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, March 11, 2016

Dear Justin Trudeau: Don't Buy Into Israeli Exceptionalism

To the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau:

"How is this night different from all other nights?" Such is the question we Jews ritually ask the youngest child at the Passover table. Commemorating the Israelites' exodus from Egypt, the question carries with it resonances of a chosen people - -at once persecuted and graced with sanctity. Remarkably, this biblical narrative of specialness -- not only of what Jews do on Passover, but of who they are -- continues to grip the political conscience of many.

Trump Campaign Manager Accused Of Physically Stopping Journalist From Doing Her Job

Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski reportedly grabbed Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields after the Republican presidential front-runner's Tuesday night press conference in Jupiter, Florida.

Politico reported that Lewandowski "forcibly grabbed" Fields' arm when she tried asking Trump a question as he left the press conference, "moving her out of the way and nearly bringing her down to the ground."

Discriminatory Tax Goes Beyond Women's Tampons

While the rally cries of 'don't tax my vagina' are confronting and provocative, there is far less understanding concerning the gendered implications of how governments tax income, savings and wealth, and redistributes this using the transfer system.

While women clearly face a wide variety of circumstances that may affect their savings balances, decision to seek work, and superannuation payouts -- no single issue appears to affect the female experience as directly as the marginal costs of tax, welfare and childcare. As a result, tax and transfer policies (i.e. the money the government taxes its citizens and uses to transfer to the public interest) are a far larger concern than the media tends to make out.

Michigan Taxpayers Face Paying Millions In Legal Fees Over Flint Crisis

Michigan taxpayers may face at least $2.7 million in legal fees under new requests from the state's governor and attorney general over the Flint water crisis.

Gov. Rick Snyder (R) requested on Tuesday $1.2 million for legal services, more than double the $500,000 already earmarked. Attorney General Bill Schuette asked for a separate increase in funds to $1.5 million to pay a firm investigating the government's involvement in the crisis.

Donald Trump Bristles At The Idea He’s Inspired Kids To Act Racist

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump refused to take any blame for the behavior of children across the country who are using his anti-immigrant platform to taunt other kids.

Journalist Cokie Roberts raised the issue during an interview with Trump on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Wednesday, questioning him about incidents in which children reportedly told their classmates they'd be deported if the business mogul wins the presidency, and about white high school students who reportedly chanted "Build a wall!" to a rival, largely Latino high school.

Nearly Half of Israeli Jews Want to Expel Palestinian-Israelis From the Country

Nearly half of the over 6 million Israeli Jews want to expel from the country the 1.6 million citizens of Palestinian heritage, most of them Muslims, according to a just-released Pew Forum poll.

This is a startling statistic.  It would be as though half of Flemish Belgians wanted to expel the Walloons or French-speakers from the south of the country.  There isn’t any member of the European Union where a large plurality of the population wants to ethnically cleanse a fifth of their co-citizens.

Climate Disruption, Conservative Values and the Politics of Neglect

The 2016 presidential primary will be noted as a seminal event in the brief history of climate disruption: one in which the three leading contenders for the Republican nomination for president not only failed to seriously discuss the issue of climate change but also openly discounted its existence and mocked any attempt to consider policies that could reverse its deleterious impact on the planet. Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have clearly chosen to promote radical ideological beliefs at the expense of definitive scientific evidence, ignoring the immediate plight of millions of people around the world who have had their lives uprooted by destructive conditions associated with climate change.

Noam Chomsky: 2016 Election Puts US at Risk of "Utter Disaster"

We live in critical and dangerous times. Neoliberalism is still the supreme politico-economic doctrine, while domestic societies continue to deteriorate as public investment and social programs and services are scaled down further so that the rich can get richer. Concurrently, political authoritarianism is on the rise, and some believe the United States is ripe for the emergence of a proto-fascist regime. In the meantime, the climate change threat intensifies as political leaders continue to lack the courage and vision to move forward with alternative energy systems, putting at risk the future of human civilization.

Hillary Clinton Wants to Regulate Fracking, but Still Accepts a Lot of Fracking Money

Hillary Clinton continues to fundraise with fracking investors, despite her assertion Sunday that she would largely curtail fracking inside the U.S.

Fracking is a controversial mining technique used to extract natural gas from shale rock. It releases vast quantities of methane into the atmosphere and groundwater, frequently poisoning the water supply of nearby communities.

Muslim-Americans Grapple With Implications of Trump Victories

For the Republican Party, Donald Trump’s three primary election victories last night represented new momentum for the party’s likely presidential nominee. For Muslims living in the United States today, particularly young people born and raised here, the wins reveal disturbing truths about the views of millions of their fellow citizens.

