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 01, 2016

Donald Trump’s beliefs and policies: the potential consequences for Canada

Donald Trump expresses a degree of admiration for — and thinks he can cut deals with — China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, in particular to pursue the war on Jihadists.  However, in a curious twist, the United States’ major allies and trading partners draw vehement criticism from the Republican Party’s would-be nominee for the presidency.  South Korea, Western Europe and Japan would be asked to pay for ‘sheltering’ under US military protection.  In general, Trump believes the US gets a raw deal from the liberal global trading system and is opposed to free trade.

10 Things They Won't Tell You About the Flint Water Tragedy. But I Will

News of the poisoned water crisis in Flint has reached a wide audience around the world. The basics are now known: The Republican governor, Rick Snyder, nullified the free elections in Flint, deposed the mayor and city council, then appointed his own man to run the city. To save money, they decided to unhook the people of Flint from their fresh water drinking source, Lake Huron, and instead, make the public drink from the toxic Flint River.

Australia’s Emissions Keep Growing Despite Government Claims

In November, just before nearly 200 nations met in Paris to hammer out an international agreement on climate change, Australia — long an outsider in global climate policy — made an impressive announcement: the country had succeeded in meeting its 2020 climate goal, a full five years ahead of schedule.

But, according to a new analysis released by the carbon market analysts at Reputex, that announcement might have been misleading — instead of achieving robust reductions in their national emissions, Australia’s emissions are actually growing, and will likely not peak before 2030, an official goal set forth by the Australian government. And despite being one of the 196 parties to sign onto the Paris agreement pledging to keep global temperatures increases well below 2 degrees Celsius, Reputex found that Australia’s projected growth rate for emissions would be one of the worst growth rates in the developed world between 2000 and 2020.

In Iowa, Hillary Clinton Defends A System Everyone Else Is Trashing

DES MOINES, IOWA -- In these days of anger and rebellion in politics, it takes a certain amount of daring -- or stubbornness -- to say the following in the closing days of the campaign for the Iowa caucuses:

“We are on the right path, my friends. We just have to stay on it.”

And yet that is the surprising essence of Hillary Clinton’s final pitch to Democratic caucus-goers as she delivered it this weekend at Grand View University in Des Moines.

Big Oil and Gas Want Them Out, but One Small Clan Is Standing Up to Pipeline Expansion

Down a logging road in northern British Columbia, signs of modern life slowly disappear. Blue, snow-capped mountains fill the landscape, their yellowed forests bearing the scars of clear-cutting and the ravenous pine beetle, while the road begins to mimic the path of a river.

Forty miles into the wilderness, visitors reach a bridge checkpoint: an entrance into Unist'ot'en territory. A young man in thick winter gear walks across a bridge to meet them. He asks for names. The volunteer communicates by radio to the clan's spokesperson, who arrives shortly and takes visitors through a protocol used by generations of indigenous peoples to determine entry onto their lands.

Freak Storms and Massive Animal Die-Offs: This Is Your Climate on Fossil Fuels

The year 2015 will go down in history, at least until next year, as the hottest year ever recorded on the planet.

By a wide margin, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2015 "shattered" global temperature records, beating out the previous hottest year (2014) easily.

Extreme weather events, fueled by anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD), continue to pile up, to the extent that they are quickly becoming normalized.

Teenage girl admits making up migrant rape claim that outraged Germany

A 13-year-old Russian-German girl has admitted making up a story about being kidnapped and raped by migrants in a case that triggered a furore in Germany and briefly embroiled Berlin police in a spat with the Kremlin, state prosecutors said.

The parents of the teenager, named only as Lisa, reported her missing on 11 January after she failed to appear at school in the Marzahn district of the capital. She reappeared 30 hours later with injuries on her face, and told her parents she had been attacked by men of Middle Eastern or north African appearance. News of the incident spread on social media, sparking outrage among Berlin’s Russian-German community.

Understanding the roots of Donald Trump’s appeal

Donald Trump’s announcement of his candidacy to be the Republican Party’s Presidential nominee was greeted with ridicule.  Now panic is setting in and not only in the Republican leadership.  A Trump victory at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland is no longer an impossibility.  Even US conservatives are aghast (see this somewhat scurrilous assessment from the neo-conservative The Weekly Standard).

