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.]

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Tsipras Says Greece Will Not Give In To 'Blackmail' After Talks Break Down

ATHENS, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Tuesday his government would not succumb to "blackmail" and would instead quickly start voting in new laws to reverse bailout reforms.

In a combative speech, he signaled little intention of backing down Greece's clash with its euro zone partners, despite a looming financial crisis.

Barbara Lee Does Not Want Congress to Write Another Blank Check for Perpetual War

Barbara Lee wants Congress is get serious about issues of war and peace.

The California congresswoman who cast the sole vote against authorizing George W. Bush to wage an ill-defined “war on terror” has been the House’s most consistent advocate for greater congressional engagement in debates about US foreign policy—and for seeking smart and comprehensive alternatives to endless war. In this pursuit, Lee has been willing to criticize Republican and Democratic administrations that seek blank checks from Congress. And she has often developed bipartisan coalitions to demand accountability from presidents and the Pentagon.

Tim Hortons' new owner lost $514M in quarter after Burger King merger

Restaurant Brands International Inc. lost $514.2 million US, or $2.52 per diluted share, in the fourth quarter as the company behind Burger King completed its acquisition of Tim Hortons.

The loss compares with a profit of $66.8 million, or 19 cents per diluted share, in the same period a year ago, when Tim Hortons wouldn't have been included in the numbers.

Hillary Clinton, Privately, Seeks the Favor of Elizabeth Warren

Hillary Rodham Clinton held a private, one-on-one meeting with Senator Elizabeth Warren in December at Mrs. Clinton’s Washington home, a move by the Democrats’ leading contender in 2016 to cultivate the increasingly influential senator and leader of the party’s economic populist movement.

The two met at Whitehaven, the Clintons’ Northwest Washington home, without aides and at Mrs. Clinton’s invitation.

This Supreme Court Decision Could Encourage One Of The Worst Forms Of Racism

For the larger part of the 20th century, housing discrimination in the United States was overt and unambiguous. Racial segregation was largely the norm, and those who worked to preserve it were under little obligation, legal or social, to hide their intentions. At least it was easy to spot:
Across the street from a federal housing project built for black residents of Detroit in 1942. (Photo via Arthur S. Siegel/Library of Congress)

Student Loan Debt Is Hurting More Than Just Our Wallets

Finding it hard to get that student-debt monkey off your back? You're not the only one.
A study in the January edition of Social Science & Medicine has found evidence that high levels of student debt are linked to negative psychological impacts like depression, stress and generally worse mental health.

How Germany and the U.K. Benefited From Greece and Spain’s Brain Drain

As Greece tries to come to an “honorable agreement” with austerity-loving eurozone finance ministers, let’s not forget who stood to gain the most from the financial crises in southern Europe. Just a few years ago, The New York Times reported on how a “robust Germany ... desperate for educated workers” had “begun to look south for the solution.” Lo and behold, a few years of austerity measures and intense amounts of suffering later, countries such as Greece and Spain found they’d experienced the departure of thousands of skilled professionals. And where are these workers now?

Visiting My Friend in Putin's Prison Camp

MY FIRST STOP at Sadovaya Prison Colony No. 2 in central Russia is the visitors' intake center. I've traveled for 14 hours on an overnight train that reeked of fetid socks to see my imprisoned friend, environmental activist Yevgeny Vitishko. By my noon arrival at the colony, I'm already running late, and reams of red tape await before I'll be able to see him.

I've come to these cold mud flats 440 miles south of Moscow for the first interview Vitishko has given in the seven months since February 12, 2014, the day he was sent away in the midst of the Sochi Winter Olympics.

We Lock Up Tons of Innocent People—and Charge Them for the Privilege

The United States has a prison problem. We have just 5 percent of the world's population but 25 percent of its prisoners. Even though our imprisonment rate has grown more than 400 percent since 1970, locking people up has not proved to be a deterrent.

The prison problem also extends to jails, which hold defendants awaiting trial and prisoners sentenced for minor offenses. A new report from the Vera Institute of Justice, a nonprofit focused on justice policy, reports that America's local jails, which hold roughly 731,000 people on any given day, are holding more people even though the crime rate is going down. Jails disproportionately detain people of color longer and for lesser crimes. The report also finds that jails are less likely to give inmates the rehabilitation and mental-health support that could keep them out of prison.

