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 29, 2016

The Problem With Hillary, Chez, Is I Don't Vote Republican

Over at The Daily Banter, Chez Pazienza called me an "idiot."

Well, not me personally. His article was about people like me, though, who support Bernie Sanders and will never vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election, no matter who her opponent is. The so-called "Bernie or Bust" crowd. That's me.

CETA Trade Deal Expected To Take Effect Next Year

OTTAWA — The federal government says the legal review of Canada's free trade deal with the European Union has been completed — and the door is open for the pact to come into force next year.

An agreement in principle was reached on the comprehensive deal, known as CETA, in October 2013. Negotiations between Canada and the 28-member EU began in 2009.

Summoned to Capitol Hill, Apple Comes Armed With Questions for Congress

Apple, summoned to Capitol Hill to explain why it is refusing to help the government access a terrorist’s phone by developing malware to hack in, says Congress should be the one answering questions.

Bruce Sewell, Apple’s top lawyer and senior vice president, will testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. In the prepared text of his opening statement, Sewell calls for public debate around three questions in particular.

Warren Buffett Is Wrong About Climate Change

Warren Buffett doesn't want you to know how his empire is preparing to deal with the disastrous effects of climate change. In fact, he said in a letter released Saturday, he isn't exactly sure this whole "climate change" thing is real, anyway.

In his annual letter to investors in his conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway, the billionaire investor fought back against a proposed shareholder resolution demanding his insurance subsidiaries measure and disclose the risks that climate change poses to their business and how the company is responding to the threat. Buffett compared fears over climate change to the brouhaha around apocalyptic Y2K predictions.

How to level the playing field for working families

I graduated from law school nine months pregnant with my second baby — and 100 percent unemployable. In 1976, no law firm was going to offer a job to a woman in my “condition,” and even if it did, it was perfectly legal to fire me for taking time off when my son was born.

Then things began to change. Twenty-three years ago this month, the landmark Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, was signed into law. Today, most American workers can take unpaid time off to care for a family member or for themselves without worrying that their job won’t be there for them when they return.

Wherever there's Alberta unite-the-right chatter, Preston Manning's name keeps popping up

He's really sorry about the last time, but it sure seems as if Preston Manning just can't keep away from that Alberta unite-the-right thing.

Consider these recently noted items in which the former Reform Party leader, now 73, has had a part:

    His annual market-fundamentalist bunfest in the nation's capital last week was backdrop for a matchmaking effort for Alberta's disunited conservatives, complete with a sleepover at Stornoway
    Breakfast at the Palliser with a well known Wildrose politician, courtesy the Alberta taxpayer, made headlines -- topic not specified, but we can guess
    The Alberta Prosperity Fund, the self-described "Super PAC" set up to get around election financing laws and unite the right, turns out to have offices in the building that houses Manning's Calgary headquarters

Elizabeth Warren Highlights Key Weakness in Clinton's Wall Street Donation Defense

Hillary Clinton has been fielding questions for months about her Wall Street speaking fees and campaign contributions, in every interview, town hall, and debate. And rightly so; we all know how the banks' fraudulent behavior tanked the economy, and everyone - Left, Right, and Center - is disgusted with what Citizens United has done to campaign finance. Clinton's defense has become streamlined and simple: sure, she took money from banks, but so did Obama - and he still passed very strict regulation on the banks. It seems effective; but there's a huge problem with this argument - so huge, in fact, that it transforms it from a defense into a powerful critique. To understand why, we turn to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass).

Hillary the Hawk

Despite being an icon for many liberals and an anathema to the Republican right, former US Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's positions on the Middle East have more closely resembled those of the latter than the former. Her hawkish views go well beyond her strident support for the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and subsequent occupation and counter-insurgency war. From Afghanistan to Western Sahara, she has advocated for military solutions to complex political problems, backed authoritarian allies and occupying armies, dismissed war crimes, and opposed political involvement by the United Nations and its agencies. TIME magazine's Michael Crowley aptly summed up her State Department record in 2014:

Does The Constitution Protect Your Right To Vote? It May Depend On Your Address.

