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.]

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Affordable Housing Initiative Demands Action For Historic Rental Crisis We Can't Ignore

Advocates are proving why home is so much more than a place to store your belongings.

Home Matters, a campaign supporting affordable housing initiatives nationwide, is using the month of February to highlight the importance of having a safe and comfortable place to call home. The group points out that there are proven connections between an individual's home and their potential to access quality education, benefit from dependable public safety and receive proper healthcare.

"Home is where the heart is," the video reads. "In fact, home is where it all starts."

Canada Shouldn't Model Dodgy European Austerity, Warns Political Economist

Canada risks facing the same economic woes as Europe if the federal government does not back away from its zero-deficit idealism, warns a professor at Rhode Island's Brown University.

Mark Blyth is an Eastman Professor of political economics at Brown's Watson Institute and an outspoken critic of austerity measures.

Current threats to Canada's economy mean that austerity could push the country into a recession, he said.

John Baird made a mess of foreign policy

So now it falls to Robert Douglas Nicholson — the plodding journeyman — to inherit the world of John Baird.

The office will elevate Nicholson, but will Nicholson elevate the office? Will he bring to it less certainty and more humility? After Baird, the mogul of the megaphone, it won’t be that hard.

To his chorus of admirers, Baird was “principled.” He was “a rare beacon of light” and “a pillar of strength.” He was “a great foreign minister.”

That superlative comes from Jason Kenney, the new defence minister. Ironically, Kenney should be foreign minister; more than anyone in cabinet, Kenney has the intelligence and sophistication for serious diplomacy.

Stephen Harper plays the politics of hate against Muslims

Quebec’s charter of values was designed to tap into anti-Muslim bigotry. But the Parti Québécois government of Pauline Marois couldn’t quite figure out how to target Muslims alone. Wrapping itself in the secular flag, it proposed a ban on all religious attire and symbols, hoping that the Montreal Jewish General Hospital and institutions of other faiths would take up its offer of opting out for five years. That would clear the way to ban niqab-wearing women from accessing public services, including health, and fire hijab-wearing women from daycare centres and the health sector. PQ strategist and cabinet minister Jean-FrançoisLisée admitted that much: “We are not dummies. Nobody will be at the doors of Jewish hospitals taking kippas off of doctors’ heads. That’s not the case.”

There Is A Way To Fix First Nations Education And This Is How It Starts

When 12-year-old Shannen Koostachin walked into a school in suburban Toronto in 2007, she wondered why it was so much nicer than her own.

In this school, students learned in bright classrooms. Shannen went to class in a cold portable trailer. Her school didn’t have a playground or a library or a computer lab or a gym. Why did schools in this part of Canada have these things, but not in her community?

Muslim group says PM is making veil issue ‘unnecessarily’ important

CALGARY - A Muslim group based in Calgary is urging the prime minister to reverse his plans for the government to appeal a court ruling on face coverings.

The Islamic Supreme Council of Canada says the Federal Court's decision to allow face coverings during citizenship ceremonies is "not an important issue," but that Stephen Harper is "unnecessarily" making it one.

The council says it's clear that wearing a niqab, which is worn by some Muslim women in public areas and in front of men who are not relatives, is not a security issue.

This Airline’s Flight Attendant Policies Are Straight Out Of The 1960s

The world’s 10th largest air carrier imposes rules on its flight attendants that are literally from the 1960s.
Qatar Airways requires female flight attendants to be single to get hired, and they have to stay single for five years, according to Chico Harlan at the Washington Post. They have to ask permission if they want to get married.
And while the rules require flight attendants to notify the airline as soon as they know they’re pregnant, pregnancy is a breach of contract and can end up getting them fired.

Arkansas House Votes In Favor Of LGBT Discrimination

On Friday, the Arkansas House of Representatives voted 57-20 in favor of a bill that would bar cities and counties from sanctioning LGBT anti-discrimination laws.

Arkansas state Sen. Bart Hester (R), who sponsored the bill, told BuzzFeed News that creating uniform policies across the state will attract businesses and that he was angered by one city’s repeated attempts to expand rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.

“There are many things necessary for stability -- and civil rights need to not be a volatile situation,” he said.

