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, November 03, 2015

House Republicans Are Trying To Slip Bank Deregulation Into Highway Bill

WASHINGTON -- House Republicans are angling to slip two pieces of bank deregulation into a major highway funding bill that is expected to pass with broad bipartisan support.

According to a source familiar with discussions, Republicans are trying to remove tighter regulations that were imposed on banks with at least $50 billion in assets after the 2008 financial crisis. They also are aiming to weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -- a brainchild of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), which has worked to prevent big banks, payday lenders and other financial firms from ripping off households.

For Ontario industries, Olympic-size pool full of water costs less than $10

Ontario industries are getting off too cheaply when it comes to the water they use and should be charged more, Ontario’s acting environmental commissioner says in her annual report.

“Not only do most industries get a total free ride, but the few industries that do pay are charged only $3.71 for every million litres of water,” Ellen Schwartzel cautioned in the 175-page report released Tuesday.

Ontario Electricity Rates Climbing Steadily

Electricity rates for many Ontario consumers went up yet again on Sunday, bumping the cost of a kilowatt hour this winter by between 0.3 and 1.4 cents, depending on the time of day.

The rate hike applies to most households and small businesses, and is the latest in a series of increases that have made the cost of hydro a contentious issue for many Ontarians.

Israel Shuts Down Palestinian Radio Station It Claims Incites Violence

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli military raided a Palestinian radio station in the West Bank on Tuesday and confiscated equipment it said was being used to broadcast calls to attack Israelis.

The military said it shut down the Al Hurria radio station in Hebron overnight and accused it of inciting violence in the volatile West Bank city.

Israel says the current spate of violence that started in mid-September has been set off by a Palestinian campaign of lies and incitement surrounding a sensitive Jerusalem holy site. The Palestinians counter it is a result of frustration from nearly a half-century of occupation.

Chief Justice Roberts' Wild Question About Congress And Immigration

WASHINGTON -- During oral arguments in a Supreme Court case that has the tech industry on alert, Chief Justice John Roberts asked a strange hypothetical Monday about an immigration statute that doesn't exist.

If you didn't know any better, you'd think the idea for it came directly from Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio's playbook.

The House GOP Wants Private Debt Collectors To Take Over IRS Jobs

WASHINGTON -- House Republicans are pushing to give private debt collectors the right to target all unpaid tax bills, handing a traditional IRS responsibility over to an industry with a long record of consumer abuse.

Debt collection agencies frequently get into legal trouble for intimidating or misleading borrowers over their debts. The GOP is advocating to empower them with tax debts as part of an effort to pay for highway funding without raising taxes. The idea is that private debt collection companies will be more aggressive with tax delinquents than IRS agents, thus generating more money for the U.S. Treasury.

Tattered Justice System Overlooks Dangerous Cops

Law enforcement officers accused of sexual misconduct have jumped from job to job — and at times faced fresh allegations that include raping women — because of a tattered network of laws and lax screening that allowed them to stay on the beat.

A yearlong Associated Press investigation into sex abuse by cops, jail guards, deputies and other state law enforcement officials uncovered a broken system for policing bad officers, with significant flaws in how agencies deal with those suspected of sexual misconduct and glaring warning signs that go unreported or get overlooked.

U.S. Navy To Patrol South China Sea About Twice Every Quarter

WASHINGTON, Nov 2 (Reuters) - The U.S. Navy plans to conduct patrols within 12 nautical miles of artificial islands in the South China Sea about twice a quarter to remind China and other countries about U.S. rights under international law, a U.S. defense official said on Monday.

"We're going to come down to about twice a quarter or a little more than that," said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about Navy operational plans.

Ben Carson on Americans: "Many of Them Are Stupid."

When retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, the current GOP 2016 front-runner, campaigns, he routinely pitches "common sense solutions from We the People." But it seems the candidate who celebrates a cheerful and straightforward populism has a fair bit of disdain for many of his fellow citizens, for at a videotaped event last year, while discussing the American people, he declared, "Many of them are stupid."

Paul Ryan Insists On His Own Family Time But Won’t Support Policies That Would Help Everyone Else

On a number of Sunday shows this weekend, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) responded to recent calls that he support a federal paid family leave program after insisting on preserving his own family. The new speaker of the House made it clear that he won’t back such a policy.

In order to consider a run, as many in his party had urged, he had laid out a number of conditions, including the protection of the weekends he flies back to Wisconsin to spend with his three young children and his wife Janna. “I cannot and will not give up my family time,” he said.

Powerful Politician Argues White Privilege Doesn’t Exist, Accidentally Demonstrates White Privilege

One of Rhode Island’s most powerful Democrats doesn’t believe that “white privilege” exists. In a recent interview with the Providence Journal, Nicholas Mattiello, the state’s speaker of the House, said that that racial disparities are simply due to African-Americans’ and other minority groups’ failure to “take advantage” of the opportunities available to them.

Mattiello was invited to discuss racial issues with a panel from The Providence Journal, which is producing an extensive series on race in Rhode Island. He told the panel that, before he was asked that question, he had never thought of the phrase “white privilege.”

How Unions Fight Inequality and Strengthen Democracy

A new study from the International Monetary Fund concludes that unions reduce inequality and foster a healthier economy for everyone, mainly by preventing the wealthiest among us from keeping the fruits of a collaboratively created prosperity for themselves.