The Historical Context

Most important, Mr. Trump is no outlier.  His positions, though forcefully and colourfully expressed, fall well within conservative Republican traditions.  Donald Trump’s economic and foreign policy views reflect US 19th century isolationism and high tariff mercantilism.  His views on race and immigration echo anti-Chinese US policies before World War I.  His values reflect the pro-Western European white Protestant predispositions that underpinned the anti-Catholic politics of agrarian and traditional “town” versus industrial and transformative “city” division that vivified US politics after the Civil War and, in terms of social policy, produced Prohibition and the War on Drugs among other efforts to control personal behaviour and oppose the advance of gender equality.  His economic policies that favour the 1% find sustenance (whether he knows it or not) in Calvinist notions of the Elect, blessed with wealth by God in this life, that actuated the social “laisez-faireism” of the US before the Presidency of Teddy Roosevelt.

Ottawa examines challenges of ‘disruptive’ expanding sharing economy

OTTAWA—Companies like Uber and Airbnb were the subject of a quiet in-depth study by high-ranking federal bureaucrats, the Star has learned.

A committee of five deputy ministers and a team of analysts undertook a comprehensive study of the so-called sharing economy and its implications for Canadian policy-makers and consumers.

Harper wanted to pull out of Europe’s leading security organization: diplomats

OTTAWA — Former prime minister Stephen Harper wanted to pull Canada out of one of Europe's leading security organization four years ago but U.S. President Barack Obama convinced him to stay.

Three European ambassadors are describing what happened in 2012 when Harper suggested Canada would withdraw from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a 57-country alliance that includes NATO and European Union countries.

The diplomats say Harper believed the OSCE was no longer relevant because Europe was mainly peaceful then.

Arguments against Canada's bombing mission exist, but Trudeau hasn't uttered then

There are serious moral and strategic concerns about civilian deaths on the ground in Iraq and Syria. These lie at the heart of lively peace rallies in the UK over David Cameron's decision to participate in the coalition aerial bombing campaign against the forces of the Islamic State.

There has not been a similar upsurge of protesters on Canadian streets calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to keep his election promises and withdraw the six CF-18s from their current mission, which is entirely in Iraq. Canada has, up to now, stayed out of the Syrian portion of the campaign.

Canada failed to advance tech sector through TPP side agreements

The Trouble with the TPP series this week has focused on issues such as the failure to obtain a full cultural exception and the weak e-commerce rules that do little to assist online businesses, particularly small and medium sized enterprises. Yet the Canadian digital failure goes even further. While other countries saw the opportunity to use the TPP to advance their domestic online sector through side agreements, Canada remained on the sidelines. Indeed, as some leading critics such as Jim Balsillie have noted, the Canadian government did little to even consult with Canada's technology sector.

Trump Attacks Supreme Court Decision On Marriage Equality

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said Sunday that, if he becomes president, he would “strongly consider” appointing Supreme Court judges who would overturn the court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage.

“It has been ruled upon,” Trump said on Fox News Sunday. “If I’m elected I would be very strong in putting certain judges on the bench that maybe could change things.”

Justice Ginsburg’s Warning To The American Worker

Lochner v. New York is one of the Supreme Court’s great anti-precedents. Typically taught in law schools as an example of how judges should not behave, Lochner rested on a fabricated “right to contract” that, in effect, gave employers broad license to exploit their workers. The so-called right invented in Lochner and similar cases later formed the basis for decisions striking down the minimum wage and laws protecting workers’ right to organize.

Democracy of the Billionaires

The Most Expensive Election Ever Is A Billionaire's Playground (Except for Bernie Sanders)

Speaking of the need for citizen participation in our national politics in his final State of the Union address, President Obama said, “Our brand of democracy is hard.” A more accurate characterization might have been: “Our brand of democracy is cold hard cash.”

New Technologies Give Government Ample Means to Track Suspects, Study Finds

WASHINGTON — For more than two years the F.B.I. and intelligence agencies have warned that encrypted communications are creating a “going dark” crisis that will keep them from tracking terrorists and kidnappers.

Now, a study in which current and former intelligence officials participated concludes that the warning is wildly overblown, and that a raft of new technologies — like television sets with microphones and web-connected cars — are creating ample opportunities for the government to track suspects, many of them worrying.

