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.]

Saturday, October 31, 2015

US Navy Scrambled Jets As Russian Warplanes Approached Carrier

WASHINGTON, Oct 29 (Reuters) - The USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier scrambled four fighter jets to intercept approaching Russian warplanes as it carried out a military exercise on Tuesday in the Sea of Japan, U.S. military officials said on Thursday.

The two Russian TU-142 "Bear" planes came as close as a nautical mile from the carrier and were flying at a low-altitude, about 500 feet (152 m) above sea level, the officials said.

White House: We're Sending Troops To Syria For Who Knows How Long

WASHINGTON -- White House press secretary Josh Earnest displayed some incredible verbal gymnastics on Friday trying to explain President Barack Obama's strategy behind deploying U.S. special operations forces to Syria.

During his daily briefing, Earnest confirmed reports that Obama will send roughly 50 troops to help local Syrian forces fight the Islamic State (ISIL) -- the first time American special forces will be stationed there after a year of U.S.-led airstrikes. The news flies in the face of the president's 2013 vow not to put any "American boots on the ground in Syria." But the White House spokesman insisted Obama hasn't broken any promises and that this is not a case of mission creep.

Shot in the Heart - The Most Successful Assassination Of Modern Times

Assassination is an unpredictable act. Historically speaking, high-profile political killings have been as likely to produce backlashes and unintended consequences as they have been to achieve the assassin’s goal, if he had one. When Lee Harvey Oswald killed President Kennedy, the result was an outpouring of national soul-searching, which Lyndon Johnson took advantage of to push civil-rights and Great Society legislation through Congress. When Syrians conspired to murder Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese President, in 2005, the result was not continued Syrian domination of Lebanon but a national uprising followed by a humiliating evacuation of Assad’s forces.

Let's Hope The Liberals Overcome Lobbying Pressures To Silence Free Speech

On most issues, the Liberals under Justin Trudeau are light years ahead of the Conservatives, but on a select few, like allowing criticism of Israeli state practices, they appear to be just as regressive as the Tories.

Like Stephen Harper, Trudeau referred to the non-violent grassroots movement to boycott Israel until it respects Palestinian human rights as "the new form of anti-Semitism in the world." He even went so far as to condemn the boycott movement in a tweet, stating, "The BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] movement, like Israeli Apartheid Week, has no place on Canadian campuses...."

How The TPP Jeopardizes Canadian Health

Picture this: a patient returns to the office for a follow-up visit with their physician. When asked how the prescribed treatment is working out, they answer: "I don't know, I couldn't afford to fill the prescription."

It's a story to which a growing number of Canadians, and nearly every Canadian doctor, can relate.

Canadians value our Medicare system, a system that allows us to see doctors without paying up-front costs. Unfortunately, according to a recent Angus Reid survey, 23 per cent of Canadians are unable to take their drugs as prescribed and this leads to worse health, missed work, unnecessary hospitalizations, and even death.

Candice Bergen, Who Once Mocked Trudeau's Intelligence, Now Urges 'Respectful' Tone

Conservative MP Candice Bergen wants her party to be more respectful to Justin Trudeau, less than two years after she expressed doubt that he would be able to say "good morning" without reading it from a piece of paper.

Bergen, a Manitoba MP who is running to become the interim Tory boss and Opposition leader, released a video online Wednesday making her pitch.

Harper's move to Calgary will cut tax duty

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who will be resigning next week but will remain as the member of Parliament for his own riding of Calgary Heritage, is moving back to Calgary. While this may seem like a logical decision, given that he must vacate the official PM residence of 24 Sussex Dr., his choice to leave Ontario for Alberta prior to year-end is a tax-savvy move that could save him tens of thousands in taxes in 2015.

That's because provincial residency and where you pay provincial tax is based on where you live on the last day of the year, regardless of where you lived during the year. Of course it's not as simple as checking into an Alberta hotel before midnight Dec. 31 to be considered a provincial resident of Alberta for the year. The determination of provincial residency looks to the province where you have the "most significant residential ties."

