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.]

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Doomed Harper government made 49 “future” patronage appointments

Former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet quietly stacked government agencies and Crown corporations with dozens of “future appointments,” and early appointment renewals in the dying days of its regime, many of which were only scheduled to go into effect long after the Conservatives were defeated, iPolitics has learned.

While some had been due to come up for renewal in November and December, others were renewed up to a year in advance of when they had been scheduled to expire and made effective the date the appointees’ current term was due to end.

Halifax offers last stand for Harper’s war machine

For what it’s worth, Adolf Hitler kicked off the 7th annual Halifax International Security Forum.

The lights in the amphitheater dimmed, and the packed room in the Westin Hotel turned its collective attention to the three big screen TVs on the walls.

There was the Fuhrer in grainy black and white — and that barking, ferocious voice cracking with hatred and belligerence. The images of the Nazi leader were deftly intercut with ISIS beheadings, shots of a smouldering Pearl Harbour, destruction in Syria, Eichmann’s hideous death camps, the huge Swastika being blown up above the Nazi parade square in Nuremberg in 1945 — even a haunting image of Anne Frank.

How The Iraq War Led To The Paris Attacks

WASHINGTON -- One Middle East catastrophe apparently wasn't enough for some supporters of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. So they've continued to try to shape policy relating to the region, offering punditry in the wake of each fresh crisis.

It wasn't a surprise, then, that they seized on last week's tragic attacks in Paris to argue that the Islamic State group could only be eliminated by their preferred mode of U.S. intervention: large-scale troop deployment.

Kochs Brothers' 'Freedom Partners' Investments Exposed

-- Co-authored by Brendan Fischer and Mary Bottari

The Koch network's secret bank, "Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce," spent big during the 2014 midterm elections, including doubling its investment in voter data collection efforts, beefing up its "intelligence gathering" operation, bankrolling effort to roll back Wall Street reform, and secretly backing U.S. Senate candidates associated with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Paul Ryan Balks Over Blocking Gun Sales To People On Terror Watch List

WASHINGTON (AP) — People on the U.S. government's terrorist watch list often can't board commercial airliners, but they can walk into a gun store and legally buy pistols and powerful military-style rifles.

Sensing a political opening from last week's Paris attacks, Democrats are renewing calls for Congress to pass legislation aimed at preventing terrorists from buying guns. Similar bills — including a post-9/11 measure backed by the Justice Department under Republican President George W. Bush — have been stymied for years, thanks in large part to opposition from gun-rights groups and congressional Republicans.

Tim Hortons Abruptly Shuts Multiple U.S. Locations, Taking Customers, Staff By Surprise

Managers and employees at Tim Hortons locations in New York and Maine say they were let go with virtually no notice this week, amid a round of store closures in the U.S. northeast.

At least one customer said he was mid-meal when Tim Hortons turned off the lights around him.

Liberals will find key to undoing Harper's agenda in his infamous 'firewall' letter

It didn’t take long for the new Liberal government to start undoing the changes Stephen Harper made to the way the country was run over his nine years as prime minister. Many of these changes were in the tone and style of governance: Trudeau unmuzzled scientists, said nice things to public servants, promised more access and openness to journalists.

Aside from the change in tone, Trudeau also took a few quick steps to reverse some of Harper’s key policies. Most notably, he immediately reinstated the mandatory long-form census, barely in time for the 2016 survey. Interestingly, the minister who oversaw the cancelling of the mandatory census, Tony Clement, could not bring himself to criticize Trudeau’s move, saying that in retrospect “I think I would have done it differently.”  (On a related note: Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose has come out in favour of an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women. We may eventually discover that not a single member of Harper’s cabinet privately supported anything they did.)

NYC Is Completely Unaffordable, But New Yorkers Are In Denial

Here’s more evidence that New York City is unaffordable for most people -- but that they'll probably keep living there anyway.

Just over half of New Yorkers are either “just getting by” or finding it difficult or very difficult to manage their finances, according to a New York Times/Siena College Poll released this week.  Of those with household incomes under $50,000, almost three-quarters are just getting by or having difficulties. Surprisingly, 17 percent of respondents with household incomes over $100,000 gave this answer.

How The White House Lost Democrats On The Syrian Refugee Bill

WASHINGTON -- In the lead-up to Thursday's House vote for tightening restrictions on Syrian refugees seeking entry into the United States, senior Democrats warned fellow members that they faced a massive backlash next fall if they didn't support the bill.

Forty-seven Democrats voted for the SAFE Act, which aims to impose additional requirements on an already cumbersome refugee screening process, including certification that individual refugees don't pose a threat. The votes came despite notice from the administration that President Barack Obama would veto the measure, raising the question of why the president's team was unable to move its own party on the most high-profile legislative response to last week's Paris terrorist attacks that killed 129 people.