The Supreme Court no longer has a conservative majority, and that could significantly change the way the 2016 election plays out.

Elections are not simply fought out at the polls. They are also fought in state legislatures. Voter ID laws disproportionately disenfranchise groups that are likely to prefer Democrats to Republicans. Changes to voter registration rules and rules regarding which ballots are discarded can subtly shift the electorate to the right. In Florida, one Republican consultant admitted that state lawmakers eliminated early voting on the Sunday before Election Day “because that’s a big day when the black churches organize themselves” to bring voters to the polls.

Three Wacky Accounting Numbers for LNG and Shale Gas

Three things don't add up in the British Columbia budget when it comes to declining revenues from the battered shale gas industry and its non-existent cousin, the province's liquefied natural gas fantasy.

The first concerns revenue. Premier Christy Clark promised in 2013 that profits from the LNG industry would pour like manna into a $100-billion provincial prosperity fund.

Conservative MP Wagantall’s private member’s bill causing fissures in Conservative caucus

A rookie Saskatchewan Conservative MP’s private member’s bill is causing fissures in the Tory caucus with some describing it as “an indirect way for the pro-lifers to advance their agenda from a new angle.” Some are worried it will reopen the abortion debate, causing an unnecessary distraction for the party and potential leadership candidates ahead of the policy convention this May and the leadership convention next year.

Weird Ailments, Toxic Water, Dismissive Officials—and No, This Isn't Flint

Earlier this month, Esther Calhoun of Uniontown, Alabama, stood before the US Commission on Civil Rights in Washington, DC, describing some of the unlikely ailments that have been plaguing her and her neighbors these past few years. "I am only 51 years old and I have neuropathy," she said. "The neurologist said that it may be caused by lead, and it is not going to get better."

The Supreme Court Decision That Made a Mess of Abortion Rights

Everyone considers Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a woman's right to an abortion, to be the most important ruling ever on the issue by the Supreme Court. But this year, a lesser-known progeny of Roe occupies center stage in potentially the most momentous abortion case confronting the justices in a generation. After Roe established abortion rights, Planned Parenthood v. Casey reined them in, creating a new legal standard that gave states greater leeway to regulate the procedure. Many conservative legislatures took advantage to enact a series of increasingly tough laws that reproductive rights advocates argue have made it more difficult—and sometimes impossible—for women to obtain abortions.

The Unaccountable Death of Boris Nemtsov

On Saturday afternoon, friends and colleagues of Boris Nemtsov, joined by thousands of others, will march in Moscow, marking a year since the day Nemtsov was assassinated. Late in the evening on February 27th, 2015, Nemtsov was walking home across a bridge that spans the Moscow River, not far from the Kremlin and the bulbous domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral. The killer shot Nemtsov four times, from behind, as his girlfriend watched in terror.

Occupy Hillary Clinton's Wall Street Speeches

Hillary Clinton refuses to make public the transcripts of her speeches to big banks, three of which were worth a total of $675,000 to Goldman Sachs. She says she would release the transcripts "if everybody does it, and that includes Republicans." After all, she complained, "Why is there one standard for me, and not for everybody else?"

Tulsi Gabbard backs Sanders

CHICAGO — Bernie Sanders received his highest-profile congressional endorsement yet on Sunday morning, as Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard announced her resignation from her post as a vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee to back the Vermont senator in his presidential bid.

The Devastating Opportunity Costs Of B.C.'s 'Balanced Budget'

When Premier Clark decided that pets living in B.C. were vulnerable and needed protection, did anyone in her cabinet mention her "families first" promise during her last election campaign?

I have a friend who is so poor that sometimes he will buy one can of tuna so that both he and his cat can eat. He's not the only B.C. citizen trying to make the most of extremely limited resources. He certainly considers himself luckier than those who sometimes can only afford to eat pet food.