Defining 'terrorism' after the Halifax mass-shooting plot

It can't happen here.
It won't happen here.
It -- almost -- did.
But what is "it"? And how do we protect ourselves against whatever it is?
On Friday night, I was at Scotiabank Centre enjoying the Mooseheads-Shawinigan Cataractes Quebec Major Junior Hockey league game. During another commercial lull -- the game was televised nationally during Hockey Day in Canada -- I flipped open my Twitter stream: "#Halifax police say they have foiled mass-shooting plot…"

When fear triumphs over rationality: Harper's new anti-terror legislation

In the Oxford English Dictionary the definition of the word "fear" reads as follows: "an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain or harm."
Stephen Harper must have learned this definition by heart. The way he uses fear on the Canadian population to pass his proposed new anti-terror legislation is working to perfection, as least so far.

Stockholm's Transit Expansion: Big Plans, Few Complaints

Year by year our traffic gets worse. Radio stations spend more time alerting listeners to accidents and stalls on Vancouver's streets and highways, while untold thousands of commuter hours are wasted in "busy" traffic jams.

Yet somehow we really can't get behind the idea of a serious public transit system. To many Vancouverites, the bus is still the "loser cruiser," and SkyTrain (if it even goes where we want it to) involves too much walking. Each new SkyTrain line seems to involve political acrimony, as when the Canada Line's construction threw Cambie Street businesses into disarray for years.

University fee deregulation to drive up the deficit: analysis

The Abbott government's  plan to deregulate university fees would likely drive up inflation and drain billions of dollars from the budget over the long term rather than saving taxpayers money as originally intended, according to one of the nation's top economic modellers.

The analysis, presented to an off-the-record forum attended by parliamentarians and policy experts last week, has hardened the stance of key Senate crossbenchers whose votes will be crucial for the government to achieve its aim of passing higher education reform by March.

How Trade Deals Boost the Top 1 Percent and Bust the Rest

Suppose that by enacting a particular law we’d increase the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. But almost all that growth would go to the richest 1 percent.

The rest of us could buy some products cheaper than before. But those gains would be offset by losses of jobs and wages.

This is pretty much what “free trade” has brought us over the last two decades.

‘Anti-petroleum’ movement a growing security threat to Canada, RCMP say

The RCMP has labelled the “anti-petroleum” movement as a growing and violent threat to Canada’s security, raising fears among environmentalists that they face increased surveillance, and possibly worse, under the Harper government’s new terrorism legislation.

In highly charged language that reflects the government’s hostility toward environmental activists, an RCMP intelligence assessment warns that foreign-funded groups are bent on blocking oil sands expansion and pipeline construction, and that the extremists in the movement are willing to resort to violence.

Greece Does Battle With Creationist Economics: Can Germany Be Brought Into the 21st Century?

Europeans have been amused in recent weeks by the difficulty that Republican presidential candidates have with the theory of evolution. But these cognitive problems will only matter if one of these people gets into the White House and still finds himself unable to distinguish myth from reality. By contrast, Europe is already suffering enormous pain because the people setting economic policy prefer morality tales to economic reality.

This is the story of the confrontation between Greece and the leadership of the European Union. The northern European countries, most importantly Germany, insist on punishing Greece as a profligate spender. They insist on massive debt payments from Greece to the European Union and other official creditors to make up for excessive borrowing in prior years.

NSA Has Ability To Hide Spying Software Deep Within Hard Drives: Cyber Researchers | By

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb 16 (Reuters) - The U.S. National Security Agency has figured out how to hide spying software deep within hard drives made by Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba and other top manufacturers, giving the agency the means to eavesdrop on the majority of the world's computers, according to cyber researchers and former operatives.

That long-sought and closely guarded ability was part of a cluster of spying programs discovered by Kaspersky Lab, the Moscow-based security software maker that has exposed a series of Western cyberespionage operations.

