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.]

Friday, February 12, 2016

Why Our Government Isn't Listening: How Greed Is at the Root of US Suffering

In the United States, children go hungry.

Human beings endure poverty so deep "many people don't believe [it] exists here." US residents pay far more for health care than the people of any other wealthy country, yet their bodies are sicker and more broken. The public school system is unfairly funded and racist. Workers go abused and underpaid. The government throws more people behind bars than any other nation in the world. More than one in four Black and Brown Americans are living in poverty, further undermined by institutional racism and murderous police forces. Hispanic and Latina women are making 54 cents on the dollar compared to white men. More people are buried here because of gun violence than in any other industrialized country.

Notion of Elite Guardian Class Dates Back to Founding of US

Noam Chomsky explores the possibilities for a better human society in What Kind of Creatures Are We?, a collection of lectures bringing together his areas of expertise from language and mind to society and politics. This book serves as both a concise summation of Chomsky's linguistic theories and a demonstration of how that work connects to his political philosophy. Order your copy by making a tax-deductible donation today!

In this excerpt from What Kind of Creatures Are We?, Noam Chomsky discusses the historical embedding of an elite "guardian class" in US society going back to the framers of the Constitution.

Democracy in Peril: Twenty Years of Media Consolidation Under the Telecommunications Act

Wall Street's sinister influence on the political process has, rightly, been a major topic during this presidential campaign. But, history has taught us that the role that the media industry plays in Washington poses a comparable threat to our democracy. Yet, this is a topic rarely discussed by the dominant media, or on the campaign trail.

But now is a good time to discuss our growing media crises. Twenty years ago this week, President Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The act, signed into law on February 8, 1996, was "essentially bought and paid for by corporate media lobbies," as Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) described it, and radically "opened the floodgates on mergers."

Female Veterans Face Pitiful Health Care

It's been a big few months for women in the armed forces. In December, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that for the first time, all military jobs would be open to women—including elite combat positions. On February 4, following the advice of top officials in the Army and Marine Corps, House Republicans introduced legislation that would require women to register for the draft.

FBI Arrests Cliven Bundy, Tightens Grip On Final Occupiers At Oregon Wildlife Refuge

PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) - Federal agents on Wednesday closed in on the last four anti-government militants still holed up at a national wildlife refuge in Oregon after a 40-day armed occupation protesting federal land control in the West.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation said that no shots had been fired and that negotiations were continuing to end the standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in remote eastern Oregon without violence.

California Getting Closer To Having Lawmakers Wear Donors’ Logos

A transparency group in California on Tuesday announced it had collected 40,000 signatures to place an initiative on the ballot that would require state representatives to wear the names of their top sponsors while on the floor of the Statehouse.

The initiative, called "California Is Not For Sale," was created in part to curb the influence of money in politics, and has been compared to NASCAR drivers displaying company logos on their shirts. It is backed by California attorney and businessman John Cox, who committed $1 million to the effort. It will need 365,000 valid signatures in order to qualify for the ballot in November, and organizers are confident they can muster enough support.

Uber is not the answer to Winnipeg's transport woes

Ride-sharing service Uber wants into the Winnipeg taxi market. Looking past the marketing facade, Uber isn't innovative or inevitable. Uber is in fact deregulation of the taxi industry, modernized using smart phone applications and an aggressive expansion campaign.

Studies of the deregulation of the taxi industry in other jurisdictions find a decline in efficiency, productivity, overall service and driver income. Current taxi drivers are unionized and still struggle with long hours and insufficient income. Recently Duffy's Taxi and Unicity Taxi formed the Winnipeg Taxi Alliance to fight Uber's potential incursion into the Winnipeg market. Uber's application to operate in Winnipeg is currently before the provincial Taxicab Board.

Cleveland Tells Family Of Tamir Rice To Pay His Ambulance Bill

The family of Tamir Rice has been told to pay a past-due balance of $500 for life support and ambulance services the 12-year-old received after he was shot and killed by a police officer in 2014.