RCMP Overtime Cost $900K During Undercover Terror Operation

VANCOUVER — The RCMP spent just over $900,000 in overtime pay over the course of a five-month undercover operation that led to the arrests of two terrorism suspects in British Columbia.

Documents obtained by The Canadian Press through a freedom-of-information request show the Mounties paid at least 200 people, mostly police officers, $911,090.54 for overtime work during the investigation, which was code named Project Souvenir.

Gender pricing means women paying more than men

Should a pink razor or a purple pen cost more than a blue razor or black pen?

Logic dictates it shouldn’t, but in some cases, it does.

Known as the “pink tax” or gender-based pricing, it means women end up paying thousands of dollars more for goods and services than men — from deodorant to cologne to hair cuts to dry cleaning.

Hillary the Hawk: NYT Calls Clinton’s Libyan Intervention, and Her Fitness for Office, Into Question

The New York Times formally endorsed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party’s nomination, but that stance might seem surprising after a close read of the paper’s in-depth fresh investigation of then-Secretary of State Clinton’s assured, yet ultimately failed, strategy for compulsory regime change in Libya five years ago.

Jo Becker and Scott Shane set the tone for their first piece, published in Sunday’s edition, in the Times’ three-part series about Libya’s evolution by noting how that situation didn’t represent the first time Clinton had pushed for the U.S. to become involved in an overseas offensive in a Muslim country at an immeasurable cost.

City, inside workers’ union in standoff after contract talks fall apart

The city and union representing inside workers are now in a standoff on opposite sides of Queen St. after talks abruptly ended over the weekend with the city pressuring approval of their “last offer.”

Both the city and CUPE Local 79 claimed Sunday that the other was responsible for contract talks ending. But with both sides unwilling to force labour disruptions — yet — residents are left hanging on whether to expect a strike or lockout this week, which would affect services like childcare, recreation programs and transit planning.

Democrats Should Be Very Nervous About Their Terrible Turnout Numbers

WASHINGTON -- Hillary Clinton had a great night on Saturday. The Democratic Party had a terrible one.

Clinton trounced Sen. Bernie Sanders by nearly 3-to-1 in the South Carolina primary, winning every single county in the state. The thumping followed a convincing Clinton victory in the Nevada caucuses less than a week earlier, and sets the stage for a strong showing for Clinton on Super Tuesday, when 11 states are in play.

Trump Plays Dumb On David Duke, Says He Needs To Do More Research On KKK

Two days after disavowing an endorsement from David Duke, Donald Trump suggested Sunday that he doesn’t know anything about the former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard. But that was not his tune back in 2000.

“I disavow it, OK,” he said on Friday when asked about Duke urging white supremacists to support his campaign.

Days After 3 Young Muslim Americans Shot ‘Execution Style,’ Indiana Governor Still Silent

A week ago, after three Manchester University students died in a car crash, Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN) tweeted his condolences. In December, after the San Bernadino shootings, Pence ordered flags in Indiana be flown at half-staff. And after last year’s Roanoke, VA shootings, the 2014 beheading of an Indiana aid worker by ISIS, and the November Paris attacks, Pence quickly offered out his “thoughts and prayers.”

Hillary Clinton's Faux Feminism

What an election cycle for feminism! Both Democratic primary candidates are running as self-declared feminists. One of them, Hillary Clinton, would, if elected, also be the first woman to serve as president of the United States. Major feminist organizations like Planned Parenthood have endorsed her, as have feminist leaders and heroines as varied as Gloria Steinem, Lena Dunham, Roxane Gay and Eileen Myles.

Marco Rubio Only Released Partial Tax Returns In The Past

As GOP hopeful Donald Trump was under fire during Thursday's Republican debate for not disclosing his tax returns, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) vowed that he would release his own tax returns from 2010-2014 this weekend.