Don’t Shoot the Messenger, Israel

United Nations — IN Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, 2016 has begun much as 2015 ended — with unacceptable levels of violence and a polarized public discourse. That polarization showed itself in the halls of the United Nations last week when I pointed out a simple truth: History proves that people will always resist occupation.

Some sought to shoot the messenger — twisting my words into a misguided justification for violence. The stabbings, vehicle rammings and other attacks by Palestinians targeting Israeli civilians are reprehensible. So, too, are the incitement of violence and the glorification of killers.

UK Scientists Given Permission To Perform Gene-Editing On Human Embryos

The application led by Dr Kathy Niakan and the Francis Crick Institute in London asked Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority permission to carry out the technique known as 'gene-editing' on 7 day old human embryos.

Paul Nurse, director of the Crick, said: "I am delighted that the HFEA has approved Dr Niakan's application. Dr Niakan's proposed research is important for understanding how a healthy human embryo develops and will enhance our understanding of IVF success rates,"

Trudeau's Senate Reform Plan Might Be More Expensive For Canadians

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Senate reform plan could end up costing taxpayers more money.

The Huffington Post Canada has learned that the Senate has set aside funds — between $250,000 and $925,000 — to run an office for Trudeau's yet-to-be announced government representative in the upper chamber and any potential new caucus mates that person may have.

Psst, Trudeau: IMF Now Pegs Our Fossil Fuel Subsidies at $46 Billion

Justin Trudeau has a problem. How can Canada meet our international climate commitments so recently inked in Paris with an increasingly empty economic larder? The International Monetary Fund may have the answer. Last summer, the IMF updated its global report on energy subsidies and found that Canada provides a whopping $46.4 billion in subsidies to the energy sector in either direct support or uncollected taxes on externalized costs.

Super PACs Supporting Hillary Clinton Rely On $1 Million Donors

WASHINGTON -- Priorities USA Action and Correct the Record, both super PACs allied with the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, raised a combined $27.3 million in the second half of 2015, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.

The majority of the money was raised by Priorities USA Action, with $25.3 million taken in from July through December. Correct the Record raised $2 million, with Priorities USA Action providing a $1 million donation.

Donald Trump Insulted Every Other Candidate For Months. Their Supporters Noticed.

CARROLL, Iowa -- Jeb Bush made his final pitch to Iowa voters here ahead of the caucuses, adjusting his glasses as he looked across a room of around 100 voters packed into a small, lodge-type venue. The GOP presidential hopeful painted himself as the only candidate who can take on Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in the general election, a strategy most of his rivals use in trying to win over voters.

Why a Stable Balance of Power in Asia Calls for a Resurgent Japan

NEW DELHI -- The international spotlight on Japan's prolonged economic woes has helped obscure one of Asia's furthest-reaching but least-noticed developments -- the political rise of the world's third largest economy. By initiating national security reforms and seeking a more active role in shaping the evolving balance of power in Asia, Japan wants to stop punching below its weight and take its rightful place in the world.

Inside China's Risky Gamble in the Middle East

Chinese President Xi Jinping's three-country tour of the Middle East and North Africa offers yet another example of Beijing's expanding drive for increased global influence. During his first visit to the region, Xi traveled to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran where he inserted his government into the mix of some of the world's most volatile regions.

Brison warns public service bargaining must be 'realistic'

Treasury Board President Scott Brison, whose federal negotiators meet with public service unions Monday, is warning that bargaining must be “realistic” in the face of Canada’s deteriorating economic situation.

The Liberal government resumes collective bargaining this week, beginning with the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the biggest of the 18 federal unions. It’s the Liberals’ first session at the table since negotiations with the previous Conservative government dissolved in acrimony before the Oct. 19 election.

Charles Koch Complains About Lack Of Influence While His Super PAC Raises $11 Million

WASHINGTON -- The main super PAC run by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch raised more than $11 million in the second half of 2015, according to a report filed with the Federal Election Commission on Sunday.

The largest donor to Freedom Partners Action Fund was Charles Koch himself with a $3 million donation from his Charles G. Koch 1997 Trust. Koch’s seven-figure contribution came a month before he sat down with NPR to explain that he really doesn’t give that much money to politics.

