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, January 23, 2016

Christian Religious Liberty Is More Popular Than Religious Liberty For Everyone Else

Most Americans believe Muslims deserve religious freedom, according to a poll by the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. 61 percent said religious liberty was important for people of Muslim faith, though the number is dwarfed by the 82 percent who believe Christians’ religious liberty is important.

The figure wasn’t drastically different along political lines either, as 60 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of Democrats supported religious protections for Muslims. Those numbers for Christians were 88 and 83 percent, respectively.

Canadians’ Internet traffic at risk

OTTAWA–Done any online shopping this holiday season? Paid any bills online? Maybe sent an email to your local MP about road salt?

If you answered yes to any of the above, there’s a good chance your data made its way through the United States. And that puts your personal information at risk of interception, new research by two Canadian academics shows.

Ontario hydro bills set to rise Jan. 1

Ontario residents can brace for another hike in electricity bills on Jan. 1.

The increase comes on the heels of a jump just two months ago, and hydro bills will rise again after the Liberals introduce a cap-and-trade plan in the spring.

Under the Liberal government, electricity prices in Ontario soared from a flat 4.7 cents a kilowatt hour in 2004, to the Nov. 1, 2015 rate of 17.5 cents a kwh at peak times, increases that total almost 375 per cent.

Spelling error on bronze plaque unveiled by Queen cost taxpayers $4K to fix

Sloppy proofreading of a bilingual plaque unveiled by the Queen at Canada's main diplomatic mission in London cost Canadian taxpayers about $4,000 to repair just three letters.

The plaque was the centrepiece of a gala reopening of Canada's high commission, known as Canada House, in Trafalgar Square on Feb. 19. But the large bronze plaque contained an embarrassing spelling mistake that diplomatic staff failed to notice until after the splashy event.

The French-language part of the plaque referred to "Premier Minister Stephen Harper," rather than the correct "Premier ministre Stephen Harper" – an error the staff did not spot when checking the proofs of the original order.

This Is How The Underground Economy Shortchanges Canadians

In April, Statistics Canada reported that "total underground activity in Canada was estimated at $42.4 billion." Think about that number in the context of what the underground economy is -- under-the-table transactions Canadians use to pay for goods or services, large and small. It adds up, doesn't it?

No One Was Indicted In The Tamir Rice Case. That Was The Plan All Along.

For the first time since Tamir Rice was shot and killed by the Cleveland police last year, the prosecutor in the case ran from the press.

After announcing the grand jury's decision on Monday not to indict anyone in the 12-year-old's death, Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty simply left and didn't take any questions.

No Indictment For Cop Who Fatally Shot 12-Year-Old Tamir Rice

An Ohio grand jury has declined to indict the Cleveland police officer who fatally shot Tamir Rice, an unarmed black 12-year-old, in 2014.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty announced the decision Monday afternoon, 401 days after rookie patrolman Timothy Loehmann shot Rice at a park in Cleveland. The grand jury also declined to indict veteran officer Frank Garmback, who responded to the scene with Loehmann, on charges of negligent homicide and dereliction of duty.

Why Philanthropy Actually Hurts Rather Than Helps Some of the World's Worst Problems

In America today, big time philanthropists are often lauded for helping to even the playing field for those less fortunate. Every week, millionaires flock from TED conferences to "idea festivals" sharing viral new presentations on how to solve the world's biggest problems (give village children computers, think positive thoughts etc.). But this acceptance of the philanthropic order was not always the case. In the era of Carnegie and Rockefeller, for instance, many distrusted these philanthropic barons, arguing they had no right to horde would-be tax dollars for their own pet causes, especially since these "donations" came from the toil of the workers beneath them.

Military Lobbyists Brag About Getting Presidential Candidates to Favor War

An email to supporters disclosed in early December shows a group formed this year by defense industry higher-ups and their lobbyists congratulating itself for getting Republican presidential candidates to demand the escalation of U.S. military action in Syria.

Nearly 1,000 People Were Fatally Shot by Police in the U.S. in 2015

The Washington Post this week published the results of a yearlong study revealing that 965 people were fatally shot by police in the U.S. in 2015.

