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.]

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Anti-migrant mob in Germany 'cheered' as refugee shelter burned in front of them

The German government has condemned a "disgusting" incident where anti-migrant mobs "celebrated with unabashed shame" in front of a burning refugee shelter.

Up to 30 drunken onlookers are said to have clapped and cheered as a former hotel which was being converted into an asylum seeker centre caught alight in Bautzen, Saxony.

'Provisional' Syria ceasefire plan called into question as bombs kill 120

A “provisional agreement” on a ceasefire in Syria has been reached between the US and Russia, the US secretary of state John Kerry said on Sunday, but serious doubts remain on whether it will come into force as the country reeled from a series of deadly car bombs in Syria’s two biggest cities that left more than 120 dead.

In Homs, twin car bombs killed at least 57 people and wounded 100 on Sunday, and explosions hit parts of the capital, Damascus, killing a further 62 and wounding 180, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The attacks on both cities were claimed by Islamic State.

Why I Support Dr. Jill Stein for President

The political crisis in America is severe. The old ideas that buttressed the ruling class and promised democracy, growth and prosperity—neoliberalism, austerity, globalization, endless war, a dependence on fossil fuel and unregulated capitalism—have been exposed as fictions used by the corporate elite to impoverish and enslave the country and enrich and empower themselves. Sixty-two billionaires have as much wealth as half the world’s population, 3.5 billion people. This fact alone is revolutionary tinder.

We are entering a dangerous moment when few people, no matter what their political orientation, trust the power elite or the ruling neoliberal ideology. The rise of right-wing populism, with dark undertones of fascism, looks set in the next presidential election—as it does in parts of Europe—to pit itself against the dying gasps of the corporate establishment.

Hillary Clinton’s Path Is Clear

Before the New Hampshire primary earlier this month, it was assumed that the Nevada caucus was going to be a victory for Hillary Clinton. She had strong outreach to the state’s Latino and black voters; she had endorsements and support from key figures in the state; and she had her campaign manager, Robby Mook, who cut his teeth organizing the state for the first Clinton campaign in 2008, when she beat Barack Obama there.

Weekend Roundup: Politicizing the 'Rule Of Law' in China -- And the U.S.

Ironies abound. While America is engaged in a bitter partisan battle during this election season over who will control the "non-partisan" U.S. Supreme Court, China's Communist Party authorities are arresting lawyers in the name of establishing the "rule of law."

The politicization of America's highest court will play itself out over the coming months, potentially leading to a constitutional crisis if the Republican-dominated Senate resists timely confirmation of President Obama's nominee. The framers of the U.S. Constitution created a Supreme Court that was independent from the political branches of government and insulated from public opinion for the very reason that they feared the immediate passions of the public, expressed through an elected Congress, would run roughshod over the "rule of law" whenever decisions were unpopular.

Fire damages Germany hotel-turned-refugee shelter, onlookers cheer

BERLIN—Onlookers celebrated as a suspected arson fire damaged a former hotel being converted into a refugee home in eastern Germany, police said Sunday, raising new concerns about violence toward migrants in a nation that registered more than a million asylum-seekers last year.

The blaze in the roof of the building in Bautzen, in the eastern state of Saxony, broke out overnight. Police said no one was injured but a group of people gathered outside, some “commenting with derogatory remarks or unashamed joy” at the fire.

Backed by Airline Dollars, Congress Rejects Effort to Address Shrinking Legroom

An amendment to address shrinking legroom for airline passengers was defeated recently by members of Congress fueled by campaign dollars from the airline industry.

An amendment proposed by Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., would have required the federal government to study the issue of shrinking legroom and allowed it to set a minimum dimension for commercial airline seats.

This Yelp Employee Wrote A Letter To Her CEO About Low Pay. Then They Fired Her.

Less than two hours after writing an open letter to Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman complaining about low pay, customer service representative Talia Jane learned she was fired.

FBI told San Bernardino County staff to tamper with gunman's Apple account

The San Bernardino County government on Friday night said the FBI told its staff to tamper with the Apple account of Syed Farook, who with his wife, Tashfeen Malik, carried out the December shooting in which 14 people were killed.

