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.]

Friday, March 06, 2015

Obama’s Police Reforms Ignore the Most Important Cause of Police Misconduct

President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing has released a long list of reforms to American policing, some of which, including independent police prosecutions and dramatically scaling back the role of police in schools, are true advancements. However, there are also major pitfalls in the report’s reliance on procedural rather than substantive justice.

Liberal police reforms of the 1960s, including the Katzenback Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice and Johnson’s Safe Streets Act, were intended to achieve similar ends of improving police community relations and reducing police brutality through police professionalization and a host of procedural reforms. The result of this process, however, was the massive expansion of policing in the form of SWAT teams, the War on Drugs and, ultimately, mass incarceration.

Why Are Liberals Resigned to Low Wages?

Liberals need to own the wage problem. Wages remain lower than they were before the Great Recession, following a generation of virtually no growth. Identifying why this is, and understanding the way out, will be essential as the economy gains steam yet still leaves many people behind. And this, in turn, will require overthrowing the reigning attitude that liberals have brought to our economic crisis. Let’s call it liberal nihilism.

Liberal nihilists try to explain why the economy isn’t serving workers, but they do so in ways that render us powerless to fix the problem. There’s a version where workers simply don’t have the education or skills necessary to handle new high-tech jobs. There’s another, similar story in which robots and globalization are taking all the jobs, leaving workers behind in the process.

Bill C-51, Tories' Anti-Terror Legislation, 'Clearly Excessive': Privacy Czar

OTTAWA - The scope of the Conservative government's anti-terrorism bill is "clearly excessive" and puts the personal information of Canadians at risk, the federal privacy commissioner warns.

In a submission to the House of Commons public safety committee, Daniel Therrien says measures in the bill to guard against unreasonable loss of privacy are "seriously deficient."

In their own brief to the committee studying the bill, Therrien's provincial and territorial counterparts say the provisions significantly expand government powers to monitor and profile ordinary, law-abiding Canadians.

Faith-based policy and the West's dangerous game with Russia

What are the consequences when elected governments make policy based on faith and imperial hubris instead of science and expertise? It's a question that is forcing itself on the world as we watch the U.S., Britain, NATO and the Harper government continue to up the ante in the confrontation with Russia over Ukraine. There are real enough geopolitical dangers in the world without actually creating them out of arrogance and ignorance but that is where we are right now, and the consequences could be catastrophic.
Canada, Britain, the U.S. and the boys with their toys in NATO headquarters are looking for a fight with Russia. Throughout the confrontation and provocations these protagonists treat Russia as if it is some insignificant middle power that can be provoked with impunity. That is just dangerously stupid and stupidity is something the West can ill-afford given all its internal problems -- economic stagnation, unsustainable inequality, collapsing infrastructure.

Privacy Commissioner slams anti-terror legislation Bill C-51

Canada's Privacy Commissioner, Daniel Therrien, has issued a devastating critique of the Conservative government's anti-terror legislation, Bill C-51. 
At the time the Conservatives unveiled Bill C-51, cabinet ministers told Parliament that the government had "consulted" the Privacy Commissioner. 
They did not say what the Commissioner's view of the legislation was, but gave the impression he was onside.

Alain Philippon phone password case: Powers of border agents and police differ

The case of Alain Philippon, a Quebec man who was charged for refusing to give up his smartphone password at the Halifax airport, illustrates the differences in search-and-seizure powers of border agents and police, but may also signal a need to update such laws governing officials at the border.

"If a police officer stops me on the street and says 'Empty out your bag' for no good reason [and] they don't allege I've committed an offence, that's patently illegal," said Benjamin Berger, an associate professor at Osgoode Hall Law School of York University. "And yet I habitually do it when I take an airplane. Why? Because no one has forced me to go to the airport."

Alberta Plans Huge Energy Lease Sale On Range Used By Caribou

EDMONTON - The Alberta government is holding a huge new sale of energy leases more than 10 times the size of previous offerings on endangered caribou habitat.