“Trump has managed to tap into and legitimize xenophobic sentiments towards Muslims that were already there for a lot of people,” says Maytha Alhassen, a PhD researcher in American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. “We’re all scared of what could happen to Muslim-Americans if he’s elected, but we should keep in mind that laws reflective of his beliefs are already being drafted and proposed today.”

Voting Did Not Go Smoothly Last Night

Last night’s primaries and caucuses in Michigan, Mississippi, Idaho, and Hawaii, delivered a major victory for Sen. Bernie Sanders, helped Donald Trump on his march to the Republican nomination, and spelled doom for Sen. Marco Rubio. They also shined a spotlight on serious voting rights problems in those states.
Hawaii: Trouble in paradise

For several election cycles, Hawaii has one of the worst voter turnout rates in the country. Last night changed that trend, with high turnout that triggered long lines, delays at the polls, and many voters giving up and leaving in frustration. At least 2,000 people were forced to cast provisional ballots, which have yet to be counted.

Environmental Advocates To Congress: Reject The TPP

It’s something that all the major presidential candidates — on both sides of the aisle — can agree on: The United States should not ratify the TransPacific Partnership trade agreement. Even Hillary Clinton, who was Secretary of State during the bulk of the agreement’s confidential negotiations, doesn’t think the TPP is a good idea anymore.

Now, a group of environmental advocates is pressuring Congress to reject ratification of the 12-nation agreement, which they say would allow 9,000 companies operating on U.S. soil to sue the government for imposing environmental regulations.

Comey’s FBI makes waves

The aggressive posture of the FBI under Director James Comey is becoming a political problem for the White House.

The FBI’s demand that Apple help unlock an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino killers has outraged Silicon Valley, a significant source of political support for President Obama and Democrats.

Critics want public hearings into Canada Revenue amnesty for KPMG offshore tax dodgers

The federal government should call public hearings into why the Canada Revenue Agency offered amnesty to the high net worth clients of KPMG who were involved in an offshore tax avoidance scheme, prominent tax groups, politicians and other legal experts said in the wake of a CBC News/Radio-Canada exposé.

In fact, Laval University tax professor Andre Lareau says the new revenue minister, Diane Lebouthillier, should undo the deal as soon as possible.

The Clueless Reaction To Erin Andrews’ $55 Million Legal Victory

On Monday, a jury in Nashville awarded sportscaster and television host Erin Andrews $55 million in her lawsuit over a 2008 stalking incident and subsequent peeping tom video that went viral on the internet.

The judgment is to be split — Michael Barrett, her stalker who plead guilty to the crime and served 30 months in jail, is on the hook for 51 percent of it, while hotel owners and operators Windsor Capitol and West End Hotel Partners are responsible for 49 percent. Andrews had initially asked for $75 million.

Keep public services public: The perils of privatization and outsourcing

The results of the recent federal election are a likely indication of what Manitobans want to see from our next government: transparency; stimulus spending on ailing infrastructure, financed by deficits; a transition to a green economy; and respect and support for Canada's public service workers.

Obama Seeks to Pave Way to Mideast Deal After He Leaves Office

WASHINGTON — President Obama, resigned to his failure to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, is looking past his time in office and weighing a plan that would preserve at least the principle of a two-state solution for his successor to pursue.

The White House is debating whether the president should lay down the outlines of an agreement, several officials said, perhaps through a resolution at the United Nations Security Council or in a presidential speech. The objective would not be to revive direct negotiations — almost nobody believes that is likely now — but to enshrine the proposals Secretary of State John Kerry made during his last failed effort at peacemaking in 2014.

Snowden: FBI's claim it can't unlock the San Bernardino iPhone is 'bullshit'

Edward Snowden, the whistleblower whose NSA revelations sparked a debate on mass surveillance, has waded into the arguments over the FBI’s attempt to force Apple to help it unlock the iPhone 5C of one of the San Bernardino shooters.

The FBI says that only Apple can deactivate certain passcode protections on the iPhone, which will allow law enforcement to guess the passcode by using brute-force.

Calgary companies pledge credit fix but deliver debt

A self-described “real estate giant” and “true leader,” entrepreneur Sheldon Wolf runs businesses that promise to repair the bad credit of cash-strapped Canadians.

“I wake up in the morning ready to HELP people!” says the 48-year-old, luxury-car-driving Wolf, who says his “handiwork” has assisted many people who had trouble getting loans. “I guess when I think about it, I spend (the) majority of my day giving back.”