The development matters because the change made to the account – a reset of Farook’s iCloud password – made it impossible to see if there was another way to get access to data on the shooter’s iPhone without taking Apple to court.

It’s Time for Welfare Reform Again

In 1992, Bill Clinton ran for president promising to “end welfare as we know it.” In 2016, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders should promise to bring welfare back.

Thus far, they are doing no such thing. Neither Clinton nor Sanders has a welfare-reform proposal, despite the raft of options they have floated for helping lower-income families. Neither Clinton nor Sanders brings up welfare when discussing what good they would do for the poor. Neither campaign even bothered to get back to me when I requested comment for this piece. But our broken welfare program has left hundreds of thousands of people in extreme poverty, living on less than $2 a day per person. A battle between a fiercely progressive presidential candidate and an only slightly less fiercely progressive presidential candidate has somehow managed to overlook and avoid confronting the ragged hole at the very bottom of our safety net. This is a policy outrage and a moral blight.

The Nevada Caucus Was A Nightmare

Hillary Clinton won Saturday’s Nevada caucus, but even those working on her behalf think the process voters had to endure to make their voices heard was nightmarish.

“We were completely overwhelmed, we had like 500 people at our caucus site,” Clinton campaign precinct captain Esther Gulli told ThinkProgress. “There were no instruction. It was total chaos. I saw people give up and leave because they had to go to work and it was taking so long. The fact that they do a caucus on a day most people here are working is really bad.”

Hillary Clinton, Corporate America and the Democrats' Dilemma

To understand the dynamics underlying the Clinton-Sanders nomination contest, it's helpful to remember the old adage that Democrats are supposed to be the party of ordinary working people. As the nomination process plays out, the 2016 race might be remembered as the party's last gasp at being true to that narrative.

A party beholden to corporate power cannot simultaneously be the party of ordinary working people, and thus we can see the Democrats' dilemma. Though the party distinguishes itself from the GOP in some ways - Democrats are more liberal on social issues, for example, and more inclined to defend programs like Medicare and Social Security - there can be no question that corporate money has undue influence on both major parties, not just the GOP. When Hillary Clinton was seen as the inevitable 2016 Democratic nominee, there was no reason to believe this status quo would be challenged. But the rise of Bernie Sanders changes everything.

How the Powers That Be Maintain the "Deep State": An Interview With Mike Lofgren

In The Deep State, author Mike Lofgren, whose 2011 commentary, "Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult," remains the most-read article at, connects the dots between apparently disparate aspects of our current dystopia. "The deep state," argues Lofgren is "the red thread" linking the "ideological syndrome" of McMansions; DC's culture of careerist strivers; the financialization, deindustrialization and ultimate mutation of the US economy into "a casino with a tilted wheel"; the burgeoning of government secrecy even as individual privacy has been demolished; the consistency and persistence of unpopular policies regardless of which party wins elections; militarized foreign policy, "defense" and "security" establishments that thrive on failure and enjoy essentially unlimited funding whatever nostrums about the national debt and the necessity for austerity are being peddled for every other function of government; the prevalence of incompetence and ineptitude in government response to crises; unequal justice, including impunity for the wealthy and corporations, a corrupt Supreme Court and a strikingly punitive criminal legal system for ordinary people; legislative gridlock; perpetual war; political extremism and other ruinous epiphenomena.

Ontario’s uncounted homeless dead

Brad Chapman collapsed in the doorway of a Walton St. nail salon in downtown Toronto just before dawn last Aug. 18.

Cocaine, opioids and amphetamines coursed through his body; they were the long-time drug user’s preferred substances. Homeless, the streets were Chapman’s haven for 20 years when he wasn’t in jail. Those dire circumstances for the father of three were a world apart from the middle-class comfort of Etobicoke, where Chapman was raised by a loving family, competed in rep hockey, learned French and played piano by ear.