What about Rubio's older tax returns? "We already have [released tax returns] going back to 2005 or 2004," Rubio said on Feb.16.

Donald Trump and Boris Johnson are signs of hope for fresh thinking in the U.S. and the U.K.

The greatest single political problem in the Western world is sclerosis of the imagination. In Congress, on the hustings, and in the media, the United States is reduced to two camps. One side is calling for swingeing strokes of a spending scythe on the government with the threat of a shutdown behind it, and the other side is offering more redistributive taxing and, through the quaint and incompletely recycled ex-communist Bernie Sanders, a trillion-dollar bribe in the forgiveness of all student loans. In the media, we have shrieking heads with very few people saying anything intelligible.

Los Angeles Is Seizing And Destroying Tiny Houses Donated To Homeless People

Less than a year after an online funding campaign began donating tiny houses to homeless encampments in and around Los Angeles, the city is confiscating and destroying the donated miniature dwellings.

The crowdfunded effort has built and donated at least 37 of the portable units around the L.A. area since last spring. The people behind “Tiny House, Huge Purpose” deliver the homes to existing informal campsites, often near freeway underpasses, in hopes of providing a bit of privacy and comfort at those sites.

Former CIA Head Explains Why Armed Forces Can't Legally Obey Trump

Michael Hayden, the former head of the NSA and CIA, thinks some of presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign promises are so unlawful that the U.S. Armed Forces could not follow them as orders.

These include Trump's claim that people deserve to be waterboarded even if it doesn't work and that he would target the families of terrorists. The internationally recognized Geneva Convention bars such action.

Trident March Sees Jeremy Corbyn And Nicola Sturgeon Condemn Nuclear Deterrent

Jeremy Corbyn warned "you don’t achieve peace by planning for war” as he spoke to thousands of people in an anti-Trident rally in central London.

The Labour leader was joined by Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon and Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood for the march through central London on Saturday.

According to the BBC, Corbyn said: "We live in a world where so many things are possible. Where peace is possible in so many places.

Emissions Could Make Earth Uninhabitable

LONDON—Greenhouse gases could tip the Earth—or at least a planet like Earth, orbiting a star very like the Sun—into a runaway greenhouse effect, according to new research.

The new hothouse planet would become increasingly steamy, and then start to lose its oceans to interplanetary space. Over time, it would become completely dry, stay at a temperature at least 60°C hotter than it is now, and remain completely uninhabitable, even if greenhouse gas levels could be reduced.

Antonin Scalia: The Billion-Dollar Supreme Court Justice

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was worth billions of dollars to corporate America, if a Dow Chemical settlement made public Friday is any indication.

Dow was in the midst of appealing a $1.06 billion class-action antitrust ruling, after a jury found that it had conspired with other chemical companies to fix prices for urethane, a material used in furniture and appliances.

MPs give themselves and House officers a $25M boost to office budgets

MPs and other officers of Parliament are giving themselves a $25-million office budget increase that will kick in as of April 1, 2016, CBC News has learned.

The 20 per cent increase to MPs' office budgets means each MP will be able to spend an additional $57,690 on top of the current budget of $288,450.

Unions and Cooperatives: How Workers Can Survive and Thrive

The year 2008 was when the big banks were bailed out, but it was also the year that catalyzed one group of window makers into democratically running their own factory.

On the former industrial hub of Goose Island in Chicago, the employees of Republic Windows and Doors made headlines after they were locked out of their jobs just before Christmas without the back pay or severance they were owed. Organized by the United Electrical Workers Union, these displaced workers did exactly what the ownership hoped they wouldn't do. They refused to quietly accept the layoffs. Instead, the workers engaged in a sitdown strike at their factory, garnering local and national media attention. Eventually, the employees won the occupation, forcing Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase (Republic's primary creditors) to create a fund to give the workers their back pay, benefits, and health insurance. This became viewed as a much-needed victory for workers and unions in a desperate economic time.

