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.]

Monday, February 16, 2015

Aid to Needy Often Excludes the Poorest in America

The safety net helped keep Camille Saunders from falling, but not Charles Constance.

The difference? Ms. Saunders has a job, and Mr. Constance does not. And therein lies a tale of a profound shift in government support for low-income Americans at a time when stagnating wages and unstable schedules have kept many workers living near or below the poverty line.

Assistance to needy Americans has grown at a gallop since the mid-1980s, giving a hand up to the disabled, the working poor and married couples with children. At the same time, though, government aid directed at the nation’s poorest individuals has shrunk.

Weimar on the Aegean

Try to talk about the policies we need in a depressed world economy, and someone is sure to counter with the specter of Weimar Germany, supposedly an object lesson in the dangers of budget deficits and monetary expansion. But the history of Germany after World War I is almost always cited in a curiously selective way. We hear endlessly about the hyperinflation of 1923, when people carted around wheelbarrows full of cash, but we never hear about the much more relevant deflation of the early 1930s, as the government of Chancellor Brüning — having learned the wrong lessons — tried to defend Germany’s peg to gold with tight money and harsh austerity.

Why George Zimmerman Keeps Getting Away With It

Law enforcement just dropped assault charges against George Zimmerman, who allegedly threw a wine bottle at his girlfriend two weeks ago. According to the Associated Press, Zimmerman’s girlfriendrecanted her statement, continuing a cycle of accusations against Zimmerman followed by recantations that are typical of domestic violence cases.

Boston Using Prison Labor To Shovel Heaps Of Snow In Frigid Temperatures For Pennies

After another 16 inches of snow fell on the Boston area this weekend, bringing the city’s total snowfall for the past month up over seven feet, the beset city is turning to prison labor for help digging out.
A mixture of unionized city workers and state prison inmates worked to clear commuter rail tracks of snow on Monday in hopes of having trains running again when businesses reopen Tuesday after the President’s Day holiday. With air temperatures down in the single digits and wind chill values running below zero fahrenheit, the crews shoveled snow off of tracks and above-ground platforms at the Braintree station outside the city, a key outlying stop on the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority’s (MBTA) red line.

Air Canada, WestJet See Profit Boost With Checked Baggage Fees

MONTREAL - Checked baggage fees are paying off for Canada's two major airlines.

The charges are part of ancillary fees — which also include passenger fees for preferred seating, in-flight meals, and premium economy privileges — that airlines have tapped to boost profits.

"We'll use whatever tools we have at our disposal to drive profitability," Air Canada CEO Calin Rovinescu said this week during a conference call about its 2014 results, making reference to fee hikes, additional seating and raising airfares.

How The Boss May Be Quietly Pocketing Your Server's Tips

Laurie Zabawa says she'd been working at a Hilton Garden Inn in Bozeman, Montana, for seven years when the owners outsourced the management of the hotel in 2012. For Zabawa, the hotel's banquet manager, this meant that any parties that took place in the hotel would now be overseen by an outside firm, an Ohio-based company called Gateway Hospitality Group.

The banquet workers whom Zabawa oversaw weren't being let go, so the service-industry lifer says she took the change in stride -- that is, until Gateway explained the new policy on gratuities.

Germany Maintains Hardline Stance In Greece Debt Talks

PARIS/ATHENS, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Debt-laden Greece and EU paymaster Germany struck hardline postures ahead of a crucial meeting of euro zone finance ministers on Monday on the future of an unpopular international bailout for Athens, but France called for compromise.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble maintained a typically tough line, telling German radio Greece had lived beyond its means for a long time and there was no appetite in Europe for giving it any more money without guarantees.

French Finance Minister Michel Sapin hinted at a slight easing of euro zone opposition to Greek requests for an end to austerity and a new debt deal, saying Europe must respect the political change in Athens.

Canada's Opposition To Palestine's United Nations Involvement Appalling, Says Envoy

OTTAWA - Canada has formally opposed Palestinian attempts to join 15 different United Nations treaties and conventions — a position that puts the federal government on the wrong side of history and at odds with its citizenry, the Palestinian envoy in Ottawa says.