Revenge of the Simple: How George W. Bush Gave Rise to Trump

To hear GOP insiders tell it, Doomsday is here. If Donald Trump scores huge on tonight and seizes control of the nomination in the Super Tuesday primaries, it will mark the beginning of the end of the Republican Party, and perhaps the presidency.

But Trump isn't the beginning of the end. George W. Bush was. The amazing anti-miracle of the Bush presidency is what makes today's nightmare possible.

Vancouver Shines Light on Empty Condos

The country's most housing-stressed city has thousands of homes sitting vacant -- and the situation has barely changed since 2002, according to a new report from the City of Vancouver and Ecotagious Inc., a company that analyzes how much energy people consume.

Released this morning, "Stability in Vancouver's Housing Unit Occupancy" says that if we could rent out Vancouver's estimated 10,800 dwellings that are unoccupied for at least part of the year, it would help drive down housing costs and relax the city's miniscule 0.6 per cent rental vacancy rate.

Why can’t you get through to CRA’s phone lines?

Getting through to the Canada Revenue Agency by phone can still be a challenge despite the Liberal government’s campaign promise to overhaul the agency’s service model and make it “fairer, more helpful and easier to use.”

Preparers and individual filers complain that many calls to the agency’s general enquiries line are met with a busy signal, although some land at a phone menu system that offers recorded messages about tax topics and the opportunity to connect with an agent.

17 Students Arrested In Protest Against Dumping Coal Ash Wastewater Into Rivers

Seventeen college students protesting for clean water were arrested in Richmond, Virginia on Monday, as a battle against the local utility’s waste disposal practices has moved to the state’s regulatory agency.

The students, part of a group from the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition (VSEC), are demanding that the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) revokes permits allowing Dominion Resources to dump coal ash wastewater into local rivers. Coal ash contains toxins, including heavy metals such as arsenic.

Was a Palestinian Suspected of Killing an American in Israel Executed by the Police?

A wave of knife attacks on Israelis continued on Tuesday, as a Palestinian man, suspected of killing an American tourist and stabbing at least nine others, was shot and killed by police officers near the port of Jaffa.

A Dutch journalist, Olaf Koens, happened to be near the scene of the attack and documented the immediate aftermath.

The GOP's Morning After

Repugnant beyond redemption.

Whatever its dire implications, for a time the GOP presidential race had the terrible fascination of a multi-car collision. No more. Now we can see the casualties close-up -- reason, dignity, honesty and hope. And, not least, a once great political party reduced to the intellectual and moral level of a mindless fraternity house.

Trump’s flirtation with fascism

So it has come to this: The front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, at a campaign rally Saturday in Orlando, leading supporters in what looked very much like a fascist salute.

“Can I have a pledge? A swearing?” Trump asked, raising his right hand and directing his followers to do the same. He then led them in pledging allegiance — not to the flag but to Trump, for which they stand and for whom they vowed to vote.

Nobody Knows the Identity of the 150 People Killed by U.S. in Somalia But Most Are Certain They Deserved it

The U.S. used drones and manned aircraft yesterday to drop bombs and missiles on Somalia, ending the lives of at least 150 people. As it virtually always does, the Obama administration instantly claimed that the people killed were “terrorists” and militants – members of the Somali group al-Shabab – but provided no evidence to support that assertion.

FBI quietly changes its privacy rules for accessing NSA data on Americans

The FBI has quietly revised its privacy rules for searching data involving Americans’ international communications that was collected by the National Security Agency, US officials have confirmed to the Guardian.

The classified revisions were accepted by the secret US court that governs surveillance, during its annual recertification of the agencies’ broad surveillance powers. The new rules affect a set of powers colloquially known as Section 702, the portion of the law that authorizes the NSA’s sweeping “Prism” program to collect internet data. Section 702 falls under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa), and is a provision set to expire later this year.

Forget the Praise: BC's Carbon Tax Is a Failure

"Let's cut the crap about B.C.'s carbon tax. The impact of the carbon tax has been overstated by people who love carbon taxes, and it's annoying that the tax has generated so much uncritical praise." -- Marc Lee, pro-carbon tax economist.

To hear it from Premier Christy Clark, our province is a beacon of trailblazing perfection in the battle against climate change.

Congressional Climate Deniers Represent 63 Percent Of Americans

According to new research from the Center for American Progress Action Fund, more than six in ten Americans are represented by someone in Congress who denies the reality of climate change.

Following the second straight year that earned the title of hottest year on record, 59 percent of the Republican House caucus and 70 percent of Republicans in the Senate deny the scientific consensus that climate change is happening and humans are the main cause. There are 182 climate deniers in the 114th Congress in 2016 — 144 in the House and 38 in the Senate. According to the U.S. Census, that means 202,803,591 people are represented by a climate denier in Congress.