Bidding is to close next Wednesday on 21,000 hectares in northwestern Alberta that are home to the Redrock-Prairie Creek herd, which both the federal and provincial governments have promised to protect.

More red meat for the hang-‘em-high crowd

In the kick-ass rodeo of Canadian politics, Stephen Harper has created a new event: Trojan horseback riding.

C-51 is supposed to confer safety and security on Canadians. Hidden inside are the seeds of a police state.

Before that, Bills C-38 and C-45 were supposed to “streamline” governance. In the belly of these undemocratic monstrosities was legislation designed to gut environmental law, axe the federal spy watchdog and empower the cabinet to approve pipelines over the heads of regulatory boards.

Conservatives' Facebook post promoting Bill C-51 may be violation of same law: expert

Even some Conservatives say the party’s Facebook post promoting its anti-terrorism bill, using an image of a Somali militant and a quote threatening an attack on the West Edmonton Mall, was over the top. But the ad may also be in violation of the very law the government is trying to implement.

Thomas Lukaszuk, an Alberta Progressive Conservative MLA, says the post "touches on divisive politics.'

"It touches on capitalizing fear -– that's just not what I would do," Lukaszuk said.

Why is the West Spoiling for a Fight with Russia?

What are the consequences when elected governments make policy based on faith and imperial hubris instead of science and expertise? It's a question that is forcing itself on the world as we watch the United States, Britain, NATO and the Harper government continue to up the ante in the confrontation with Russia over the Ukraine. There are real enough geo-political dangers in the world without actually creating them out of arrogance and ignorance but that is where we are right now and the consequences could be catastrophic.

Canada, Britain, the U.S. and the boys with their toys in NATO headquarters are looking for a fight with Russia. Throughout the confrontation and provocations these protagonists treat Russia as if it is some insignificant middle power that can be provoked with impunity. That is just dangerously stupid and stupidity is something the West can ill-afford given all its internal problems -- economic stagnation, unsustainable inequality, collapsing infrastructure.

World Bank Admits It Ignored Its Own Rules Designed To Protect The Poor

The World Bank, created to fight poverty, has admitted that it’s failed to follow its own rules for protecting the poor people swept aside by dams, roads and other big projects it bankrolls.

This conclusion, announced by the bank on Wednesday, amounts to a reversal of its previous efforts to downplay concerns raised by human rights activists and others working on behalf of the dispossessed -- people evicted from their land, sometimes in violent ways, to make way for World Bank-financed initiatives.

Unions Are Key to Tackling Inequality, Says Top Global Financial Institution

Rising inequality is directly tied to waning rates of unionization, says a groundbreaking report released recently by the International Monetary Fund. Tackling the escalating problem of inequality -- which endangers democratic institutions, limits economic mobility, and constricts economic growth -- requires restoring the rights of workers in the United States and around the world to bargain collectively.

Don Young Suggests Wolves Could Help Get Rid Of Homeless People

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) suggested Thursday that the solution to homelessness is wolves.

Young made the comment during a House Natural Resources Committee hearing during an exchange with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. He was arguing that gray wolves should be taken off the endangered species list, criticizing the National Park Service and his congressional colleagues who seek to protect the animals.

I Was Alabama’s Top Judge. I’m Ashamed by What I Had to Do to Get There.

I felt trapped. I had made it to the top of my profession. I was the chief justice of Alabama, the first woman to head the state Supreme Court. It was, for a lawyer like myself, the pinnacle of achievement. And I’d earned it the hard way. To get to the justice’s chambers, I had won the nation’s most expensive judicial race that year. But at what cost?

I had needed $2.6 million to win—and that money had to come from somewhere. My opponent had raised even more, nearly $5 million in all. It’s terribly awkward and uncomfortable for a judge to have to ask for campaign money. But how are you going to win without it? My biggest concern is how shameful all of this looks to the public.