Canada is objecting in writing to the UN because it maintains Palestine is not a legal state. The Palestinians have formally replied to Canada's objections in writing, issuing a pointed reminder that they won non-member observer status in November 2012 at the UN General Assembly.

Troubled times ahead with new anti-terror legislation

Just in time for an election campaign in which Stephen Harper is positioning himself as a war-time prime minister, Bill C-51 (Anti-Terrorism Act 2015) was recently introduced to play a dual role: granting extraordinary new powers to already hyperactive and unaccountable state security agencies, and baiting as "soft on terror" anyone who questions the bill's necessity and the human rights violations it will further legitimize.

Harper started off 2015 by claiming "jihadists" had "declared war" on Canada, later adding a line from the George W. Bush playbook: "They want to harm us because they hate our society and the values it represents." (One thing Harper and others have yet to address is why so-called "jihadists" have not declared war on democracies like Brazil, Argentina, or Costa Rica, which have similar "values," not to mention vibrant celebrations of hedonistic sexuality that might make ISIS cringe.)

Harper may have just turned Indigenous activists into terrorists

Prime Minister Harper's Conservative government has introduced Bill C-51 The Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015,  which it claims is needed to protect Canadians from terrorism. Experts and commentators have called the bill, which will create a secret police force for Harper: terrifying, illegal, unconstitutional, dictatorial and totalitarianism. In case you don't know what totalitarianism means, it's a term usually reserved for fascist (extremist or dictatorial) leaders that lead a centralist government that does not tolerate differences of opinion and tries to exercise dictatorial control over many aspects of public and private life -- including thought. Voila: Bill C-51.

Zoe Ayouka fights for guardianship of daughter over 'outdated' Alberta law

Zoe Ayouka's eyes light up when she talks about her 18-month-old daughter, Khloe.

“She’s big for her age, she’s a tall girl,” said Ayouka, sitting in the dining room of her Edmonton home.

“She loves animals, goes up and gives them kisses. She’s very caring, and loving and sweet.”

Republican majorities struggle to get Congress working

After six weeks in session and 139 roll call votes in a House and Senate that feature some of the largest Republican majorities in generations, one of the most telling statistics from the new Congress is this: President Obama's veto threats outnumber the bills Congress has been able to send him.

When Republicans swept into power last November, they promised a new era of productivity and discipline that would break four years of gridlock. "America's New Congress," they called it.

Scott Walker Would Be the Most Conservative GOP Presidential Candidate in 50 Years

For those of us who are sort of fascinated by the rise of Scott Walker as a Republican presidential contender, here's an interesting chart from Jason McDaniel, a political science professor at San Francisco State University. It shows the relative conservative-ness of GOP presidential nominees in the past six contested elections, and it demonstrates what an outlier Walker would be if he won next year's primary: He'd be the first candidate since Ronald Reagan who's more conservative 
than the average of the Republican field. And by McDaniel's measure,1he'd actually be the most conservative recent nominee, period—even more right-wing than Reagan:
Walker is well to the right end of the conservative spectrum, residing in the ideological neighborhood of Ted Cruz and Rand Paul…It is not a stretch to argue that if nominated, Walker would be the most conservative Republican nominee since Barry Goldwater in 1964.

Foiled Halifax Mass Killings Plot 'Not Linked To Terrorism:' Peter MacKay

HALIFAX - Arrests by police that foiled an alleged plot to attack a public place in Halifax have averted a tragedy that would have been "devastating" for the city, Justice Minister Peter MacKay said Saturday.

MacKay wouldn't say what public place was allegedly targeted to be attacked on Saturday, but he said all who are suspected of being involved are either dead or in police custody.

As Duffy’s day in court draws closer, Harper loyalists should worry

That giant pot-hole on the political highway in front of Stephen Harper is the trial of Mike Duffy.

Every so often, stories pop up about an imminent deal in the Wright/Duffy Affair that would head off the disgraced Senator’s April trial on 31 criminal charges laid against him by the RCMP.