We’re not winning this ‘war on terror’ from the air — or the ground

No one else is saying it, but it’s still a fact: ISIS — or something just like it — is with us to stay.

With every politician in France channelling Clint Eastwood, you might think that the “eradication” of this Islamic terrorist group is just a few bombing sorties away.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Revenge-driven aerial bombing campaigns may make the French think something is being done about the Paris attacks — until the next attack. After all, the country was still recovering from the shock of the Charlie Hebdo massacre when this latest atrocity hit.

The Paris Attacks Are Being Used to Justify Agendas They Have Nothing to Do With

The aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks has “devolved into a dark and dishonest debate” in which governments consider banning encryption and barring Syrian refugees from entering their countries—even though the attackers were neither Syrian nor refugees and there’s no evidence they used encryption to communicate, Trevor Timm writes at The Guardian.

Rubio Trumps Trump: Shut Down Any Place Muslims Gather To Be ‘Inspired’ — Not Just Mosques

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) seems to be going further than even Republican frontrunner Donald Trump in advocating the crackdown of U.S. Muslims. He doesn’t just want to consider shutting down mosques, as Trump says, but wants to shut down “any place where radicals are being inspired.”

“It’s not about closing down mosques. It’s about closing down any place — whether it’s a cafe, a diner, an internet site — any place where radicals are being inspired,” Rubio said on Fox News’ The Kelly File on Thursday night when asked if he agreed with Trump. “The bigger problem we have is our inability to find out where these places are, because we’ve crippled our intelligence programs, both through unauthorized disclosures by a traitor, in Edward Snowden, or by some of the things this president has put in place with the support even of some from my own party to diminish our intelligence capabilities.”

Is America a Nation of Xenophobic Trumps?

When Donald Trump first entered the Republican presidential primary, there was a widespread impulse to treat him as if he were a joke candidate. The Huffington Post, for one, famously announced that it would cover Trump only as entertainment news. Yet there’s diminishing entertainment value to be found in Trump’s campaign, as he continues not only to dominate the polls on the Republican side but also to set the very terms of debate, with his rivals echoing and endorsing his strident xenophobia. Thanks to Trump, this has become a political contest about national identity, with the core question being, “What sort of country is America?”

The Leader of the Benghazi Witch Hunt Is Taking on Refugees

Weeks after chairing the Benghazi hearing with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) held another politically charged hearing Thursday, this time focused on the refugee crisis in Syria and the efforts of US governors and other politicians to block Syrian refugees from entering their states.

Gowdy, chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, convened Thursday's hearing to discuss the process of vetting refugees who are attempting to enter the United States. During his opening statement, Gowdy attacked President Barack Obama, whose comments, Gowdy said, are designed to "cut off debate rather than discuss foreign policy." Obama has insisted that refugees are put through a rigorous screening process, but Gowdy said there are few reliable sources of information in chaotic regions such as Syria to verify information presented by refugee applicants.

47 Democrats Join With House GOP to Refuse Suffering Refugees

Forty-seven House Democrats joined with a majority of Republicans to approve a bill that would effectively stop the ability for Syrian refugees attempting to flee their war-torn country to be resettled in the United States.

The passage of the bill, which was backed by newly-elected Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and passed 289-137, was immediately slammed by progressive lawmakers who opposed the measure and rights groups who said the bill represents a gross and reactionary response to recent events in Paris, France.

Hillary Clinton Sheds Progressive Façade With Bold Rightward Lurch

From her call for a major air and ground war against ISIS to her attack on single-payer, observers note that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is rapidly shedding her “progressive” façade as she grows increasingly confident she has the Democratic nomination locked down (an assumption which, evidence shows, is debatable).

This trend comes despite her declaration during the first Democratic debate in October, after being pressed by the CNN moderator: “I don’t take a backseat to anyone when it comes to progressive experience and progressive commitment.”

Texas Board of Education Refuses To Allow Professors To Fact-Check Textbooks

Conservative members of the Texas Board of Education don’t want to create a group of state university professors to fact-check students’ textbooks for potential errors, despite recent controversies over factually inaccurate information about slavery in schools’ educational materials.

Currently, only the publisher and public have the responsibility to fact-check. The Republican vice chairman of the board made the proposal to expand the process to professors.

Republican Campaign Against Refugees Is Just Beginning

The House passed a bill Thursday to severely restrict the admission of refugees from Syria and Iraq. President Barack Obama has promised to veto it. Behind the scenes, Republicans are preparing several bills that are more drastic, aiming to close American borders to asylum seekers. These measures set up a much longer political battle.

The most severe of the Republican proposals would suspend all U.S. government support for resettling refugees in the U.S. and would aim to guard against certain refugees entering the U.S. through the southern border who are suspected of ties to terrorism, designating them “special interest aliens.”