Why Conservatives' Prison Reform Plans Won't Work

At the close of last year, in an interview with the Wichita Eagle, conservative mega-donor Charles Koch announced he would push for criminal justice reform in 2015. Last month, that effort became official with the formation of the Coalition for Public Safety, a partnership between Koch Industries and the Center for American Progress that also features the American Civil Liberties Union, Faith and Freedom Coalition, Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, and Tea Party group FreedomWorks.

Print this item Don’t Believe Media Coverage of Venezuela

Diplomatic relations between Venezuela and the U.S. have just taken a big hit, with the government of Nicolas Maduro demanding that the American Embassy in Caracas reduce its staff by 80% and that U.S. visitors apply for visas.

Most symbolically, Venezuela has now barred a number of U.S. officials from visiting, including George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. The backdrop to these political moves is a new crisis within Venezuela that has an old script: right-wing leaders plan a coup, with the U.S. deeply implicated; wealthy protesters take to the streets; and the Western media cover both stories with great sympathy while openly mocking the democratically elected government for attempting to defend itself.

Target Canada's Claim It Owes Itself $1.9 Billion The Source Of A Brewing Battle

TORONTO - Suppliers of Target Canada are gearing up for a battle over a $1.9-billion claim from the insolvent retailer that could determine how much is paid out to a long list of creditors.

Court filings show that Target Canada says it owes an "early termination payment" to Target Canada Property LLC, the property management company it established to hold the retailer's real estate assets.

The claim makes a wing of Target Canada the largest creditor in its own proceedings. Suppliers are worried that could eat up all the $400 million they claim to be owed in the insolvency.

"We absolutely intend to challenge the $1.9-billion claim," Lou Brzezinski, a partner at Blaney McMurtry, told reporters on Thursday after the latest court proceedings in the wind down of Target Canada.

It’s Not Just Ferguson

The Department of Justice confirmed yesterday what many of Ferguson’s residents have been saying, and protesting against, for months: the city racks up millions of dollars each year in fines and court fees by illegally harassing its black population. What the federal government did not say, however, is that the practice of criminalizing black people to raise money for police and court systems is not rare; local governments across the country have been doing it for years—ironically, to offset the spiraling costs of the incarceration boom of the past three decades.

Canadian Job Quality At Record Low,No Relief In Sight: CIBC

TORONTO - A major Canadian bank says job quality in Canada is at a record low and shows no sign of turning around.

The CIBC Canadian employment quality index was down 1.8 per cent from a year ago.

Jeb Bush Is Taking Foreign Policy Advice From These Influence Peddlers

WASHINGTON -- After the attempted Christmas Day underwear bombing of a jetliner in 2009, former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff blanketed cable news to reiterate his long-standing support for the adoption of full body scanners at airports. His revelation on CNN that Rapiscan Systems, the manufacturer of those machines, had been a client of his consulting firm sparked criticism that his advocacy was self-serving.

Airport security is not the only area in which Chertoff might offer advice that aids his bottom line -- and, more importantly, CNN is not his only listener.

What Oil Slump? Canadian Natural Resources Triples Profit, Ramps Up Production

CALGARY - Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (TSX:CNQ) almost tripled its profit in the fourth quarter and said it was raising its dividend as the oil and natural gas producer ramped up production in the face of falling oil prices.

The Calgary company said net income in the three months ended Dec. 31 soared to just under $1.2 billion or $1.09 per diluted share from $413 million or 38 cents in the same 2013 quarter.

Cities Are Quietly Reviving A Jim Crow-Era Trick To Suppress Latino Votes

Yakima, WA is one-third Latino, but a Latino candidate has not been elected to the city council for almost 40 years. Santa Barbara, CA is 38 percent Latino, but only one Latino has been elected to its council in the last 10 years. And Pasadena, TX is 43 percent Hispanic, but the ethnic group is not even close to being proportionately represented in the city government.
All three cities have been or are currently being sued for allegedly using discriminatory at-large voting systems, a voter dilution tactic that has been recently and frequently employed against Hispanic voters. In an at-large system, every city resident votes for each member of the governing body and the city does not divide voters into districts.