His family said they were startled by the "insensitivity" of the claim, and a statement emailed to Mashable from the family's attorney said it reflected "poor judgement" on behalf of the city whose officer killed Rice.

University Under Fire After Terminating Professors Who Spoke Out Against Administration

Two Mount St. Mary’s University professors were terminated on Monday, without severance. The professors’ termination comes on the heels of their public criticism of the new university president’s controversial plan to reduce the student dropout rate. This news follows the recent removal of celebrated provost David Rehm, who had similarly voiced concerns about the plan.

Simon Newman, a former private equity CEO who earned his MBA from Stanford, has made increasing the first-year retention rate at the private, liberal arts, Catholic university in Maryland a personal goal of his, but has gone about executing it in a way that has drawn much criticism and complaint from the campus community. Two professors who disagreed with Newman’s approach are now without jobs.

On Nature's Death Row: Alberta's Coveted Foothills Forest

The sound of water is loud in a land muffled by snow. No human sound penetrates this broad valley between tapering extensions of the Rocky Mountains, 100 kilometres southwest of Grand Prairie, Alberta. A stray beam from the low winter sun washes the landscape in pink. A young doe caribou makes her way to the water. She's thin, ribs visible beneath her winter coat. At the water's edge she lowers her head to drink.

Suddenly grey shapes burst from the shadows. The swiftest comes racing over her own hoof-trail, leaps and sinks sharp teeth deep into her haunch, lacerating ligament. Within minutes, the doe's struggle is over. The wolves settle in to eat.

Fish deformities spiked after Lac-Mégantic oil spill, report says

MONTREAL—Scientists have recorded an “unprecedented” spike in the fish deformities in the wake of the deadly 2013 train derailment and oil spill in Lac-Mégantic, Que., according to a provincial government report.

The report into the effects of the disaster on the 185-km-long Chaudière River, which begins in Lac Mégantic, found that in some parts of the river as many as 47 per cent of the fish they collected had an external deformation.

Marc Andreessen Riles Up Twitter After Defending Colonialism In India

Venture capitalist and Facebook board member Marc Andreessen was, unsurprisingly, disappointed that India's telecom regulator recently thwarted Facebook's plans to expand Free Basics, the company's free but limited Internet service aimed at developing markets. On Tuesday, Andreessen turned to Twitter to air his grievances:

Trump: A Doomsday Scenario

I know nothing. Having watched American politics for 50 years and seen the devolution from Nixon to Reagan to Bush, I've nonetheless deluded myself that there was a line that couldn't be crossed, and that Donald Trump, the most odious specimen of humanity I have ever experienced in American public life -- not that he hasn't had plenty of competition -- was on the other side of that line. As the results from New Hampshire clearly prove, I've been an idiot.

Bill Clinton batters and blasts Bernie Sanders

MILFORD, N.H. — Bill Clinton’s milquetoast stump speech touting his wife’s biography and her power as a “changemaker” has transformed into a brutal litany of attacks on Bernie Sanders and the devious campaign the Clintons apparently believe he is running.

Campaigning in Iowa ahead of the caucus last week, the former President seemed sent to merely soften his wife's image -- he shared gauzy memories dating back to law school about how everything she ever touched, she made better. But two days before the New Hampshire primary, where Sanders is leading by double digits in the polls, the Big Dog turned into an attack dog.

'Shadow Flipping' Not Limited To Vancouver Real Estate Market

Imagine your realtor sold your home for $500,000 more than the price you agreed to — but you didn't see a penny of that extra cash. That's the situation for some Vancouverites, as exposed in a Globe and Mail feature Saturday.

A controversial sales technique called "shadow flipping" allows realtors to score two or even three times their standard commission on a single house by reassigning the sale to different owners at ever higher prices. But it's a practice that has left the original sellers feeling scammed.

When You Ask Me To Vote For Hillary

I do not think it means what you think it means.

I'm going to set aside all of the standard issues I might have with Hillary Clinton. This isn't about policies with which I disagree, or the fact that she's never met a war she didn't like, or that she has turned her back on her own policy goals for the sake of political expediency, or that I have the real sense she sold me out three times today before I even got out of bed.