Republicans' Curious Ideas About Contraception

Trying to follow the logic of certain Republican lawmakers in Congress can make one feel a bit like Alice on a visit to Wonderland. I am hardly the first to suggest the general comparison, but it strikes me as particularly appropriate when it comes to their opposition to making contraception easily available and affordable.
The GOP politicians can be, to use the phrase of Lewis Carroll, author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, "entirely bonkers" on the birth control issue. And their arguments get "curiouser and curiouser," leaving an ordinary observer feeling much as Alice did in the first chapter, "falling down a very deep well."

West Virginia Oil Train Derailment Sends Crude Tanker Into River

MOUNT CARBON, W.Va. (AP) — Fires burned for hours Tuesday after a train carrying 109 tankers of crude oil derailed in a snowstorm alongside a West Virginia creek, sending fireballs into the sky and threatening the nearby water supply.

Hundreds of families were evacuated and two water treatment plants were shut down after dozens of the cars left the tracks and 19 caught fire Monday afternoon, creating shuddering explosions and intense heat.

Part of the formation hit and set fire to a house, and one person was treated for smoke inhalation, but no other injuries were reported, according to a statement from the train company, CSX.

Historical Truth, Nazis and the Corruption of the Federal Judiciary

There was a time when it was permissible to think that the chief purpose of the judicial branch of government was to protect our constitutional rights as a check on runaway legislative majorities or executive overreach. To fulfill that duty, a judge is insulated from partisan maneuvering by a grant of lifetime tenure and a constitutionally guaranteed salary. In return, the federal judge must show discretion, decorum and above all, an unwillingness to be drawn into partisan quarrels. This behavior is known as having a judicial temperament.

The tradition of apolitical judges has come under strain recently, given the habit of even Supreme Court justices to pop off like opinionated customers in a saloon (I'm thinking of you, Tony Scalia). But new ground has been broken in partisan mudslinging by Justice Laurence H. Silberman, an appellate judge appointed by Ronald Reagan. He has taken to the pages of Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal to attack as dangerously irresponsible the millions of Americans who believe George W. Bush lied about the presence of weapons of mass destruction as a pretext for invading Iraq.

Why Is No One Talking About the GOP’s Plan to Send Millions of Disabled Americans Into Poverty?

Despite their virtues, many conservative Republicans have an unfortunate habit of picking on the weak and disadvantaged, slandering the people least able to fight back. We saw a glimpse of this callousness in Mitt Romney’s disparagement of the “47 percent” who are “takers” living off the hard-working “makers.” The newly empowered GOP majority in Congress is going down the same road—targeting the millions of sick or injured Americans who receive Social Security disability payments.

This is a favorite old canard of self-righteous right-wingers. They label these unfortunate people as shiftless and suggest none too subtly that many are faking their injuries and illnesses. The GOP has been pushing this cold-hearted slander for at least thirty-five years, ever since the glorious reign of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s (who remembers Reagan’s imaginary “Welfare Queen” who drove to pick up her welfare check in a Cadillac?).

We Need Syriza in Illinois

The new governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, is a hedge fund manager whose salary last year was $60 million. He spent $65.9 million—including $27.6 million of his own money—buying his last election, and he’s about to introduce an austerity program that will make most folks in Illinois think they are living in austerity-wracked Greece, with less idyllic weather. While he’s generating national headlines by trash talking unions, he is quietly taking a scalpel to every important social program in the state, starting with an Illinois program that subsidizes high-quality childcare for 160,000 low-income kids. Instead of extending a small tax increase that passed the Illinois legislature in 2011, staving off a crisis, he’s letting the increases expire. Rauner is methodically manufacturing an economic crisis for his state, one that will let him do what he has long been set on doing: shrink the government and squeeze the 99 percent.

Former part-time soldiers now waiting up to two years for severance pay

OTTAWA - Nicholas Vanderplas, a former corporal and part-time member of the infantry, says he's used to shoddy paperwork in the army, but waiting nearly two years for $4,500 in severance pay has exhausted his patience.

He is not alone.

As of last week, there was a backlog of 2,754 severance payment cases waiting to be processed.

And those part-time soldiers who are on the list now, having just left the military, face longer waits than those just a few years ago.