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, March 28, 2016

The Election in Arizona Was a Mess

Faith Decker, a 19-year-old sophomore at Arizona State University, got off work a little early Tuesday night so she could vote in her first-ever primary. She arrived at a church in southeast Phoenix just before 7 p.m. to find "the line wrapped completely around the corner, 300 to 400 people." After waiting in that line for more than three hours, she finally reached the check-in desk. She was told that she couldn't vote—not because the polls had closed three hours before, but because she was registered in a different county.

Justice Alito Is Clueless About How Health Insurance Works. That’s a Big Problem for Women.

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has earned a reputation, fairly or not, that he doesn't understand the reality of women's lives.  He's been observed shaking his head and rolling his eyes at his female colleagues, particularly the venerable Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, when she read a dissent from the bench opposing his opinions in a pair gender discrimination cases.  The oral arguments in Zubik v Burwell Wednesday probably did nothing much to improve that perception.

University of California Adopts Policy Linking Anti-Zionism to Anti-Semitism

The regents of the University of California unanimously adopted a new policy on discrimination on Wednesday that links anti-Semitism to opposition to Zionism, the ideology asserting that the Jewish people have a right to a nation-state in historic Palestine.

At a meeting in San Francisco, the UC Board of Regents approved a working group’s recommendation for a set of “Principles Against Intolerance” that accepts the argument that “manifestations of anti-Semitism have changed” as a result of debates over Israel on college campuses and “expressions of anti-Semitism are more coded and difficult to identify.”

Islamic State Bragged That Its Attacks Would Help Break Up the European Union

A newsletter circulated after Islamic State’s November massacre in Paris sheds light on what the group believes yesterday’s deadly attack in Brussels will accomplish, including weakening unity on the continent and exhausting European states economically.

An issue of the Islamic State newsletter, al-Naba, published weeks after the Paris attack, boasted in one section that “the Paris raid has caused the creation of a state of instability in European countries which will have long-term effects,” listed as “the weakening of European cohesion, including demands to repeal the Schengen Agreement…which permits free traveling in Europe without checkpoints” and “security measures [which] will cost them tens of millions of dollars,” along with “mutual accusations between France and Belgium” over security failings.

Erik Prince in the Hot Seat

ERIK PRINCE, founder of the now-defunct mercenary firm Blackwater and current chairman of Frontier Services Group, is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and other federal agencies for attempting to broker military services to foreign governments and possible money laundering, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the case.

What began as an investigation into Prince’s attempts to sell defense services in Libya and other countries in Africa has widened to a probe of allegations that Prince received assistance from Chinese intelligence to set up an account for his Libya operations through the Bank of China. The Justice Department, which declined to comment for this article, is also seeking to uncover the precise nature of Prince’s relationship with Chinese intelligence.

Obviously Men Make More Money Than Women At Amazon

When the most senior, well-paid people at your company are almost exclusively male, is it really accurate to say your business pays men and women about the same amounts?

The question comes up now because Amazon, under pressure from activist shareholders, said Wednesday there’s almost no gender pay gap at the company. Women at Amazon make 99.9 cents for every dollar that men earn in the same jobs, and minorities earn 100.1 cents for every dollar that white employees earn. The company, which employs more than 200,000 full-time workers, said it considered salary and stock.

Rudy Giuliani Says Hillary Clinton ‘Could Be Considered A Founding Member Of ISIS’

Rudy Giuliani amped up the rhetoric on Wednesday night, saying Hillary Clinton “could be considered a founding member of ISIS.”

Speaking on “The O’Reilly Factor,” the former New York City mayor claimed Clinton bears responsibility for creating the terrorist organization, which controls parts of Syria and Iraq, because she was secretary of state during President Barack Obama’s first term.

North Carolina Governor Signs Bill Banning Cities From Protecting LGBT People

North Carolina’s General Assembly voted Wednesday to block cities and counties from passing protections against LGBT discrimination in a wide-ranging bill that could have enormous implications for the state.

HB 2, which passed in a special session, would set a statewide anti-discrimination policy, banning employers and businesses from discriminating against employees or customers based on their race, color, country of origin, religion, age or “biological sex.” The bill offers no protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and prevents local governments from passing any nondiscrimination policy that goes beyond the statewide standard.