Critics are calling Trudeau's Syrian withdrawal 'un-Liberal.' And they're right.

Right-wing commentators are calling Justin Trudeau's decision to withdraw fighter jets from Syria-Iraq "un-Liberal" and unfortunately they're right.
But, by citing the Liberal sponsored Responsibility to Protect (R2P) to justify Canadian participation in the U.S.-led bombing, these pundits are revealing the essence of this "humanitarian imperialist" doctrine.
Last week senior Maclean's writer Michael Petrou called on Trudeau to rethink his commitment to stop Canadian bombing raids, writing "reasons for confronting Islamic State with force are decidedly Liberal. Your party pioneered the notion of 'responsibility to protect'." For his part, National Post columnist Matt Gurney bemoaned how "the Liberal Party of Canada once championed, at least with words, the so-called Responsibility to Protect doctrine."

Insurer cancelling policies of UberX drivers

One of Canada’s largest insurance companies is cracking down on UberX drivers caught without proper commercial insurance, according to a company bulletin obtained by the Star.

“Driving for Uber is still considered commercial use and is unacceptable for personal vehicles,” says the internal Aviva Canada circular which reports weekly on examples of insurance fraud.

“It is therefore important that we continue to encourage our policyholders and applicants to be forthcoming and honest about the use of their vehicles. Without proper insurance, they are putting both themselves and others at risk.”


While Canada's top fashion designers readied their collections for the start of Toronto Fashion Week, an altogether different gathering of fashion lovers convened at Evergreen Brick Works on October 19 and 20.

At the second annual World Ethical Apparel Roundtable (WEAR), conscious fashionistas mingled with members of non-profits, academics and reps from major brands and retailers, including Hudson's Bay and Joe Fresh, to talk about how to stitch together a more sustainable industry.

Can the Electronics Industry Provide a Living Wage? Not While Corporations Set the Rules

The phrase "living wage" has gained steam in recent years: Advocates argue that a wage level that allows for basic needs - plus a modicum of disposable income - is a human right, and failing to pay one is a violation of human rights. The concept has risen in popularity in recent years as evidence of poverty-level wages across a multitude of global industries has mounted, from agriculture, to textiles, to electronics and beyond. Struggles for a living wage are seen as a way to address poverty and inequality in locations where a legal minimum wage either does not exist, is not enforced or is insufficient to provide for a family.

Cameron shouldn’t be allowed to break his tax credit promise. Here’s the solution

Imagine that David Cameron had announced at the general election debates exactly how he was going to save billions in welfare. “Ladies and gentlemen, I promise you that we will reclaim £4.4bn from this country’s working poor. We will slash working tax credit and children’s tax credit till the pips of Britain’s impoverished-employed squeak. I stand here today to give you the undertaking that 3.3 million poor people will be on average £1,300 worse off.”

Wall defends lack of transparency on problems at carbon- capture facility

REGINA — Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall is defending the government's silence on problems at the province's much-celebrated carbon-capture facility.

The $1.5-billion facility at the Boundary Dam power plant near Estevan can capture 90 per cent of emissions when it's working. However, background notes prepared for the government and leaked to the Opposition NDP show it's only been working 45 per cent of the time.

Want democratic reform? Let's start with newspapers.

Observing the cathartic effect of the end of the Harper regime reveals just how traumatized millions of Canadians were by nearly 10 years of rule by this paranoid and vindictive prime minister. The analogies and metaphors keep coming: like getting out of jail, like waking up from a nightmare, like the end of an occupation. 
This election will provide students, pundits and authors with career-building opportunities to dissect the results. Part of that analysis will, of course, examine the unprecedented assault on democracy carried out by the Conservatives. As it should, because undoing the damage must be the litmus test for the new Liberal government and Parliament.

‘We Need an Energy Miracle’

In his offices overlooking Lake Washington, just east of Seattle, Bill Gates grabbed a legal pad recently and began covering it in his left-handed scrawl. He scribbled arrows by each margin of the pad, both pointing inward. The arrow near the left margin, he said, represented how governments worldwide could stimulate ingenuity to combat climate change by dramatically increasing spending on research and development. “The push is the R&D,” he said, before indicating the arrow on the right. “The pull is the carbon tax.” Between the arrows he sketched boxes to represent areas, such as deployment of new technology, where, he argued, private investors should foot the bill. He has pledged to commit $2 billion himself.