A Racist, Sexist Demagogue Just Won The New Hampshire Primary

New Hampshire Republican primary voters on Tuesday made official their choice for president of the United States: real estate mogul and reality television star Donald J. Trump.

The businessman's resounding victory amid a crowded field of more experienced and accomplished candidates is a stunning turn of events for a party that vowed just four years ago to be more inclusive to minorities after failing to unseat President Barack Obama in the bitter 2012 election. What the GOP got instead is a xenophobic demagogue who's insulted pretty much everyone and even earned the endorsement of white supremacists. Trump's victory in New Hampshire likely points to a drawn-out slog between Trump and at least one of his rivals as they battle to secure enough delegates in hopes of winning their party's nomination this summer.

Two Prominent Black Intellectuals Just Delivered More Bad News for Clinton

After a crushing loss in New Hampshire on Tuesday night, Hillary Clinton may be having an even worse morning. As her campaign turns to South Carolina, where she hopes to win the primary with the support of African American voters on February 27, two prominent black intellectuals issued forceful statements Wednesday morning that could boost her rival, Bernie Sanders.

The Supreme Court Just Gave The Finger To Obama’s Plan To Slow Climate Change

The five Republican members of the Supreme Court handed down a series of unexpected orders Tuesday night, halting environmental regulations that were expected to “avoid thousands of premature deaths and mean thousands fewer asthma attacks and hospitalizations in 2030 and every year beyond,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency. As ThinkProgress has previously explained, these regulations “represent the most significant thing America has ever done to combat climate change.”

Here's Why Black People Should Think Twice Before Voting For Hillary Clinton

WASHINGTON -- Hillary Clinton has the black vote in her hands.

Eighty percent of black Democratic voters intended to cast their ballots for the 2016 presidential candidate in August 2015 -- and not much has changed since then. But with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) becoming a serious opponent for Clinton in the race to the Democratic nomination, many African-Americans are asking if the former Secretary of State really deserves the black vote.

Author and legal scholar Michelle Alexander doesn’t think so.

MPs Pay Rises By Almost £1,000 As They Deny Public Sector Staff Same Salary Increase

Another pay rise for MPs, this time one that is greater than the cap on public sector wage increases, has sparked anger.

Politicians are in line for a 1.3% increase from April - just nine months after receiving a backdated boost to £74,000, up from £67,060.

Montreal Taxi Drivers To Blockade Roads Across Montreal In Uber Protest

MONTREAL — Taxi and limousine drivers in Montreal are planning to block access to certain sites across the city today in protest against Uber.

The Quebec branch of the United Steelworkers union, which represents many of the city's taxi drivers, wants to pressure the provincial government into forcing Uber to stop operating during the upcoming legislative inquiry into the taxi industry.

Debt Free, Gas Powered BC Still Coming, Throne Speech Vows

A debt-free British Columbia with a healthy Prosperity Fund built on liquefied natural gas revenues is still on its way, but delayed due to global forces, according to today's speech from the throne.

"There is no question that unforeseen global conditions are posing new challenges," the speech said. "Low global prices will have an impact on your government's initial timelines."

The speech, delivered by Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon but written in Premier Christy Clark's office, outlines the agenda for the new session of the legislature.

Dismayed by Resource Royalty Inaction, Alberta Unions Learn Tough Lesson

After years of advocating for a fair share on resource royalties for Albertans, the adoption of the royalty review recommendations came as a disappointment to many unions and progressive groups in Alberta. Labour experts say the results serve as a warning to be vocal and mobilized on progressive issues.

"The review is reflective of the pressures the government will face over the next three years," says Jason Foster, professor of labour relations at Athabasca University. "The realities government will face will create tensions among its natural allies."

Judge Handling Clinton Email Case Fumes Over State Department Delays

A federal judge on Tuesday grilled a State Department lawyer who had been summoned to explain why his office missed a deadline to produce 7,000 pages of emails in the ongoing controversy over Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server.

U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras said that the federal government "has put me between a rock and a hard place."