Could Harper launch an election without a budget?

It was only eight weeks ago — January 13, to be precise — that Joe Oliver announced he was postponing the budget until sometime after April 1. His excuse: Rapidly falling oil prices were creating an unusually high degree of budget uncertainty and he needed more time to crunch the numbers.

The excuse was, of course, nonsense. Budget planning always involves uncertainty. The greater the uncertainty, the more the government needs to prove that it has some sort of plan — a budget, for example.

The decision to postpone the budget was a panic response to the stark fact that the Conservative election plan (pitch major tax cuts in October, then table a balanced budget) had just gone off the cliff. Plan A was falling to pieces; the Conservatives, in their arrogance, never bothered to come up with a Plan B.

Chief investigator feared operational woes over move from Elections Canada

OTTAWA - Canada's chief elections investigator pushed hard against moving his operations out of the same building as Elections Canada, fearing it would interfere with his ability to investigate electoral wrongdoing and could taint evidence needed to prosecute offenders.

Yves Cote, the commissioner of elections, had already lost the battle last spring over Conservative legislation that severed his operations from Elections Canada — a move the government sold as providing him greater independence and freedom from bias.

Quebec resident Alain Philippon to fight charge for not giving up phone password at airport

A Quebec man charged with obstructing border officials by refusing to give up his smartphone password says he will fight the charge.

The case has raised a new legal question in Canada, a law professor says.

Alain Philippon, 38, of Ste-Anne-des-Plaines, Que., refused to divulge his cellphone password to Canada Border Services Agency during a customs search Monday night at Halifax Stanfield International Airport.

Dear U of T: What Is "Generous" About Living Below the Poverty Line?

Through multiple statements to the media, Cheryl Regehr, the Provost at the University of Toronto, has said that a proposed agreement for Teaching Assistants (TAs) and Course Instructors (CIs) was "generous." She expresses her "disappointment" that last week more than 90 per cent of the 1,000 members present at the meeting voted to reject the proposed agreement. What she fails to mention is why the agreement was rejected, which was because it fails to address the core concern of Unit 1 members -- the $15,000 funding package that currently sits more than $8,000 below the poverty line.

Back in November, TAs and CIs overwhelmingly voted to endorse strike action -- again more than 90 per cent in favour -- in a strike vote that saw the largest voter turnout for contract academic locals in Canadian history. Since that time, the University Administration has known that the funding package was a central issue in this round of bargaining. This should be no surprise to them, considering it has been more than seven years since the package was last increased, despite significant rising costs of living in the city of Toronto.

National Charities Want Clarity On Roles They Can Play In Policy

OTTAWA - As the country prepares for the next federal election, 18 national charities are seeking clearer rules about how much of a role their sector can play in debates on public policy.

A letter sent to each of the five political parties asks for a platform commitment to modernizing the existing regime governing charitable groups.

Without it, there's the risk of losing what the civil society sector can contribute to the broader public good, says the letter, signed by environment, public policy and international aid organizations.

One of the Anti-Obamacare Plaintiffs Finally Appears in Public

During the run-up to the Supreme Court oral arguments in King v. Burwell, the latest legal assault on Obamacare, the four people named as plaintiffs in the case were mysteriously absent from public view. They never made any public statements. They never appeared at any conferences. These four Virginia residents who were supposed to be victims of Obamacare were essentially invisible in the highly politicized case. And their lawyers had good reason to keep them under wraps: It's unclear if any of them have been injured by Obamacare and truly have standing to sue. One of the four, Brenda Levy, even told Mother Jones she didn't want the lawsuit to end up stripping millions of Americans of their health insurance, which is what will likely happen should the plaintiffs prevail.

John Boehner’s Sorry Spectacle

WASHINGTON—House Speaker John Boehner needs to decide whether he wants to be remembered as an effective leader or a befuddled hack. So far, I’m afraid, it’s the latter.