The latest speculative piece came from the CBC. It was quickly and forcefully denied by Donald Bayne, Duffy’s criminal lawyer.

Put it in the bank; there is no deal or deal-making in the works from Duffy or his legal team. If his trial is cancelled or postponed, it will be because of actions taken by the Crown, or God, but not Duffy.

Canada opposes 15 Palestinian attempts to join United Nations treaties

OTTAWA - Canada has formally opposed Palestinian attempts to join 15 different United Nations treaties and conventions — a position that puts the federal government on the wrong side of history and at odds with its citizenry, the Palestinian envoy in Ottawa says.

Canada is objecting in writing to the UN because it maintains Palestine is not a legal state. The Palestinians have formally replied to Canada's objections in writing, issuing a pointed reminder that they won non-member observer status in November 2012 at the UN General Assembly.

The dispute has sparked the most scathing Palestinian criticism to date of the Harper government's unwavering support of Israel.

Aboriginal groups listed on Tory action plan say they were not consulted

Several aboriginal leaders who are listed as having provided input during the creation of the Conservative government’s action plan on violence against aboriginal women say they were not, in fact, consulted.

The discrepancies about the consultation process are surfacing just as native leaders prepare to sit down with federal cabinet ministers at an coming round table on Canada’s more than 1,181 murdered and missing aboriginal women.

How Quickly Politics of Fear Could Transform Canada

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, unless thwarted by a surge of surprising voter intelligence, has found the winning formula. Leading his coven of three-piece-suit and pearl necklace know-nothings, he will rally the electorate in a rout of the mortally dangerous non-Christian hordes within and without our borders, saving God from Allah and leaving Trudeau and Mulcair gasping for air, something they excel at.

As Harper whips up fear of a Muslim enemy he will make it simple to allow hate to spread without appearing to do so. In fact Harper need only mumble "not all people... many are fine, innocent... blah, blah, blah" and play the civil libertarian role.

Hundreds Of Jewish Tombs Damaged In Northern France

PARIS (AP) — Hundreds of graves have been vandalized at a Jewish cemetery in eastern France, in what the president called an "odious and barbaric" anti-Semitic act against French values.

The vandalism comes at a time of growing insecurity among French Jews and amid general religious tensions in Europe, after Islamic radicals attacked a kosher market and a satirical newspaper in Paris last month and similar attacks hit Denmark this weekend.

The 10 Richest U.S. Presidents

The ongoing debate over income inequality has picked up steam, especially as the economic recovery is widely considered to be benefiting the wealthy at the expense of the middle class. In fact, President Barack Obama promised to tackle income inequality in this year’s State of the Union address.

Obama said that the key to the country’s success is “middle-class economics — the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.” Income inequality will likely be a central issue in the 2016 presidential elections.

Pope Francis Slams 'Prejudiced Mentality' Of Believers Who Fearfully Cling To Religious Laws

VATICAN CITY (RNS) In a powerful sermon that signaled his desire to push ahead with historic reforms, Pope Francis on Sunday (Feb. 15) said the Roman Catholic Church must be open and welcoming, whatever the costs.

He also warned the hierarchy not to be “a closed caste” but to lead in reaching out to all who are rejected by society and the church.

Boehner Defends Netanyahu Invite, Blames DHS Standoff On Senate Democrats

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) still isn't ruling out the possibility of a shutdown at the Department of Homeland Security.

Boehner said Sunday on Fox News that he was "certainly" willing to let the funding for the Department of Homeland Security lapse, and that Senate Democrats would be to blame if a deal wasn't reached.

A House bill that would fund the department until the end of the current budget year has been blocked by Senate Democrats because it would also limit President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration. Many Republicans, meanwhile, say they won't support a funding bill that doesn't include those limits.

Stephen Harper’s imaginary justice

When historians look back on Stephen Harper’s time in office, they won’t remember his fiscal management (shaky) or his record as a champion of democracy (laughable). He’ll be remembered as a serial loser at the Supreme Court — and a bad loser, at that.