The FBI vs. Apple Debate Just Got Less White

The court fight between Apple and the FBI prompted a slew of letters and legal briefs last week from outside parties, including many tech companies and privacy groups. But a particularly powerful letter came from a collection of racial justice activists, including Black Lives Matter.

The letter focused on potential civil rights abuses, should the FBI gain the power to conscript a technology company into undermining its own users’ security.

The Gun Industry's Plan To Make It Easier To Buy A Silencer - The product is being rebranded as a hearing-protection device.

FAIRFAX, Va. (Reuters) - The U.S. gun industry is trying to shake off the Hollywood hitman image of the gun silencer and rebrand it as a hearing-protection device in a campaign to roll back regulations that date to the 1930s.

Industry lobbying has led to more than a dozen states legalizing silencers for hunting since 2011. Now gun advocates are pressing Congress to repeal a Depression-era law that requires a months-long screening process for silencer buyers - far more scrutiny than gun buyers face.

Apple vs. FBI Is Not About Privacy vs. Security -- It's About How to Achieve Both

In the aftermath of the tragic attacks in San Bernardino, an iPhone belonging to Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the assailants, propelled the previously cloistered debate on encryption into the mainstream.

The current legal clash between Silicon Valley and American law enforcement over encryption is hardly a new one. Apple and other American technology companies have been arguing these cases in the courts for several years. In most cases, Silicon Valley willingly complies with law enforcement's requests. But from Apple's perspective, this case is not like most cases.

WashPo’s Obvious Bias: 16 Negative Stories About Bernie Sanders Published Over 16 Hours

The progressive media watchdog FAIR counted as the Washington Post reached what the group is saying “has to be some kind of record” by posting an onslaught of articles attacking the Vermont senator.

Why is Justin Trudeau invited to the White House?

The Obama White House hosts Justin Trudeau for a state dinner March 10. This is the first full-scale official visit by a Canadian prime minister since 1997.

Justin Trudeau has attracted major media attention in the U.S., raising his profile in Canada. For the prime minister, the visit has already borne fruit.

Trump cracks down on protesters

CONCORD, N.C. — Donald Trump’s rally here began with the candidate asking all attendees to raise their hands and take an oath to vote for him, while extended barriers cordoned off the press and plainclothes private intelligence officers scoured the crowd for protestors.

These new tactics, which the Trump campaign has introduced over the past week, represent refinements by Trump and his staff in their quest to control the atmosphere and message of his often unruly rallies. They come in the wake of an altercation between a photographer and a Secret Service agent at a Trump event, and at a time when the emboldened candidate has escalated confrontations with protesters, leaving his podium to stare them down at his two most recent rallies and repeatedly lamenting that his supporters cannot retaliate against them.

85% Of Young Women Have Been Sexually Harassed In Public Places

Nearly nine in 10 young women have been sexually harassed in public, with only 11% saying someone intervened when they experienced unwanted sexual touching, a report has found.

The YouGov survey, commissioned by the End Violence Against Women Coalition, found 85% of women aged 18 to 24 have experienced unwanted sexual attention, with 45% experiencing unwanted sexual touching in public.

A Global Debt Crisis? BIS Warns Of 'Gathering Storm' Over Excessive Borrowing

One of the world's most respected financial institutions just issued a warning asserting the world is facing a "gathering storm" caused by excessive borrowing.

The Bank for International Settlements says central banks like the Bank of Canada and the U.S. Federal Reserve are running out of policy room and have been "over-burdened'' over the past few years.

Canada Revenue offered amnesty to wealthy KPMG clients in offshore tax 'sham'

The Canada Revenue Agency offered amnesty to multi-millionaire clients caught using what's been called an offshore tax "sham" on the Isle of Man — a reprieve that was supposed to remain secret and out of the public eye until it was uncovered by a CBC News/Radio-Canada investigation.

The amnesty allows for "high net worth" clients of the accounting giant KPMG to be free from any future civil or criminal prosecution — as well as any penalties or fines — for their involvement in the controversial scheme.

What Did Trudeau Achieve at Climate Meet-up with Premiers?

Last week, Prime Minister Trudeau met with all 13 premiers in Vancouver, to work out a pan-Canadian climate change plan. So what did the Prime Minister achieve?

Despite hopes for more ambitious emissions targets, Canada's carbon slashing goal will remain the same as the one created by the former Harper government last year.