Like Your Privacy? Then Get Behind Apple in Its Battle to Save It

Apple CEO Tim Cook found himself this week as the country’s leading bulwark against the FBI and the Obama administration’s continuing efforts to weaken Americans’ constitutional protections and civil liberties.

Cook is fighting a federal magistrate judge’s order that would force Apple to create software to bypass the iPhone’s security features and give the FBI access to people’s phones and everything on them. On Tuesday he wrote a letter to all Apple users explaining the company’s position and promising to keep up the fight.

New Refugees In Germany Met By Mob Shouting ‘Go Home’

Refugees arriving in the German town of Clausnitz, Saxony, were met with a mob chanting slogans of “go home” and “we are the people,” according to a new video.

The video shows women and children on the bus crying as the protesters are shouting outside.

The War Against Planned Parenthood Is Advancing

Despite a complete lack of evidence that Planned Parenthood is breaking any laws, Republican lawmakers are pressing ahead with their relentless crusade against the national women’s health organization.

A series of heavily edited videos accusing Planned Parenthood of selling aborted baby parts continues to influence the national debate, even though it’s become clear those claims aren’t based in fact. Last month, a Houston grand jury concluded that Planned Parenthood hasn’t done anything wrong. Every state-level investigation into the group has come up empty.

Why the Liberals say one thing and do another. Blame it on ‘cognitive dissonance’

If you missed it — perhaps you were shovelling the walk, or in the bath — the latest Liberal broken promise has arrived. This time the issue is the F-35 fighter jet. You may recall the Liberals vowed during the last election campaign to scrap the previous government’s controversial purchase, and start the process of finding a replacement for our aging CF-18s all over again.

Not only would the contract be put out to competitive tender, but the F-35 would be excluded from consideration — an important point of distinction with both the Conservatives, who seemed inclined to stick with the F-35, and the NDP, who favoured an open bidding process.

Scientist who discovered that GMO's cause tumors wins lawsuit

A court has ruled that French Professor Gilles-Eric Séralini was correct when he concluded that GMO food, when fed to rats, caused serious health problems including tumors. reports:

    Now, Prof. Séralini is in the news again - this time for winning a major court victory in a libel trial that represents the second court victory for Séralini and his team in less than a month.

How a Ferocious Backlash to LGBT Equality Is in Full Force While Leaders Have No Strategy

In South Dakota, Governor Dennis Daugaard is right this moment mulling over a bill sent to his desk by the legislature that would bar transgender students -- kids often facing bullying and discrimination -- from using bathrooms or locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity. The bill defines such facilities as "designated for and used only by students of the same biological sex" and federal officials say it violates federal law, specifically Title IX of the Civil Rights Act. South Dakota would be the first place to pass such a law, but it certainly doesn't look like the last.

Wall Street Analyst Says Hillary Clinton Would Be the Best President for Healthcare Investors

Amidst a tense battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders over competing visions for health care, a leading Wall Street analyst has put out a report saying that Clinton would be the best candidate for healthcare investors.

What Russia's Failing Economy Means For Putin's Legacy And Military Ambitions

Russia is in the middle of its worst economic crisis since 2008.

The country's economic output declined by 3.7 percent in 2015 and is projected to decrease by a further 1 percent in 2016, according to International Monetary Fund estimates published in January. Inflation soared to 15.4 percent in 2015, compared with 7.8 percent in 2014.

Monsanto's Pesticide Is Top Suspect Behind Mysterious Kidney Disease

For several years now, a mysterious kidney disease epidemic has been underway in several parts of the global South. The victims are young, male outdoor workers - far from the usual demographic of older patients with sedentary lifestyles and a history of diabetes or high blood pressure. In Central America, thousands of young men who work in the sugar cane plantations have died of failing kidneys; in Sri Lanka and parts of rural India, it is rice farmers who are similarly afflicted. Although the "mystery disease" has garnered medical attention - at first as an anomaly, but increasingly as an inexplicable mass killer - for over 20 years now, the causes remain unknown. In fact, the disease goes by the moniker "chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology" (CKDu) to distinguish it from the ordinary form, CKD.