No, Hillary. You Did Not Bring Democracy to Burma.

In December 2011, Hillary Clinton found herself face to face with a former Burmese general named Shwe Mann. Eleven months earlier, Shwe Mann had gone from being the third-highest-ranking official in a brutal military dictatorship to the speaker of the lower house in a democratizing nation. Now, wearing civilian clothes rather than his old green army uniform, he greeted Clinton with a compliment: "We've been studying your country, trying to understand how to run a parliament," he told her. She asked whether he had been reading books or consulting with experts about democracy. "Oh no," he said. "We've been watching West Wing."

100 CEOs Have More in Retirement Savings Than 41 Percent of Americans Combined (Surprise! Most of them are white dudes.)

You've heard about income inequality—about how, for example, the top 10 percent of Americans control more than half of all income

Globe And Mail Decision To Hold Bombshell Ontario Liberals Story 'Offensive,' Says MPP

An Ontario MPP says it's “offensive” that The Globe and Mail decided to delay publishing an explosive story involving Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government until after federal election day.

“The fact that there was a federal election on shouldn’t have dictated when it was release and when it wasn’t,” said Lisa Macleod in an interview.

Aboriginal Canadians bought Trudeau’s message. Now, they want something back.

Has the time finally come for an Aboriginal-Canadian to run Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development?

For as long as anyone can remember, the post has gone to non-natives. These people have performed in office somewhere on a continuum between 19th century Indian agents (Bernie Valcourt) and 20th century benign paternalists (Jean Chrétien). The time couldn’t be more perfect to hand the job over to the real experts — natives themselves.

Alberta Budget 2015: You'd almost think Rachel Notley's NDP has concluded its job is to govern this province!

Gee, it sure sounds as if the grownups are finally in charge here in Alberta, doesn't it?
Faced with a steep downturn in the province's resource-based economy, the NDP government of Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has decided to keep its election promises and ensure that truly essential services continue to be provided as they are needed, and that if spending is restrained, it is in truly non-essential areas.

‘It’s going,’ Wynne says of Hydro One sale despite watchdog warning

Premier Kathleen Wynne is sticking to her plan to sell off Hydro One to bankroll transportation infrastructure despite a damaging report to the legislature from the budget watchdog.

“It’s going,” Wynne said firmly on Thursday in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

As first disclosed by the Star, Stephen LeClair, the recently appointed financial accountability officer, warned Thursday the province will be in even “worse” shape after the sale of the Crown utility.

Black Unemployment Is Too High. Here's How The Fed Can Change That.

Progressives often argue that Federal Reserve policies that prioritize full employment can especially benefit African-Americans. As economic growth lowers the overall unemployment rate, the theory goes, black Americans stand to make relatively larger employment gains.

In anticipation of the Fed's interest rate decision on Wednesday, the left-leaning Center for Economic and Policy Research created a data visualization tool showing why that is the case.

Carly Fiorina’s Utterly Bonkers Take On The Constitution

The minimum wage and Social Security are both unconstitutional, according to Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina — a view that puts her at odds with both longstanding precedents and the text of the Constitution.

Fiorina revealed her unusual understanding of the nation’s founding text during Wednesday night’s Republican presidential candidates’ debate. In response to a question on whether the federal government should help workers set up retirement plans, Fiorina offered two sweeping declarations about what the nation’s leaders can and cannot do. “There is no Constitutional role for the federal government in setting up retirement plans. There is no Constitutional role for the federal government to be setting minimum wages,” according to the former corporate CEO.

With Boehner Gone, Nothing Stands Between Wall Street and the Tea Party Disaster It Created

The havoc in the Republican House caucus has finally ended, with the election of the Ayn Rand-reading, Medicare-privatizing "moderate" Paul Ryan as the new Speaker of the House. But a closer look at the recent leadership shakeup reveals the degree to which Congress has become a ruling-class plaything.