How ICE Shields Its Financial Dealings With Private Prison Contractors From Public Scrutiny

The movement to put private prison contractors out of business won some amazing victories in 2015.  In the last two months, responding to organized action by California's Afrikan Black Coalition and campus Black Student Unions, the University of California announced it would be selling its $23 million stake in the private prison industry.  Just six months ago, in response to months of student protest, Columbia University became the first major university whose trustees have voted to divest from private prisons, selling off their shares of Corrections Corporation of America ("CCA").  In November, 2015, the City Council and Mayor of Gary, Indiana, refused to support the construction of a new immigrant detention facility proposed by the GEO Group.  As organized communities use financial tools to fight the private prison industry, Congressional legislators have followed, sponsoring legislation to end contractual incentives to detain immigrants in privately-operated facilities and to end the government's use of private prisons altogether.

A Democrat Explains Why She’s Voting For Donald Trump

DUBUQUE, Iowa -- She once voted for Hillary Clinton, but now she’s supporting Donald Trump.

Rebecca Thoeni says the real estate mogul and presidential candidate is speaking truths no other politician -- of either party -- is offering right now. And it is his uncharacteristic bluster that made her bolt the Democrats in favor of the Grand Old Party.

“He’s down to earth and seems to have a lot of common sense, which is lacking. I just like him. I think he really stirred the people up,” said Thoeni, who huddled with approximately 800 other people at an outdoor Trump rally on Saturday, a chilly winter day in January. The venue was none other than a hanger at the Dubuque airport, the classiest of locations, if only because it provided the best view of Trump’s arrival in a Boeing 757 jet emblazoned with his name.

Chamber of Commerce Lobbyist Tom Donohue: Clinton Will Support TPP After Election

In an interview from Davos with Bloomberg TV on January 20, Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue - a top lobbyist for the pro-corporate-power Trans-Pacific Partnership [TPP] agreement - assured viewers that if Hillary Clinton wins the presidential election, Clinton will support the TPP, even though she opposes it now.

Employment insurance whistleblower still seeking justice three years later

Sylvie Therrien considers herself a “bit of a rebel” — someone who doesn’t like being told to keep quiet when she disagrees or feels an injustice is being committed.

So when she was asked to help the government squeeze EI payouts, she refused to quietly play along.

Energy East Pipeline Would Cross 828 Bodies Of Water In Quebec

If it's built, the Energy East pipeline would cross 828 bodies of water and 69 municipalities in Quebec, a document obtained by Radio-Canada shows.

The document, included in a letter sent on June 11, 2015 from TransCanada to the Union of Quebec Municipalities, details each type of body of water that would be crossed by the proposed 4,600-kilometre pipeline.

Trudeau's Handling Of The Saudi Arms Deal Will Define His Legacy

In an apparent and welcome reversal, Ottawa seems to be reconsidering its position on the $15-billion contract for Canadian-made military equipment with Saudi Arabia -- one of the worst human rights violators in the world.

Only days after Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion seemed to signal the irreversibility of the contract, declaring emphatically that "what is done is done," an official statement from his department stated: "Should we become aware of reports that would be relevant to Canada's export control regime, the government can consider whether existing permits should be suspended or cancelled." For once, Ottawa conceded that existing arms deal authorizations can be reassessed.

Koch network spent nearly $400M in 2015

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – The Koch brothers’ donor network spent close to $400 million last year, and is on its way to spending an unprecedented $889 million supporting right-wing politics and causes during the 2016 cycle.

On Saturday afternoon, the Koch network assembled 500 wealthy conservatives — its largest gathering ever — at a luxury resort near the foothills of Palm Springs’ Coachella Valley.

Bill Clinton's Former Adviser: Hillary Is The Most Qualified Candidate Since Washington

James Carville, the well-known political adviser to former President Bill Clinton, is a bit baffled that more donors have given to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) than to Hillary Clinton, especially given the former secretary of state's résumé.

"I don't mean to be cranky, but what in the hell is that all about?!," Carville wrote in a fundraising email for Clinton Saturday. "We've got the best chance we've ever had to put a woman in the White House, and oh, by the way, she just happens to be the most qualified candidate maybe since General George Washington himself!!"