Forget Trump — 'Dark Money' from Koch brothers is shaping Republican Party

Given how the race for Republican presidential nomination is shaping up in the United States, you might think it's a party where the loudest mouth has a strong chance of winning.

After all, real estate mogul Donald Trump is the front-runner for the nomination, recently securing the support of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, himself no slouch in the volume department.

IRS On Donald Trump: 'Nothing Prevents Individuals From Sharing Their Own Tax Information'

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said during Thursday's GOP primary debate that he can't release his tax returns because he is currently being audited by the IRS, but the agency says nothing prevents individuals from sharing their tax information.

"Federal privacy rules prohibit the IRS from discussing individual tax matters. Nothing prevents individuals from sharing their own tax information," the IRS said in a statement, responding to a HuffPost inquiry.

Metrolinx blames you

"Since we launched our service about nine months ago, we’ve learned a great deal," said Kathy Haley, beginning the most awkward presentation of her life. The president of the Union Pearson Express (UPX) had been called to Tuesday's special meeting of the Metrolinx board to answer for her project's failure to attract riders.

Earlier in the day, the province announced that fares on the underused line would finally be coming down. Starting March 9, one-way adult tickets between Union Station and Pearson Airport will dive from $27.50 to $12, or from $19 to $9 if you pay with a Presto card. And if you get on or off at one of the intermediate stops (Bloor or Weston) you'll essentially be paying GO rates — roughly $5-6 for the distance. (Those riding prior to March 9 will be given a two-for-one discount on current prices.)

India’s Right-Wing Hindu Supremacy Rises in Parallel With Donald Trump’s Bigotry

Indian democracy is in such grave danger from right-wing religious fundamentalism and nationalism that it is even affecting the United States.

The world’s largest democracy, India is in the throes of a deep internal battle to preserve its democratic values. The country has for years struggled to tackle caste-based oppression, poverty and communal violence. But now, under the leadership of a virulently right-wing government, Hindu supremacy, nationalism and the resulting crackdown on dissent are blowing over onto all aspects of society. They are even affecting U.S. politics, with wealthy Hindu fundamentalists in India seeking to support Republican bigotry here.

Time to fire him -- Donald Trump is unfit to lead a great political party

IN A week’s time, the race for the Republican nomination could be all but over. Donald Trump has already won three of the first four contests. On March 1st, Super Tuesday, 12 more states will vote. Mr Trump has a polling lead in all but three of them. Were these polls to translate into results, as they have so far, Mr Trump would not quite be unbeatable. It would still be possible for another candidate to win enough delegates to overtake him. But that would require the front-runner to have a late, spectacular electoral collapse of a kind that has not been seen before. Right now the Republican nomination is his to lose.

Just how deep in the police union's pocket is John Tory?

"Forgive the delay in responding, but my first week of retirement has been a busy one for me. I really appreciate the insightful (and sometimes humorous) articles you have done on the police over the years. That said, it is best that the media coverage on the current hot topic of modernizing policing happens with those who are formally involved in the process. I may take up your kind offer if the opportunity presents itself in the future. Best regards and with genuine respect. Peter."

‘We Are Not Denmark’: Hillary Clinton and Liberal American Exceptionalism

Several months removed, it now seems clear that the Democratic debate on October 13 contained an illuminating moment that has come to embody the 2016 Democratic Primary and the key differences between its two candidates.  Confronting Bernie Sanders’s insistence that the United States has much to learn from more socialized nations, particularly the Nordic Model, Hillary Clinton was direct: “I love Denmark.  But we are not Denmark.  We are the United States of America.”

The BDS Crackdown Is Dangerous For Democracy

For writing these words, I could be put in prison.

I'm in France, where last October, the country's highest court ruled that advocating for the movement to boycott, divest and sanction (BDS) companies dealing with Israeli settlements is a criminal offence.