The report shows that some 40 percent of the unarmed men shot to death by police this year were black, despite the fact that black males make up just 6 percent of the population. Three in five men—a disproportionately high number—who were killed without exhibiting threatening behavior were black or Hispanic.

Admitting a Post-Paris Truth: BC's LNG Pipe Dream Is Over

Since the signing of the new climate treaty in Paris earlier this month, there's been plenty of debate as to whether the new global agreement is a turning point or merely more hollow promises.

The answer, as the CCPA's Marc Lee has written, will be revealed in how governments and markets react. In particular, the litmus test will be whether governments, upon their return home, continue with plans to expand fossil fuel production, or instead are prepared to speak an essential truth -- that most of these ancient carbon reserves need to stay safely in the ground.

Quintonio LeGrier, Bettie Jones deaths renew anger over Chicago police shootings

Family members of a woman and man fatally shot by Chicago police say officers must stop killing residents.

Neighbours Quintonio LeGrier, 19, and Bettie Jones, 55, were shot and killed by police inside their apartment building on Saturday.

Speaking at a news conference held Sunday outside the home where the victims were killed, LeGrier's mother, Janet Cooksey, said the Chicago Police Department has failed her and so many others.

Quebec politicians mulling pay hike from $90,000 to $140,000

MONTREAL—The Quebec government is considering a bill that could see members of the legislature get a substantial increase in their base salary and make them the country’s best-paid provincial politicians.

The proposal is essentially the result of recommendations in a report from retired Supreme Court justice Claire L’Heureux-Dube on how to improve their pay conditions.

The Story Sheldon Adelson Didn’t Want You To Read

Two weeks ago, conservative billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his family purchased the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Nevada’s largest paper. On Tuesday, its editor-in-chief of five years, Mike Hengel, resigned.

If you are a subscriber to the Review-Journal, you would have read a grand total of 79 words on Wednesday about Hengel’s departure. According to the story, which did not have a byline, the decision was “mutual” and “he did not believe he was forced out.”

A New Year’s resolution for the Conservatives: Learn from your mistakes

Mike Duffy once quipped that after he testified at his criminal trial, no one would vote for the Conservative Party of Canada for twenty years.

He’s probably half right. No matter how much the Conservatives are fluffed and buffed by the same media enablers who guarded Harper’s flanks in his heyday — the National Post, the Globe & Mail, the CBC and Maclean’s — the CPC will be out of power for a decade.

Sandra Bland’s Family Slams ‘Secrecy of It All’ After Non-Indictment

Many questions still remain after a grand jury on Monday chose not to indict anyone in connection to the mysterious and disturbing death of Sandra Bland, the 28-year-old black woman who died in a Southeast Texas county jail last July.

Prosecutor Darrell Jorden said the Waller County grand jury had not yet reached a decision on whether Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia—who was seen in dashcam footage assaulting and threatening to taser Bland before her arrest on July 10—should face charges. The jury is expected to reconvene next month to decide.

The Shocking, Unacceptable Levels of Hunger and Homelessness in American Cities

The U.S. Conference of Mayors today released its 2015 Hunger and Homelessness Survey, which gathered information on 22 cities around the country between Sept. 1, 2014, and Aug. 31, 2015. The cities reported on are led by mayors who serve on the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Task Force on Hunger and Homelessness.

Whose world view will dominate 2016: The Donald or The Pope?

The planetary question in 2016 will come down to this: whose values will the world follow, The Pope’s or The Donald’s?

As we inch toward war and fascism in much of the West while spouting the rhetoric of peace and love set to Jingle Bells, will it be hands across the water, or Trumpian walls against the sky; a “reconciled diversity”, or the Republic of Scapegoating?

The Pilgrim of Peace and the Bloviating Billionaire are going after the same thing: hearts, minds, and yes, souls. What they have on offer couldn’t be further apart. The latest incarnation of God and Mammon is the Cool Pope and the Shameless Capitalist.