Flint and Haiti: A Tale of Two Rivers, a Tale of Two Crimes

We made our way down the steep bank to the meandering river, Haiti's largest: the Artibonite. My friends warned me about the strong currents, and also about the dangerous spirits that lurk beneath the surface in deep parts, waiting to drag any wayward swimmer into their murky depths. We stayed close to the shore, sitting on rocks or treading water as we bathed, played and did the laundry. Amid our laughter, I was reminded that the river holds other deadly presences.

Hillary Clinton Cries Crocodile Tears for Latin American Immigrants

At first glance, Thursday seemed like a banner day for Hillary Clinton’s “minority firewall.” Several respected leaders of Latinx organizations offered their enthusiastic support for the Democratic presidential candidate, while at the same time—Beyoncé-style—her campaign dropped a new, emotionally charged ad into the Nevada market two days before the state’s crucial caucus event. In the ad, a 10-year-old Latina girl expresses fear for her parents, who have just received a letter of deportation. Clinton urges her to be “brave” and let Clinton do “all the worrying”; the candidate chokes up as she tells the child, “I’m going to do everything I can so you won’t be scared.”

CSE can assist in ‘threat reduction’ without a warrant, documents show

OTTAWA—Canada’s electronic spies can assist CSIS with the agency’s new mandate to disrupt security threats with little oversight from politicians or the courts, documents obtained by the Star show.

The Communications Security Establishment told Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan last November they can aid CSIS with new “threat reduction” efforts — a power granted to the agency under Bill C-51.

Why Apple's iPhone Battle With the Government Will Likely Be a Privacy Setback

Imagine if the government required you to have a combination lock on your door and to give it the key. It would create security and privacy risks for you and your family. This is what could happen if we required the technology industry to add back doors to its software and devices. Hackers, criminals, and foreign governments could crack the code and abuse it. This is what the technology industry is rightfully rallying against.

To Make Health Care for All a Reality, Stop Killing People

After eight years of swallowing massive, co-pay-coated promises of "universal health care," it's a relief that a substantive debate is opening up around single-payer health care during this election cycle. However, too many conversations on this issue are being halted by calls of "impracticality." Real health care for all would be nice, we are told, but there's just no room for it in the budget.

Defence chief denies tailoring combat definition to suit Liberal narrative

OTTAWA — The country's top military commander is taking pains to explain what is — and what isn't — combat, and denies tailoring his definition to suit the political needs of the Trudeau government.

Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of the defence staff, says he is a combat expert — and that the Liberal government's version of the mission against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is not a combat mission.

Vance says that so-called "advise-and-assist" missions are new, and that some have trouble understanding the concept — a veiled reference to the NDP's claim that Canada's special forces mission in northern Iraq constitutes combat.

CRTC rejects plea from small internet providers seeking wireless access

Do you think your cellphone bill is too high? Tough. It's going to stay that way thanks to a CRTC decision that nixes the possibility of dozens of new wireless carriers springing up, consumer advocates say.

The regulator on Thursday denied an appeal from a group of small internet providers to mandate what are called Mobile Virtual Network Operators.

Christy Clark's Inequality Budget

Christy Clark likes talking about B.C.'s low taxes.

But since she's been premier, a fairly typical retired couple has seen their provincial taxes increase by 19 per cent.

A low-income family with two children has faced an even larger increase, paying 20 per cent more in provincial taxes since Clark's first budget in 2012. That's an increase of 4.6 per cent a year, more than twice the inflation rate.

Nine things Jason Kenney said during the BDS debate that should make you rage

Yesterday, the Liberals, Conservatives and NDP debated how much each party dislikes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel. The Liberals and the Conservatives argued that Canada should condemn the campaign. The NDP argued that despite how odious the party finds the campaign, that free speech should be defended. Only the Bloc argued that the campaign is legitimate criticism of Israel.

Post-war Iraq: 'Everybody is corrupt, from top to bottom. Including me'

Iraq’s anti-corruption chief sat in his office, waving his hands in exasperation. “There is no solution,” he said. “Everybody is corrupt, from the top of society to the bottom. Everyone. Including me.”

