multiple occasions, in the last week. According to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, that means I may be a frequent visitor to a terrorist breeding ground.

On January 30, a reporter asked Harper how newly-introduced anti-terror legislation will differentiate between somebody who is "radicalized" and "a teen who's just messing around in the basement." Harper answered by saying promoting terrorism is a serious offence no matter "what the age of the person is, or whether they're in a basement, or whether they're in a mosque or somewhere else."

3 Muslim Students Were Gunned Down In Possible Hate Crime. How Muslims And Atheists Are Responding

Three young Muslim students were gunned down in their North Carolina family home Tuesday evening in what is being investigated as a possible hate crime.
According to North Carolina news station WRAL, the students were shot dead in their house on Summerwalk Circle in Chapel Hill around 5 pm. Locals reported hearing gunshots before the police arrived. The victims were found dead at the scene, all of them shot in the head.
46-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks has been arrested and charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the case after he turned himself in to police early Wednesday morning. According to postings on his Facebook page, Hicks was a fervent atheist, and posted images of his gun in the past as well as several images decrying both Islam and religion in general.

The Most Common Type of American Terrorist Is a White Man With a Weapon and a Grudge

Yesterday, an outspoken white atheist murdered three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. We don’t yet know for sure whether this was a hate crime or whether the killer, Craig Stephen Hicks, had some other motivation; police have said the crime may have grown out of a dispute over parking. We do know that had Hicks been a Muslim and his victims atheists, few would be waiting for all the facts to come in before declaring him a terrorist. We know that there would be the usual calls for other Muslims to condemn the killings, coupled with the usual failure to take note of the many Muslims who did. And we know that demands for Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins to distance themselves from Hicks are largely facetious, because no one really blames them. Violence perpetrated by Muslims is almost always seen as part of a global conspiracy, whereas white men like Hicks are usually seen as isolated psychopaths.

Aglukkaq's Nutrition North Comment Criticized As 'Dangerous Political Thinking'

Months after Auditor General Michael Ferguson lacerated the federal government’s inadequate oversight of Nutrition North, a Conservative cabinet minister reiterated it’s up to retailers to make sure food subsidies are passed on to shoppers.

“At the end of the day, the retailers have to ensure that the federal subsidy is being passed on to the consumers,” Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq told APTN News at an Economic Club of Canada luncheon on Feb. 3.