Mike Duffy’s sad, shabby show trial is ending with a whimper

For months, Mike Duffy sat in Courtroom 33 like Buddha with his poker face on. A slightly pink Buddha, somewhat diminished from the days when he winked at his fans on TV.

Today, on his last day testifying in his own defence, some flashes of the man inside showed through the mask of the seasoned performer. It has been a brutal, battering exercise in what Duffy has described as a public shaming for having lived by the rules of a very dysfunctional institution. The Crown and the Mounties see it differently. Now all that matters is how Mr. Justice Charles Vaillancourt sees it.

Black Students Are Being Shut Out Of Top Public Colleges

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — As racial unrest sweeps across major college campuses, and African-American students demand more equitable treatment, college administrators need look no farther than their own admissions offices to find one root of the problem.

The nation’s flagship public universities — large, taxpayer-funded institutions whose declared mission is to educate residents of their states — enroll far smaller proportions of black students than other colleges, and the number appears to be declining, according to federal records and college enrollment data analyzed by The Hechinger Report and The Huffington Post.

9 Ways Police Have More Protections Than You Do When They're Arrested

The police reform advocates who have long argued that cops shouldn't be allowed to investigate themselves for wrongdoing now have some new data to back them up. Earlier this month, four activists affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement launched Check the Police, a database of police union contracts from departments in 50 cities. After scrutinizing the documents, the project's creators identified four key provisions by which the contracts shield officers from accountability, or receive rights and courtesies not available to most civilian suspects.

Congress' half-trillion-dollar spending binge

Rand Paul thinks the national debt is the “greatest threat” to America’s future. Donald Trump warns that the nation is at risk of becoming “a large-scale version of Greece.” And Marco Rubio says the debt will “shackle future generations.”

But on Capitol Hill this week, just hours before they jet away for the holidays, the GOP-led Congress is going on a $680 billion spending spree — none of which will be paid for by budget cuts or other tax offsets. And all of which will be added to the national debt, according to budget watchdogs.

They're Killing the Peace River Valley Now

Last month the B.C government commenced the destruction of the fertile Peace River Valley, awarding a civil works contract worth $1.5 billion as construction crews methodically denuded the landscape of trees.

Taxpayers will be on the hook for at least $7.5 billion more by the time the devastation is done. The question looming larger than ever is whether the Peace River Valley must be sacrificed at all.

Here's How Uber Is Trying to Get Out of a Huge Lawsuit

For the past two years, car-hailing app Uber has tried several legal maneuvers to quash an ongoing class-action lawsuit filed by a number of its drivers in California. They contend that they've been wrongly classified as contractors, instead of full employees, and that Uber has withheld some of their tips. On Friday, the $50 billion company deployed its latest tactic: An updated driver agreement began popping up on Uber apps nationwide that drivers were required to sign before being able to accept any new rides over the weekend, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. But many see this agreement as the company's most recent attempt to kneecap the class action lawsuit.

On US Campuses, Pro-Israel Groups Target Supporters of Palestinian Rights

As a Palestinian uprising across the West Bank, Israel and the Gaza Strip stretches into its third bloody month, Palestinian and solidarity activists say a quieter struggle is taking places on campuses and in communities across the United States as Israel supporters seek to silence them.

They point to experiences like that of Ramie Abounaja, a Palestinian-American junior studying biomedical engineering at Washington, DC's George Washington University.

Capitalism’s Cult of Human Sacrifice

HOUSTON—Bryan Parras stood in the shadows cast by glaring floodlights ringing the massive white, cylindrical tanks of the Valero oil refinery. He, like many other poor Mexican-Americans who grew up in this part of Houston, struggles with asthma, sore throats, headaches, rashes, nosebleeds and a host of other illnesses and symptoms. The air was heavy with the smell of sulfur and benzene. The faint, acrid taste of a metallic substance was on our tongues. The sprawling refinery emitted a high-pitched electric hum. The periodic roar of flares, red-tongued flames of spent emissions, leapt upward into the Stygian darkness. The refinery seemed to be a living being, a giant, malignant antediluvian deity.