Coming at the start of a conversation about Iraq’s ailing governance, and what was being done to turn things around, Mishan al-Jabouri’s admission was jarring. “At least I am honest about it,” he shrugged. “I was offered $5m by someone to stop investigating him. I took it, and continued prosecuting him anyway.”

Hillary Clinton Again Declines to Disclose What She Told Big Banks in Her Paid Speeches

The guy in the audience said it was a matter of trust. “Please just release those transcripts so we know exactly where you stand,” he said.

But Hillary Clinton wasn’t going there. At the MSNBC town hall with the Democratic presidential candidates on Thursday evening in Las Vegas, Clinton once again refused to release transcripts or recordings of the secret speeches she was paid millions of dollars to make to Wall Street banks.

Why Superdelegates Won't Feel the Bern

Bernie's the guy who hates fraternities on his college campus, speaks out every chance he gets about how elitist they are, how evil they are, how much money they have, and then wants to be elected to lead one of them. Bernie is not running for president as an Independent, which is what he really should have done in the first place. No, he's running to be the nominee of a political party whose grass roots ordinary members he has never met, never courted, never helped. But his campaign will complain bitterly when he loses the battle for superdelegates to the Democratic National Convention, and perhaps lose the nomination itself because of them.

Government Hypocrisy Rears Its Ugly Head. Again.

With all the outrage in Washington on both sides of the aisle regarding Apple CEO Tim Cook's failure to create backdoor access to Syed Rizwan Farook's iPhone, I am wondering why there is not the same outrage for the U.S. government to release the 28 pages of the Joint Inquiry of Congress that deals with the foreign sponsorship of the 9/11 attacks.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders Refuse to Choose Between Apple and the FBI

Neither Hillary Clinton nor Bernie Sanders were willing to pick a side Thursday in the heated battle between the FBI and Apple over the government’s demand that the company create new, less secure software to comply with a warrant.

The tech giant made headlines on Wednesday with its forceful response to a federal judge’s court order that it help the government break into an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino killers, Syed Farook.

Secret Memo Details U.S.’s Broader Strategy to Crack Phones

Silicon Valley celebrated last fall when the White House revealed it would not seek legislation forcing technology makers to install “backdoors” in their software -- secret listening posts where investigators could pierce the veil of secrecy on users’ encrypted data, from text messages to video chats. But while the companies may have thought that was the final word, in fact the government was working on a Plan B.

In a secret meeting convened by the White House around Thanksgiving, senior national security officials ordered agencies across the U.S. government to find ways to counter encryption software and gain access to the most heavily protected user data on the most secure consumer devices, including Apple Inc.’s iPhone, the marquee product of one of America’s most valuable companies, according to two people familiar with the decision.

Inflation in Canada rises to 2% in January on higher food and gas prices

The cost of living increased in January to the highest annual rate in more than a year, rising to 2 per cent, Statistics Canada said Friday.

The data agency reported that Canada's inflation rate is now at its highest level since October 2014. In December, the Consumer Price Index was 1.6 per cent.

Toronto voters divvy up public funds as city tests out participatory budgeting

Can you and your neighbour agree on when the hedge needs to be trimmed? What about how to spend $150,000?

It’s a question three Toronto neighbourhoods faced as the city offered a chance to divvy up funds in a test run of publicly-led budgets.

Rather than let politicians and bureaucrats decide, participatory budgeting puts the purse strings in the hands of the people.

Sanders hits Bill Clinton on welfare reform, trade

LAS VEGAS — Bernie Sanders is running against Hillary Clinton, but he made clear on Thursday that he's still no big fan of her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

"Bill Clinton was the president who led the effort to deregulate Wall Street, was the president who fought for the disastrous NAFTA trade agreement," the Vermont senator said to reporters on his campaign plane as he flew from Washington to Las Vegas.