Deadly Airstrikes In Syria Hit Hospital Tied To Doctors Without Borders

Three died and six were wounded Friday when airstrikes in southern Syria hit a hospital supported by the international aid group Doctors Without Borders, the organization said Tuesday.

A nurse was among those wounded at the field hospital in Tafas, a town roughly 10 miles from the Jordanian border. The nighttime raid partially damaged the hospital building and took the "heavily used" ambulance service entirely out of commission, the group said.

Why the Pundits Don't See the Revolution Coming... Again

If you're a political junkie like me, one of the great things about being alive in 2016 is that there's more than one way to "watch a debate." Last Thursday, I was commuting by train during a lot of the (relatively) rock 'em, sock 'em debate between the Democratic presidential candidates in New Hampshire... so I "watched" it on Twitter.

What Clinton said in her paid speeches

NEW YORK — When Hillary Clinton spoke to Goldman Sachs executives and technology titans at a summit in Arizona in October of 2013, she spoke glowingly of the work the bank was doing raising capital and helping create jobs, according to people who saw her remarks.

Clinton, who received $225,000 for her appearance, praised the diversity of Goldman’s workforce and the prominent roles played by women at the blue-chip investment bank and the tech firms present at the event. She spent no time criticizing Goldman or Wall Street more broadly for its role in the 2008 financial crisis.

Bill Clinton defends repeal of Glass-Steagall

Former President Bill Clinton has defended his decision to repeal Glass-Steagall, the Depression-era banking regulation that splits large financial institutions and is championed by liberals.

"Politicians — particularly now, in the aftermath of this crash — fear that anything they do will be held against them later if anything bad happens," Clinton told Inc. in an interview. "Look at all the grief I got for signing the bill that ended Glass-Steagall. There's not a single, solitary example that it had anything to do with the financial crash.”

Labour Faces Calls To 'Proscribe' Momentum Amid Fears Of 'Entryism' By Trotskyists

Labour is facing calls to formally ban the left-wing activist group Momentum amid fears that its members are infiltrators from Trotskyite parties.

Backbench MP Tom Blenkinsop has urged party general secretary Iain McNicol to “proscribe” the organisation because some of its leading figures are former members of groups banned in the 1980s and 1990s.

Tory Councils In South Get Most Of £300m 'Cushion' From Cuts - As Labour's Northern Heartlands Miss Out

Tory-led councils in the south of England have been handed the lion’s share of £300 million to cope with deep spending cuts - while many Labour authorities in the north have been given nothing.

Ministers revealed Surrey, Hampshire and Hertfordshire will get the biggest cushion to deal with the next two years of local government austerity, which will see around £6 billion cut in England by 2019.

However, around 200 authorities, including many in inner-London, the Midlands and the north, do not get a penny.

Flint’s Crisis Is About More Than Water

What is in the mind of someone who knowingly poisons children and impairs their lives? Why did the politicians, regulators and bureaucrats who knew the water in Flint, Mich., was toxic lie about the danger for months? What does it say about a society that is ruled by, and refuses to punish, those who willfully destroy the lives of children?

The crisis in Flint is far more ominous than lead-contaminated water. It is symptomatic of the collapse of our democracy. Corporate power is not held accountable for its crimes. Everything is up for sale, including children. Our regulatory agencies—including the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality—have been defunded, emasculated and handed over to corporate-friendly stooges. Our corrupt courts are part of a mirage of justice. The role of these government agencies and courts, and of the legislatures, is to sanction abuse rather than halt it.

Could a President Hillary Clinton Be Impeached Over Her Emails?

If Hillary Clinton is elected president, could her slow-bleeding email scandal lead to her impeachment?

The question has been percolating in right-wing circles since last October, when Republican Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama broached the subject in an interview with conservative talk-radio host Matt Murphy. If Clinton makes it to the White House, Brooks declared in no uncertain terms, “the day she’s sworn in is the day that she’s subject to impeachment because she has committed high crimes and misdemeanors” arising from her use of a private email server to discuss matters of national security during her tenure as secretary of state.