States Consider Increasing Taxes for the Poor and Cutting Them for the Affluent

A number of Republican-led states are considering tax changes that in many cases would have the effect of cutting taxes on the rich and raising them on the poor.

Conservatives are known for hating taxes but particularly hate income taxes, which they say have a greater dampening effect on growth. Of the 10 or so Republican governors who have proposed tax increases, nearly all have called for increases in consumption taxes, which hit the poor and middle class harder than the rich.

Favorite targets for the new taxes include gas, e-cigarettes, and goods and services in general. Gov. Paul R. LePage of Maine, who wants to start taxing movie tickets and haircuts, is also proposing a tax break for the lowest-income families to relieve some of the pressure.

Bush blows away GOP rivals with 2016 war chest

Jeb Bush’s money juggernaut is far eclipsing the efforts of his would-be rivals for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, putting his two political committees on pace to amass an unprecedented sum of tens of millions of dollars by early spring.

The former Florida governor’s overwhelming dominance in the race to line up financial backers has come at a speed that has impressed longtime Republican money players, who say wealthy party backers have rapidly migrated to Bush since 2012 nominee Mitt Romney decided against another White House run two weeks ago.

Washington Police Shooting Could Prompt Investigation

PASCO, Wash. (AP) — A county coroner in southeastern Washington said Friday he plans to order an inquest into a deadly police shooting in hopes of defusing rising tensions.

The family of an orchard worker killed Tuesday after he was accused of hurling rocks at police has filed a $25 million claim with the city of Pasco and the president of Mexico reiterated his country's condemnation of the violence against a Mexican citizen.

Police involved in the investigation confirmed Friday that Antonio Zambrano-Montes was not armed with either a gun or a knife. Whether he had a rock in his hand when he was shot is still under investigation, Kennewick police Sgt. Ken Lattin said.

Democrats Need an Elizabeth Warren for Foreign Policy

It’s not exactly surprising news, but The Wall Street Journal reported Friday morning that Hillary Clinton is leaning towards a much more interventionist foreign policy than Barack Obama, should she become president:
Private meetings that she’s held with various foreign-policy experts offer some hints as to how she might part ways with President Barack Obama when it comes to crises in Ukraine, Syria and other global trouble spots. The major takeaway from these private talks is that she wants a strategy more suited to shaping conditions overseas, as opposed to reacting to events as they arise, people familiar with the meetings said.…
“She’s much less risk-averse” than Mr. Obama, said Aaron David Miller, vice president of the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars who has taken part in Mrs. Clinton’s foreign-policy briefings. [Emphasis added.]

Obama Wanted To Stop Endless Wars. He'll Leave Office Waging One.

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama made waves this week by sending a proposed Authorization for Use of Military Force to Congress for its consideration.

What was striking about his proposal wasn't so much that it came six months after the start of the U.S. military campaign against the Islamic State militants, but that it was constructed in a way that makes it operationally pointless.

Supreme Court Exempts Lawyers From Part Of Money-Laundering Law

OTTAWA - Sections of the federal government's anti-terrorism and money laundering financing law are unconstitutional because they violate solicitor-client privilege, the Supreme Court of Canada declared Friday.

In a 7-0 ruling , the court carved out an exemption for lawyers from the federal government's 2000 law that targets money laundering and terrorist financing. The law still applies to other professions, such as financial institutions and accountants.

Peter MacKay's friends, colleagues make up 6 of 9 judge appointees

A news site connected to the Broadbent Institute is raising questions about why six of the nine judges appointed to Nova Scotia courts since October 2013 have personal, professional or political connections to Justice Minister Peter MacKay. 

MacKay was appointed attorney general and justice minister in 2013.

Bennett: A Demagogue on the Loose

It is hard to imagine how a devious, delusionary and destructive individual like Naftali Bennett, the leader of the Jewish Home party, can rise to prominence while openly advocating a racist political agenda. His "solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a recipe for obliterating Israel as both Jewish and democratic, and converting it into an apartheid state, reviled by the international community and condemned to live in isolation and disgrace.

No, this is not what Israel was created for, and the fate of the country cannot be entrusted to the hands of a conniving hypocrite like Bennett. He is an imposter whose rainbow political agenda is nothing but a cover for an insidious plan to deprive the Palestinians of a state their own, but little does he realize that it will bring Israel ever closer to self-destruction.