Boehner’s performance last week was a series of comic pratfalls, culminating Friday in a stinging rebuke from the House Republicans he ostensibly leads. Boehner wasn’t asking for much: three weeks of funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which was hours from shutting down. He came away, humiliated, with just seven days’ worth of operating money for the agency charged with keeping Americans safe from terrorist attacks.

Alberta wages almost 25% higher than Canadian average

Springtime is typically oilpatch bonus season. As the grass turns green, car dealerships and upscale stores tend to get busier.

This year is different. Bonuses — if they exist at all — are expected to be small. Wages have been frozen. Oilpatch workers are happy to have a job at all.

And that's the private sector. Public sector workers, like teachers and nurses, are on high alert as the provincial government makes noises about their pay. Alberta's premier, however, has said he does not plan to reopen contracts.

Canada made Deepan Budlakoti stateless. Now it is denying him health care.

Imagine being 23 years old, born and raised in Canada, and then waking up one morning to the news that your citizenship has been stripped in the only country you have ever called home.
That is Deepan Budlakoti's story.
Born to Indian working class parents, growing up in the suburbs of Toronto, the first few years of Budlakoti's life read like that of any child of immigrant parents. But in 2010, Budlakoti's world as he knew it came to a screeching halt, and what happened after should give us all cause for concern.

GOP Lawmaker Wants To Shut Down 'Illegal' Net Neutrality Rules

A key Republican lawmaker overseeing the Federal Communications Commission has pledged this week to restrain the agency's powers after it decided to issue what he argues are illegal net neutrality rules.

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who chairs the communications subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, voiced his criticisms Wednesday at an industry summit hosted by the American Cable Association, according to The Hill.

“I think it’s illogical and illegal. It didn’t have to be this way,” said Walden of the FCC's vote to approve strong net neutrality protections. He added, "We intend to do our due diligence.”

Eric Holder: Ferguson Police Created A 'Toxic' Environment

WASHINGTON -- Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday that the tensions between law enforcement and residents that erupted after the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager in Missouri, were unsurprising given the "toxic" environment created by the biases of the Ferguson Police Department.

The Department of Justice announced on Wednesday that it would not bring federal civil rights charges against Darren Wilson, the white police officer who killed Brown in August. The DOJ also released a report that detailed the ways in which the Ferguson Police Department created fear and resentment among African-American residents in the Missouri town by disproportionately targeting them with fines, tickets and excessive force.

Nearly A Third Of Americans Say They Haven't Recovered From The Recession

Happy days are here again! Right, guys?

On Friday, the Labor Department is expected to release another round of encouraging numbers about the job market. Meanwhile, stocks are at record highs -- in fact, the Nasdaq just reached a level last seen during the tech boom of 2000.

China To Boost Military Budget By 10 Percent In 2015

BEIJING (AP) — China said Thursday it will boost defense spending by 10.1 percent, a smaller rise than last year but in line with large annual increases that have drawn concern among the country's neighbors over Beijing's military and territorial ambitions.

Beijing says the higher spending is needed to modernize equipment and improve conditions for the 2.3 million-member People's Liberation Army, the world's largest standing military. Observers in the U.S. and the region say the spending reflects the growing power of the world's second-largest economy and its desire to assert itself in the region and globally.

Christie’s Office Drove Exxon Settlement, Ex-Official Says

For more than a decade, the New Jersey attorney general’s office conducted a hard-fought legal battle to hold Exxon Mobil Corporation responsible for decades of environmental contamination in northern New Jersey.

But when the news came that the state had reached a deal to settle its $8.9 billion claim for about $250 million, the driving force behind the settlement was not the attorney general’s office — it was Gov. Chris Christie’s chief counsel, Christopher S. Porrino, two people familiar with the negotiations said.