Liberals didn’t sign off on Saudi arms sale but will let it stand, says Dion

OTTAWA — Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion says the Liberal government does not necessarily approve of Canada's sale of $15 billion worth of light armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia, a country with a dismal human rights record.

But Dion says the government is simply allowing a previously negotiated contract to stand.

City of Toronto and workers deadlocked as one strike deadline passes

The City of Toronto and more than 28,000 unionized workers remained deadlocked Thursday night — with one union’s deadline passing and another's drawing nearer — as a possible job disruption that could severely disrupt services to residents loomed.

Mayor John Tory said earlier Thursday he wants a new contract — but members of CUPE locals 416 and 79 must agree to cuts to their benefits on top of deep concessions they made to get a contract in 2012.

F-35 jet back on Ottawa’s radar screen

OTTAWA—It’s controversial, costly and apparently back on Ottawa’s radar as a possible pick for Canada’s air force.

After ruling out the Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jet last fall as a possible replacement for the aging CF-18s, the Liberals now appear to be leaving the door open after all.

Speaking at a defence conference in Ottawa Thursday, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan was asked pointblank whether the F-35 would be considered in the competition to replace the current fleet of fighters.

Poor BC Families Pay Twice the Tax as Alberta, Quebec 'For the Moment,' Minister Says

Even though low-income families in British Columbia pay more than double the total tax they would in Alberta or Quebec, their taxes are lower than they would be in many other provinces, said Finance Minister Michael de Jong.

"We're in third place, I think, in that particular wage bracket," de Jong said Thursday. "In every single wage bracket identified, a comparison across the board puts us in either third, second or first place. In that case, it's third place in the country."

Premier Clark: Join 'Forces of Yes' on Climate -- Budget 2016 missed opportunity to prepare BC for low-carbon world.

Premier Christy Clark has a message for British Columbians: "To grow and diversify our economy, we must have the courage to say yes."

Perhaps she should take her own advice.

We know that we need to say yes to an economy that will thrive in a low-carbon future and one that does not lock us into fossil-fuel infrastructure that will become obsolete. We need to say yes to investing in industries that will position B.C. to take advantage of growing demand for clean technology and services. We need to say yes to implementing solutions that ensure we have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink.

The Kochs Are Plotting A Multimillion-Dollar Assault On Electric Vehicles

The oil and gas industry may have thought it had killed the electric car, but sales -- boosted by generous government subsidies -- rose dramatically between 2010 and 2014, and energy giants are worried the thing may have come back to life.

Time to kill it again.

A new group that's being cobbled together with fossil fuel backing hopes to spend about $10 million dollars per year to boost petroleum-based transportation fuels and attack government subsidies for electric vehicles, according to refining industry sources familiar with the plan. A Koch Industries board member and a veteran Washington energy lobbyist are working quietly to fund and launch the new advocacy outfit.

A Woman in the Presidency Is Simply Not Enough

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright tried to issue a mea culpa in The New York Times last week for her recent remarks suggesting that women who are not planning to vote for her friend Hillary Clinton should be condemned to hell. Although it was “the wrong context and the wrong time to use that line,” Albright wrote, “I so firmly believe that, even today, women have an obligation to help one another.”

Wisconsin Just Blew a Big Hole in Planned Parenthood’s Funding

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker went to a crisis pregnancy center in Waukesha to sign two bills that will cut Planned Parenthood's funding in the state.

"Certainly, over the past year there's been a lot of controversy nationally about Planned Parenthood," Walker said before signing the legislation. "For those of us who are pro-life, this is important…taxpayer dollars at the federal and state level should not be spent…particularly when there are noncontroversial alternatives."

Republicans Say Their Supreme Court Obstruction Is For The Good Of The Nominee

WASHINGTON -- Republicans have a new talking point for why they refuse to move forward on any Supreme Court nominee this year: They are doing it for the sake of the nominee.

Since news broke of Justice Antonin Scalia's death Saturday, Republicans have lined up behind Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has promised not to even consider a nominee put forth by President Barack Obama. He wants to allow the next president to chose a candidate, hoping a Republican will win the White House.