The abrupt resignation of Speaker John Boehner was met with shock but not much sentiment. He was the face of the 2013 government shutdown, demanding aggressive spending cuts, and the congressional Republicans' aggressive efforts to undo Obamacare. But while the possible breakup of the Republicans' "Southern strategy" has been much discussed, less attention has gone to the crucial and shifting role in these developments of corporate America, to which the GOP owes its current majorities.

New Budget Grants Debt Collectors the Right to Bombard Student Borrowers With Robocalls

A provision in the budget deal that passed the House on Wednesday will allow debt collectors to harass student loan borrowers with unlimited automated calls and text messages, even after being asked to stop.

The new rule will add significantly to the anxiety of the nation’s already distressed borrowers, many of whom are financially disabled by an economy that does not provide adequate wages.
National student loan debt is now over $1.2 trillion, a sum greater than what the entire U.S. population owes on credit cards. In 2013 alone, the U.S. government collected $51 billion from interest charged to the nation’s youth.

Hillary Clinton Hasn’t Learned a Thing From the Iraq Experience

As the first Democratic presidential debate drew to a close, moderator Anderson Cooper posed a question to Hillary Clinton: How might her presidency differ from Barack Obama’s?

Clinton smiled. “Well, I think it’s pretty obvious,” she replied to rapturous applause. “Being the first woman president would be quite a change from the presidents we’ve had.”

Indeed, a Hillary Clinton presidency would shatter the glass ceiling for women in the United States. But it would also leave intact the old boys’ military-industrial complex that’s kept our nation in a perpetual state of war for decades.

What Happens When Old Prisons Are Given Back to Their Communities?

Sharon Richardson remembers looking out the window of Bayview Correctional Facility, the sole women’s prison within New York’s five boroughs. “I could see the ships coming in and I wondered, ‘When is my ship coming in?’”

House prices overvalued in 11 of Canada's 15 biggest cities, CMHC says

Canada's national housing agency is warning of "problematic housing market conditions" in most of the country's major housing markets.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation said in its Housing Market Assessment report on Thursday that many housing markets are showing troubling signs in four criteria:

  • Overheated home sales.
  • Too many homes being built.
  • Prices increasing too quickly. 
  • High prices.

The U.S. Must Accommodate China's Power in the Island Dispute -- Or Be Willing to Pay a High Price

SYDNEY -- There are two ways to see the U.S. Navy's freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea. We can see it is as a modest legal maneuver, designed to assert Washington's interpretation of some rather arcane and contested points of international maritime law. Or we can see this week's operation as a big strategic move in the new power politics of Asia.

Tens Of Thousands Of North Koreans Are Sent Abroad For Forced Labor

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Tens of thousands of North Koreans are being sent to work abroad in conditions that amount to forced labor to circumvent U.N. sanctions and earn foreign currency for the country, amounting to between $1.2 billion and $2.3 billion annually by one estimate, a U.N. investigator said Wednesday.

Marzuki Darusman, the special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, said in a report to the U.N. General Assembly and at a news conference that the workers are providing a new source of money to a country facing a "really tight financial and economic situation."

Top CEOs Have $4.9 Billion Saved Up for Retirement. Nearly 1/3 of Workers Have Nothing.

David Novak, the executive chairman of the company that owns KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut, has a lot to look forward to—$234 million, to be exact. That’s the size of his retirement package, which is the largest of any top executive’s. Novak, whose company has fought minimum-wage increases that would benefit its workers, can expect a $1.3 million check every month once he retires.

But many of his employees have no retirement savings at all. Yum! brands employs 537,000 people worldwide, most of whom work part-time for low wages; in the United States, only 8,828 of those workers have money in their 401(k) account.

Huge Sums Are Pouring Into Judicial Elections, But That Would Never Affect the Courts, Right?

When Richard Bernstein decided to run for a seat on the Michigan Supreme Court, he had a lot stacked against him: He was a Democrat, he had no experience as a judge, and he was blind—something he'd dealt with his entire life.