The IMF study shows that a reinvigorated labor movement is essential to both a just economy and a well-functioning democracy. It deserves widespread attention – and should inspire concerted action.

Oil crash pushing Fort McMurray to the breaking point

As the slowdown in northern Alberta deepens, tens of thousands of unemployed oil patch workers — rigger, welders, pipe fitters, and heavy-haul drivers — are heading home. During the boom times, Fort McMurray attracted workers from across the country, from British Columbia to Newfoundland. Now, those days feel like another lifetime ago.

But what is it like for those people who are already home? What happens to people who live in Fort McMurray — those who bought homes, enrolled their kids in school, got involved in their communities? What has the downturn meant for them?

Emails Show Pro-Payday Loan Study Was Edited By The Payday Loan Industry

The payday loan industry was involved in almost every aspect of a pro-industry academic study, according to emails and other documents reviewed by The Huffington Post. The revelation calls into question a host of other pro-industry academic studies that were paid for by the same organization.

While the researchers disclosed their funding source for the 2011 paper “Do Payday Loans Trap Consumers in a Cycle of Debt?” they also assured readers that the industry “exercised no control over the research or the editorial content of this paper.”

In 10 States, Children Can Be Punished With Indefinite Solitary Confinement

WASHINGTON -- Ten states allow children in juvenile detention centers to be punished with solitary confinement indefinitely, according to a new report released by the pro bono program at the law firm Lowenstein Sandler. Of the twenty-one states that prohibit the practice, most still allow kids to be isolated for reasons other than punishment.

Solitary confinement, the practice of isolating someone for up to 24 hours a day, has come under increased scrutiny by lawmakers and human rights advocates. A United Nations torture expert said in 2011 that solitary should never be used to punish juveniles. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry also opposes the practice, noting that "the majority of suicides in juvenile correctional facilities occur when the individual is isolated or in solitary."

The Pentagon Spent Nearly $43 Million On A Gas Station In Afghanistan

WASHINGTON -- The Department of Defense spent almost $43 million to build a compressed natural gas station in Afghanistan that would have cost up to $500,000 anywhere else and which may no longer even be operational, a congressional watchdog said on Monday.

"Even considering security costs associated with construction and operation in Afghanistan, this level of expenditure appears gratuitous and extreme," wrote John F. Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, in SIGAR's just-released report on the Pentagon-funded station.

The U.S. Is Now A Top Global Tax Haven

The United States has become a top tax haven for foreign companies, despite the Obama administration's efforts to crack down on U.S. firms stashing money overseas.

The U.S. came in third place on the Tax Justice Network's biannual Financial Secrecy Index, behind Hong Kong and Switzerland.

"An estimated $21 to $32 trillion of private financial wealth is located, untaxed or lightly taxed, in secrecy jurisdictions around the world," the report says. "Secrecy jurisdictions," it notes, are also known by the more common term "tax havens," and are countries that "use secrecy to attract illicit and illegitimate or abusive financial flows."

Beijing's Covert Global Radio Network

BEIJING/WASHINGTON, Nov 2 (Reuters) - In August, foreign ministers from 10 nations blasted China for building artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea. As media around the world covered the diplomatic clash, a radio station that serves the most powerful city in America had a distinctive take on the news.

Located outside Washington, D.C., WCRW radio made no mention of China's provocative island project. Instead, an analyst explained that tensions in the region were due to unnamed "external forces" trying "to insert themselves into this part of the world using false claims."

 ‘Make No Mistake About It, This Is a War’

Congressman Peter Welch has done his due diligence. He has studied the circumstances on the ground in Syria and surrounding countries. He has traveled to the region as part of a congressional oversight trip. He has visited centers for refugees on the Syrian-Turkey border. The Vermont Democrat, who serves on the Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense, and Foreign Operations of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has gone out of his way to engage in debates, discussions, and inquiries regarding US policy in the region.

Money flooding out of Canada at fastest pace in developed world

Money is flooding out of Canada at the fastest pace in the developed world as the nation’s decade-long oil boom comes to an end and little else looks ready to take the industry’s place as an economic driver.

Canada’s basic balance — a measure of national accounts that spans everything from trade to financial-market flows — swung from a surplus of 4.2 per cent of gross domestic product to a deficit of 7.9 per cent in the 12 months ending in June, according to analysis from Kamal Sharma, a foreign-exchange strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. That’s the fastest one-year deterioration among 10 major developed nations.

Cities need the power to use road tolls and congestion taxes, group says

It is long past time that Canada's congested cities began putting a price on some of their most precious real estate, says a new report from Canada's Ecofiscal Commission.

We're not talking about toney residential enclaves, gleaming office towers, retail districts, industrial parks or condominium complexes, but rather the thoroughfares that join them.

How the University of Calgary's Enbridge relationship became controversial

Joe Arvai's tenure at the University of Calgary ended brusquely in July 2012 after the rising academic star balked at leading a new research institute that he felt would be perceived as little more than a corporate mouthpiece for Canada's largest pipeline company.

But Arvai is not the only professor to leave the university over concerns its relationships with the oil industry were too cozy, a CBC investigation has found.