Why the U.S. has come down easy on white-collar crime

To hear U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder tell it, justice was served when Standard & Poor’s agreed to pay US$1.5 billion for its role in contributing to the devastating 2008 financial crisis. The ratings agency, recall, slapped “investment-grade” labels on scores of securities backed by risky subprime mortgages—loans handed to homebuyers with bad credit or no verifiable income—that were ultimately sold to unsuspecting investors. Emails entered as evidence by government prosecutors suggested several S&P employees knew full well that the products were garbage. One even joked about the looming danger in an email that reimagined the lyrics to Burning Down the House by Talking Heads. A snippet: “Watch out. Subprime is boiling over.”

AP Investigation Finds High Civilian Death Toll In Airstrikes On Homes In Gaza

RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) -- The youngest to die was a 4-day-old girl, the oldest a 92-year-old man.

They were among at least 844 Palestinians killed as a result of airstrikes on homes during Israel's summer war with the Islamic militant group, Hamas.

Under the rules of war, homes are considered protected civilian sites unless used for military purposes. Israel says it attacked only legitimate targets, alleging militants used the houses to hide weapons, fighters and command centers. Palestinians say Israel's warplanes often struck without regard for civilians.

House Begins Passing Series of Deficit-Hiking Tax Cuts

WASHINGTON -- One of the few bipartisan goals that President Barack Obama and Republicans agree on is comprehensive reform of the tax system, but Democrats cried foul Friday as GOP leaders in the House began passing permanent tax cuts that opponents believe would make that reform harder.

The House voted 272 to 142 to make permanent a number of temporary provisions that are aimed at helping businesses earning up to $2 million. The main cut, which would add $77 billion to deficits over 10 years, allows businesses to immediately write off new equipment purchases up to $500,000. Temporary versions of the measure have been passed about a dozen times before, generally as economic stimulus measures.

Conservatives Have Waged a 50-Year War to Prove the News Media Can't Be Trusted

When the Brian Williams scandal broke, conservatives touted it is as a breakthrough moment in their war on media bias. Urging NBC to keep Williams in the "Nightly News" anchor chair, Tom Blumer at PJ Media speculated, “If the network continues to keep a serial fabricator on board, it will convince many of those who still buy what the press is selling that something is fundamentally wrong.” Sarah Palin also cast Williams errors onto the entire news industry, asking, “If they lie about things like this, what and who else do they lie about?”

Another Day, Another House Bill That Proves Republicans Don't Care About the Deficit

When President Barack Obama unveiled his budget a few weeks ago, Republicans dismissed it immediately as unserious. “With even all of these tax increases, you don’t even balance the budget, not even in ten years, because you don’t get spending under control,” Rep. Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said. Ryan and his Republican colleagues, you see, are very concerned about the deficit. Any budget that doesn’t balance is unacceptable.
Or maybe they aren’t so concerned. On Thursday, the House passed a tax break for charitable giving that did not include a spending offset. Also on Thursday, the Ways and Means Committeethe same one Ryan chairspassed three other tax breaks that would increase the deficit by nearly $300 billion over the next 10 years, according to the left-leaning Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. The House is expected to take up that legislation after next week.

"Carceral Conglomerate" Makes Millions From Incarcerated, Their Friends and Families

Miguel Saucedo grew up in the Latino neighborhood of Little Village in Chicago. Now almost 30, Miguel recalls taking a five-hour drive as an 8-year-old to visit his older brother who was incarcerated downstate at Menard Correctional Center.

His family would load into a rented van for a daylong trip through long stretches of cornfields and arrive at a high-security fortress in the town of Chester, which bills itself as the "Home of Popeye the Sailor Man." Miguel recalls those journeys as a traumatic experience, at times the family being pulled over by local police and harassed along the way.

Power Brokers’ Chains Hold Back Forest Protections

LONDON—The world will not, on present rates of progress, reach its goal of ending tropical deforestation within 15 years.

The Global Canopy Programme (GCP), a thinktank based in Oxford, UK, says many of those who could protect the forests by ensuring that deforestation does not contribute to commodity supply chains are failing to act.

The GCP, which draws together international experts on tropical forests, has compiled what it says is the first comprehensive ranking of the “Forest 500” ? power brokers who control the global supply chains that drive over half of tropical deforestation.