Louisiana Sheriff Accuses Ex-Gov. Jindal and the GOP of Impoverishing His State

Conservative Louisiana Sheriff Newell Normand last month publicly criticized “that idiot,” former Gov. Bobby Jindal, saying he had led his state off a fiscal cliff, and the law enforcement official went on to admonish his fellow Republicans for following obstructionist leaders and resisting tax increases aimed at covering budget problems the Republican governor left behind.

According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Louisiana faces a $943 million budget shortfall between now and the end of the fiscal year on June 30. “The state is also estimated to face a $2 billion shortfall in the 2016-17 budget year,” the paper states.

Bombardier To Outsource Canadian Jobs As It Waits For Bailout: Report

TORONTO — The federal innovation minister says the government is taking into account the possibility Bombardier may outsource jobs when determining whether to give up to US$1 billion to the aerospace manufacturer for its CSeries planes.

Harper’s GST legacy leaves the fiscal ship at the mercy of the world economy

Paul Martin’s spending plans were to be financed out of federal budget surpluses. By comparison, Justin Trudeau is walking a budget tightrope over a fiscal safety net frayed by a decade of Conservative tax cuts. Tuesday’s Liberal budget does little to address a structural revenue shortfall.

OTTAWA—For all the talk about a new activist federal era, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first budget largely picks up where Paul Martin left off — at least when it comes to spending priorities.

One of the oldest tricks in the books: Canada's rich dodge the stock option tax bullet

Taking on the generous tax benefits available to the rich is a tough business.

The rich are, well, rich. They have a lot of money to spend on fighting back.

And because, as individuals, they have a lot at stake, it makes financial sense to spend a lot of their money fighting to hang on to their tax advantages.

Budget 2016: Not enough Real Change for women

Don't you love it when your government talks to you like a seven year old (with all respect to seven year olds)? I do.

This year's federal budget continues in the long tradition of past budgets by introducing us to a happy Canadian family. Meet David and Neera. (Last year it was Henry and Cathy and the year before that it was Blake and Laurie… you get the picture).

Federal budget offers workers a minimal dose of 'real change'

The Liberals' new budget promises a much-needed funding boost to a range of Canadian initiatives and sectors.

Here are the new investments rated according to a budget wish list from the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC).

Trudeau's promises of 'renewed relationship' with First Nations evaporated with Liberal budget

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won the hearts of many Canadians by finally getting rid of Stephen Harper and his decade of oppression, violation of civil rights and vilification of First Nations.
Most breathed a sigh of relief on October 20, 2015 when newly elected Trudeau talked about changing everything in Canada. He gave moving speeches about Canada's shameful history with Indigenous peoples and committed to implementing all the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

North Carolina Lawmakers Waste Taxpayer Money To Gut LGBT Protections

On Wednesday, lawmakers in North Carolina are convening a special session for the sole purpose of considering anti-LGBT legislation. The session is a direct response to the passage of LGBT nondiscrimination protections in the city of Charlotte and will cost taxpayers $42,000 per day.

Ted Cruz Tells Fox America Has ‘Never Engaged In Torture’

On Fox & Friends Wednesday morning, presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) claimed that the United States has “never engaged in torture.”

“America has never engaged in torture and we’re not about to,” Cruz responded after being asked whether he would engage in torture, enhanced interrogation, and waterboarding by the show’s three hosts.

Trump's Popularity and the Rise of Authoritarian Capitalism

The rise of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is a clear symptom of the catastrophic normalization of authoritarian capitalism around the world. Many recent debates about his popularity, however, have missed this point: They are being framed in post-ideological terms that obscure the relation between Trump's rise and the deepening contradictions of the global capitalist system.

Indiana's Anti-Abortion Bill: A Blueprint for Attacks on Rights Nationwide

Indiana residents are calling on their governor to veto a sweeping anti-abortion bill passed earlier this month by the state legislature. Led by the group Indy Feminists, dozens of Indianans delivered a petition addressed to Gov. Mike Pence with over 2,700 signatures (now over 5,500) opposing House Enrolled Act 1337, which would make the Hoosier State just the second to ban abortion for genetic abnormalities and the latest entity to attempt further restrictions on fetal tissue research.