Last week, the high court dumped a whopper in Harper’s lap when it ruled Canadians in “grievous, unending pain” have a right to end their life with a doctor’s help. This not an issue the Tories wanted to have to deal with, especially in the months leading up to an election. It might get in the way with fearmongering about terrorists in every basement and mosque and boasting about tax breaks for wealthy Canadian families.

List of federal government’s recent Supreme Court losses

The Supreme Court has unanimously struck down Canada’s ban on doctor-assisted death, a practice opposed by the Conservative government. The court, of late, has repeatedly ruled against federal government arguments on a variety of issues. Here’s a look:

Feb. 6, 2015: The court unanimously rejects as unconstitutional the ban on providing a doctor-assisted death to mentally competent but suffering and “irremediable” patients, giving Parliament a year to draft new legislation. The judgment says the current ban infringes on all three of the life, liberty and security of person provisions in Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It does not limit physician-assisted death to those suffering a terminal illness.

Brother of Mohamed Fahmy lashes out at John Baird and Canada's handling of his case

Last week, the family of jailed Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahm were so convinced of his immediate release from an Egyptian prison that his fiancée was shopping for a plane ticket to Canada, and a Toronto hotel room was booked in anticipation of a press conference upon his arrival.

But today, Fahmy -- who was working as the bureau chief for Al Jazeera English when he was arrested more than 400 days ago -- remains behind bars in Cairo. And instead of making plans for his freedom, he is just hours away from an uncertain retrial that has the potential to prolong his imprisonment indefinitely.

Ottawa spends $1.3-million fighting sick moms’ EI disability benefits lawsuit

The federal government has spent more than $1.3-million in legal fees to prevent new mothers who fell seriously ill while on maternity leave from collecting disability benefits in addition to the employment insurance that is paid to new parents.

A class action lawsuit was launched in Federal Court in 2012 by two Calgary women on behalf of an estimated tens of thousands of new mothers who were denied the EI disability benefits or dissuaded from applying for them. It is seeking more than $450-million in compensation.

The War on the War on Poverty

Ten years ago, fresh off his loss to Bush/Cheney as John Kerry's running mate, John Edwards returned home to open a center on poverty at the University of North Carolina School of Law, his alma mater.

Today, that move looks downright prescient: Ranked better than average in poverty in 2005, North Carolina has since experienced the greatest increase in concentrated poverty in the country. Charlotte has the worst upward mobility of America’s 50 biggest cities. In the east, hundreds of black agricultural towns are neglected and abandoned, and in the west, the Blue Ridge Mountains of Appalachia are suffering from a meth and prescription drug epidemic.

Copenhagen Attack: Danish Chief Rabbi Says Europe Jews Should Stay And Fight Terror, Not Flee To Israel

In the aftermath of another sickening attack on Europe's Jews, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has yet again urged Jewish Europeans to consider emigrating.

Danish police shot and killed a man early on Sunday suspected of carrying out shooting attacks at a free speech event and then at a Copenhagen synagogue, killing a Danish documentary filmmaker and then later a member of the Scandinavian country's Jewish community, who had been helping manage security at a young girl's bat mitzvah. Five police officers were also wounded in the attacks.

Lawmaker Opposes Education Funding Because It Would Go To ‘Blacks’ Who Get ‘Welfare Crazy Checks’

A Mississippi state lawmaker said he opposed putting more money into elementary schools because he came from a town where “all the blacks are getting food stamps and what I call ‘welfare crazy checks.’ They don’t work.”
In an interview with the Clarion-Ledger regarding education funding, state Rep. Gene Alday (R) stated his opposition to a push to increase funding to improve elementary school reading scores. Alday implied that increasing education funding for children in black families would be pointless.

Canadian Troops More Likely To Have Experienced Childhood Abuse, Violence: Study

OTTAWA - Canadian soldiers appear to be more likely than their civilian counterparts to have experienced abuse, including corporal punishment, or to have witnessed domestic violence as children, new research aimed at exploring the incidence of depression and suicide in the military suggests.

The as-yet-unpublished findings by health researchers at the Department of National Defence are contained in an internal abstract — an abridged sample of the results — that was recently delivered as a presentation to mental health professionals.