This Isn’t The Reaction Netanyahu Hoped For After His Dramatic Speech To Congress

Tuesday’s speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a joint session of Congress seemed to have zero impact on the ongoing negotiations surrounding Iran’s nuclear program and may have even undermined the leader’s efforts to scuttle a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
On Wednesday, world leaders negotiating with Iran in Montreux, Switzerland hinted that they were closing the gap on a possible deal that would contain Iran’s nuclear capabilities for at least 10 years and prevent it from breaking out of that agreement and obtaining enough fuel for a nuclear weapon for at least one year. The Wall Street Journal reported that “an understanding is emerging” on the break-out issue — a critical stepping stone to any final deal.

How Ferguson, Missouri, Uses Cops and the Courts to Prey on Its Residents

More than seven years ago, a black woman parked her car illegally in Ferguson, Missouri. She received two tickets and a $151 fine. The woman, sometimes homeless, struggled to pay it off, and over the next several years she was slapped with seven “Failure to Appear” citations for missing payments and court dates. Each of those citations added to the debt she owed the city and resulted in an arrest warrant. By 2014, she’d been arrested twice, spent nearly a week in jail, and had paid the city $550. As of December, she still owed $541.

Morale At Veterans Affairs Plunged Alongside Staffing Levels: Survey

OTTAWA - The most recent survey of federal employees shows Veterans Affairs Canada is an increasingly unhappy place with plunging morale and a frazzled workforce.

The evaluation, published by Statistics Canada for the federal Treasury Board, asks dozens of questions on topics ranging from satisfaction with equipment to workplace harassment.

It shows that the number of staff who say the quality of their work has suffered — either because of fewer resources or a lack of departmental stability — has more than doubled since 2008.

Tories Criticized Over 'Fear-Mongering' Facebook Post On Bill C-51, West Edmonton Mall Threat

A Conservative party Facebook post has spurred accusations that the government is using fear-mongering to promote its proposed anti-terror legislation.

And at least one Alberta Tory politician has publicly suggested his federal cousins have gone too far.
On Monday, a screengrab from a video by Somalia-based terror group al-Shabaab was posted to the official Facebook page of the federal Conservatives. The group, linked to al-Qaeda, attacked Kenya’s Westgate Mall in September 2013 and murdered close to 70 people.

Share resource revenue with First Nations, says Harper's handpicked Working Group

A key recommendation of a generally pro-industry report by a joint federal government and Assembly of First Nations panel will almost certainly languish on the back-burner, perhaps forever. 
The report comes from the Working Group on Natural Resource Development, which has both aboriginal and business membership.
The Working Group was set-up by the Harper government and the national First Nations organization in 2013, following the Crown-First Nations meeting.
Its sure-to-be-ignored recommendation calls for industry to share the revenue from oil, gas, mineral and other resource development with First Nations. 

Edward Snowden says Canadian spying has weakest oversight in Western world

U.S. National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden says Canada has one of the "weakest oversight" frameworks for intelligence gathering in the Western world.

Snowden made the comments during a teleconference discussion hosted by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression and the Ryerson School of Journalism, moderated by CBC Radio host Anna Maria Tremonti. He was speaking via video link from Russia.

Anti-Semitism Is On The Rise In German Schools

MUNICH -- Scrawling swastikas on synagogues, Jew-baiting during demonstrations, desecration of Jewish cemeteries: Once again, 75 years after the Holocaust, hatred against Jews is taking place openly in Germany, even in schools.

Current figures from the German government show that the anti-Semitism is not only a perception: The number of crimes linked to anti-Semitism in Germany increased dramatically over the past year. While 788 cases were registered in 2013, there were 864 cases registered in 2014 -- a 10 percent increase.

Workplace Injuries Are Adding To Income Inequality: Labor Department

WASHINGTON -- There are no shortage of culprits in the national debate over rising income inequality, but President Barack Obama's Labor Department would like to add one more to the list: on-the-job injuries.

In a new report issued Wednesday, Labor Department officials argue that workplace injuries and illnesses, coupled with an inadequate worker compensation system, are contributing to the gap between rich and poor in the U.S.

The Demolition of Workers’ Comp

DENNIS WHEDBEE’S CREW WAS RUSHING to prepare an oil well for pumping on the Sweet Grass Woman lease site, a speck of dusty plains rich with crude in Mandaree, North Dakota.