ICE Ignores Immigrants’ Medical Needs In Detention Centers Until They Die

Between 2010 and 2012, eight people died from inadequate medical care while held in detention facilities operated by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, according to a scathing report from three immigrant rights organizations.

The report, entitled Fatal Neglect: How ICE Ignores Deaths in Detention, examined how ICE failed to comply with the agency’s own medical standards even after routine reviews identified violations of medical standards “as contributing factors in these deaths.” Inspections conducted before and after detainee deaths failed to acknowledge serious flaws. In all but one of the eight cases, facilities received passing ratings even when Office of Detention Oversight (ODO) inspections found they failed to meet proper medical care standards.

The Most Disappointing Thing About Chris Christie’s Endorsement Of Donald Trump

In a somewhat surprising development, Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) endorsed Donald Trump for president on Friday.

“There is no one who is better prepared to provide America with the strong leadership that it needs both at home and around the world, than Donald Trump,” Christie said at a news conference. “He is, looking at the five people on that stage last night [at the GOP debate], the clear standout, and the person who will do exactly what needs to be done to make America a leader around the world again.”

FBI vs. Apple Establishes a New Phase of the Crypto Wars

For over two decades, the battle between privacy-minded technologists and the U.S. government has primarily been over encryption. In the 1990s, in what became known as the Crypto Wars, the U.S. tried to limit powerful encryption – calling it as dangerous to export as sophisticated munitions — and eventually lost.

Rick Snyder Aides Urged Moving Flint Back To Detroit Water System: Report

DETROIT, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Quality problems prompted two of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder's top lawyers to urge that the city of Flint be moved back to the Detroit water system just months after a decision to draw water supply from the Flint River, Detroit newspapers reported Friday.

Flint switched its water supply from Detroit to the Flint River in April 2014 in a bid to cut costs when the city was under a state-appointed emergency manager.

Snyder Aide Says Governor Knew About Flint Water Issues A Year Before Action Was Taken

Aides close to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) and his top lawyers discussed concerns about water quality in Flint and its impact on health as early as October 2014, a full year before the water source was switched back to Detroit and away from the Flint River, according to a review of 550 newly released emails by the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News. At least one aide says the concerns were brought directly to the governor himself.

Months to live, but a longer wait for housing

“By the time I get affordable housing, I’ll be dead,” says Lisa De Medeiros.

The 41-year-old mother of two has been fighting a rare form of abdominal cancer for nine years. Two Christmases ago, doctors gave her months to live.

A social worker at the hospital brought her a form to fill out for social housing, since she wouldn’t be able to navigate the stairs in her rental home.

Hillary Clinton: The Candidate of Cynicism

If you are looking for idealism in the Democratic Primary, you will not find it among Secretary Hillary Clinton's supporters. While Senator Bernie Sanders' supporters look at the world and say "what if," Hillary Clinton's supporters look at the world and say "not so fast." It seems like Clinton's supporters are constantly trying to lecture Sanders' supporters about the feasibility of our candidate's ideas. They think Hillary's ideas are more grounded in reality. They think Congress is more likely to work with Hillary. They say Hillary has more experience getting things done. However, what I see in this line of argument is cynicism. Clinton's supporters believe this is how politics has to be -- a series of unfortunate compromises that make no one happy. They believe there is no point in shooting for the moon. To them politics is and will always be a contact sport where politicians say and do anything as long as it furthers their agenda. Sanders' supporters want more from politics.

U.S. Test-Fires ICBMs To Demonstrate Its Power To Russia, North Korea

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (Reuters) - The U.S. military test-fired its second intercontinental ballistic missile in a week on Thursday night, seeking to demonstrate its nuclear arms capacity at a time of rising strategic tensions with Russia and North Korea.

The unarmed Minuteman III missile roared out of a silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California late at night, raced across the sky at speeds of up to 15,000 mph (24,000 kph) and landed a half hour later in a target area 4,200 miles (6,500 km) away near Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands of the South Pacific.