Lawyers of Fired Health Workers Issue Ultimatum on Ombuds' Probe

To protect the integrity of his office, British Columbia Ombudsperson Jay Chalke may have to drop his investigation into the botched 2012 health ministry firings, according to the lawyers for three people harmed by those firings.

"We see only two options that maintain the integrity of your office," lawyers Joanna Gislason and Gary Caroline wrote in a March 7 letter to Chalke. He could either go back to the committee that referred the matter to him and "address the deficiencies" in the mandate he'd been given, they wrote, "or discontinue your investigation altogether."

UN Tells Canada to Clean Up Its Act on Inequality, Social Rights

Canada is failing to advance social equality and justice on many fronts, says a new report from the United Nations.

The report, a review of the country's performance over the last 10 years, shows Canada is not measuring up to the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights it signed onto in 1966, according to national anti-poverty advocate.

Malaysia’s Petronas threatening to abandon LNG project over new climate change rules

CALGARY • Malaysia’s Petronas is frustrated that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s climate-change priorities are introducing new uncertainty for its proposed $36 billion Pacific NorthWest LNG project in northern British Columbia and has threatened to walk away if it doesn’t get federal approval by March 31, according to a source close to the project.

The project, to be located on federal lands on Lelu Island near Prince Rupert, received a largely favourable assessment from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) last month, was greenlighted by the British Columbia government in November, 2014, and received conditional corporate support — or a final investment decision — from Malaysia’s state-owned company and its partners in June of last year.

Koch as Koch can

As parts of the Republican Party establishment roil over the realization that Donald Trump might be the party's nominee for president, one big question that's arisen is what will Charles and David Koch do about it, if anything?

The billionaire Koch brothers, the ninth richest people in the world, each worth more than (US) $42-billion, are famous for pouring their vast fortune into influencing the American electoral system to further their corporate and conservative goals. They have pledged to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to get a Republican elected to the White House this year.

Women's Wage Gap Getting Wider In Canada, New Report Indicates

Women in Canada still earn much less than men for the same work, and also bear far more of the burden of extra unpaid work, according to a report released today.

That's just one of the findings of the wide-ranging report from Oxfam Canada and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

CSIS used Bill C-51 powers several times to disrupt suspected terrorists, Senate hears

OTTAWA—CSIS agents have used the extraordinary powers of Bill C-51 to disrupt suspected terrorist threats nearly two dozen times since last autumn, even as public and political debate over the new terror law still rages, Canada’s top spy revealed Monday.

CSIS director Michel Coulombe downplayed the actions of security agents in testimony before the standing Senate committee on national security and defence. He told senators the service did not seek judicial approval in any of the cases, meaning the spy agency did not deem its actions to be in breach of anyone’s charter rights.

Apple Must Clear Another Hurdle In NY Encryption Case

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department on Monday resubmitted its case for Apple to unlock an encrypted iPhone belonging to a drug offender to a higher judge in the Eastern District of New York.

The move was in line with what the department said it would do after a magistrate judge previously sided with Apple, ruling that the Justice Department could not use a 1789 law known as the All Writs Act to compel the tech giant to unlock the phone.

At Secretive Meeting, Tech CEOs And Top Republicans Commiserate, Plot To Stop Trump

Billionaires, tech CEOs and top members of the Republican establishment flew to a private island resort off the coast of Georgia this weekend for the American Enterprise Institute's annual World Forum, according to sources familiar with the secretive gathering.

The main topic at the closed-to-the-press confab? How to stop Republican front-runner Donald Trump.

Bobby Jindal’s Anti-Tax Fervor May Have Destroyed Louisiana

Louisiana’s new leaders made headlines last month for mentioning that a budget crisis may jeopardize the elite Louisiana State University football program. But the flood of red ink that former Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) left behind is so all-consuming that Louisiana may soon cease to function as a state in far more fundamental ways.

The basic services a government provides — watchdogs to guard abused and abandoned children, emergency rooms and hospitals, scholarships and safety-net stipends to lift families out of poverty — will barely be able to keep the lights on unless politicians can find $3 billion in new revenue in the coming days.

Donald Trump's 47 Percent Moment

Last week, Mitt Romney, the twice-failed GOP presidential candidate, delivered a speech that blasted Donald Trump, the current Republican front-runner, calling the tycoon "a phony, a fraud" and citing Trump's "dishonesty" and his "bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third-grade theatrics." It was a clear move on Romney's part to rally the GOP establishment against the celebrity real estate mogul whose endorsement he warmly embraced during the 2012 campaign. Naturally, Trump responded in kind. Within hours, at a campaign rally in Portland, Maine, he lashed out at Romney.