It was getting late that September afternoon in 2012. Whedbee, a 50-year-old derrickhand, was helping another worker remove a pipe fitting on top of the well when it suddenly blew.

Oil and sludge pressurized at more than 700 pounds per square inch tore into Whedbee’s body, ripping his left arm off just below the elbow. Coworkers jerry-rigged a tourniquet from a
sweatshirt and a ratchet strap to stanch his bleeding and got his wife on the phone.

“Babe,’’ he said, “tell everyone I love them.”

In the Shadow of FDR, Netanyahu Preaches a Politics of Fear

On March 4, 1933, in his first inaugural address, Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered a message of hope to a troubled, disillusioned and divided nation.

Standing stoically behind a lectern on the East Portico of the Capitol, his legs withered by polio, the new president urged his listeners not to “shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today” that had been wrought by the “outworn” traditions of a “false leadership” but to look forward to bold new initiatives that promised revival and shared prosperity. Above all, he urged them not to despair, famously declaring that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Netanyahu, ‘Censored Voices’ and the False Narrative of Self-Defense

On March 3rd, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued an impassioned plea to Congress to protect Israel by opposing diplomacy with Iran. Referring to “the remarkable alliance between Israel and the United States” which includes “generous military assistance and missile defense,” Netanyahu failed to mention that Israel has an arsenal of 100 or 200 nuclear weapons.

Texas Bill Would Punish Businesses If They Don’t Discriminate

Texas State Rep. Debbie Riddle (R) has introduced two new bills that seek to criminalize the use of bathrooms by transgender people. Not only could trans people face jail time and fines for using gender-segregated facilities that match their gender, so too could businesses who make their facilities open to trans patrons.
H.B. 1747 would amend Texas’ existing laws on disorderly conduct by adding a provision that relates to when a person “enters a public restroom that is designated by a sign for members of the opposite sex of the actor.” Sex, it specifies, is established by the individual’s driver’s license. In Texas, transgender people actually can obtain identity documents that match their gender — if judges cooperate.

Georgia ‘License To Discriminate’ Bill Forced Through Committee During Bathroom Break

Georgia Republicans have used a number of nefarious methods to get their way over the years, but earlier this week they busted out an especially sneaky new tactic: voting on legislation when Democrats are, um, temporarily indisposed.
The incident occurred during a Georgia Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on Monday, where assembled lawmakers discussed a number of proposed laws over the course of the day. Looming over the committee was S.B. 129, a controversial “religious liberty” bill that mirrors the federal Religious Freedom and Restoration Act but that many argue could be used to discriminate against LGBT people. Committee chairman Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) authored the bill, but it is opposed by Democrats such as Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), who tabled the proposed legislation when it was brought up to the committee last week.

Conservative government mum on taxpayer-funded ad spending

The Conservative government’s annual report on government advertising is nowhere to be found at a time when the use of taxpayer-funded ad spending is under close political scrutiny.

Nearly a year after the 2013-14 fiscal year came to an end, Public Works has not yet released its annual report outlining spending trends and the exact figures for each campaign across all federal departments.

What I Learned From Breaking the Law

I have been asked to develop a set of reflections on the moral lessons I learned from breaking the law. Here is part of that story. In 1961 I was arrested and put in jail in Little Rock, Arkansas. I was a “freedom rider.” Then, ten years later, a group of us calling ourselves “The Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI” broke into the Media, Pennsylvania office of the FBI, removed the files and released them to the news media. What did I learn from breaking the law? Here are five lessons I learned. I learned that:

1) Law is not to be trusted without interrogating its complicity with privilege and power.

2) Identity is morally problematic, especially if you get yourself born a white male of class privilege.

3) A nation that lets itself be governed by fear will become a poorly governed nation.

4) The arrogance of power contributes to its own demise when confronted by persistent resistance, and finally….

5) I learned that the anger called hope can overcome despair, create a community of resistance and build a future that seemed impossible.