"Indiana has become one of the most dangerous states in which to be pregnant, now more than ever for those who would like to give birth," said Jennifer Kotting, communications director at the National Network of Abortion Funds and a South Bend, Indiana, resident. "In Indiana, you can be jailed for 20 years for having a miscarriage, and now [should Governor Pence sign the bill], if you experience difficulties in your pregnancy, you could also be risking prison, trauma or death."

Iowa’s 60 Million Laying Hens Aren’t Being Monitored by Food-Safety Inspectors

In 2010, 550 million eggs were recalled after thousands of people were sickened with salmonella in an outbreak tied to farms in Iowa, the leading state for laying-hen production. Despite Iowa producing 15 billion eggs annually, amounting to $2 billion in sales, both state and federal food-safety inspections were halted there last year, the Des Moines Register reported on Sunday. The concern was that letting inspectors into laying-hen facilities could help spread the virulent strain of bird flu that has been killing off birds in the tens of millions.

The Navy’s New $4.4 Billion Ship Is A Big, Shiny Waste Of Money

The Navy’s largest and costliest destroyer was sent out to sea Monday for final trials before its delivery to the military.

The future USS Zumwalt features an angled hull that looks like a hybrid of something out of Soviet Russia and a James Bond movie.

Staff from Bath Iron Works, the Maine shipyard that built the destroyer, and Navy crew members will be on board during the trials for testing and to help prepare the ship for delivery.

Dear Cruz: If the World Looked Like Dearborn, There’d Be No Terrorism

Another week, another Islamophobic assertion from the Republican presidential race. This time it was Ted Cruz, calling for increased security in “Muslim neighborhoods” in the wake of a tragedy in Brussels.

By Muslim neighborhoods, forgive me for thinking he means Dearborn, Mich. (even though, as I’ve explained before, Muslims only make a portion of the Arab Americans in Dearborn).

How The Democratic Elite Betrayed Their Party And Paved The Way For Donald Trump

The Republican elite is struggling to understand why so many of its core supporters have abandoned them for an authoritarian demagogue. After decades of cozy cohabitation, the plebes are moving out, leaving the cufflink wing of the party to wonder what went wrong.

Last week, the leading journal of elite conservative opinion presented a blunt, honest and unapologetic answer: Republican intellectuals loathe the rabble.

This New Bill Could Make Trump and Cruz's Anti-Refugee Dreams a Reality

Following the terrorist attacks at a subway station and airport in Brussels on Tuesday morning, GOP presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz renewed their calls for Syrian refugees and other immigrants to be banned from entering the United States.

"We need to immediately halt the president's ill-advised plan to bring in tens of thousands of Syrian Muslim refugees," Cruz said during a Tuesday press conference in Washington, DC. "Our vetting programs are woefully insufficient."

The Uber Revolution Hinges On One Key Question

Lyft drivers have been shorted about $126 million in pay over the past four years, according to documents released Friday as part of a lawsuit against the company.

The massive back-pay estimate is based on a federal standard for per-mile reimbursements, but the alleged underpayment really centers on a much more fundamental and complicated question: Are people who drive for companies like Lyft and Uber employees, independent contractors, or something in between?

Kansas Bill Would Pay Students A $2,500 Bounty To Hunt For Trans People In Bathrooms U

With only two weeks left in the Kansas legislation session, state lawmakers have introduced a pair of bills that would prohibit transgender students from using restrooms that match their gender. The “Student Physical Privacy Act” would apply not only to public schools, but all public universities in the state as well, guaranteeing that anyone who saw someone transgender in the bathroom could sue their school for $2,500 for every time that it happened.

If You Catch And Use Rainwater In Colorado, You Are A Criminal

In a state where recreational marijuana was legalized two years ago and extreme weather has caused serious concerns, one mundane drought-fighting tool remains illegal: using rain barrels to catch rainwater from roofs for use in gardens.

Despite the fact that the American West is facing serious water shortages — Lake Mead, for example, is at its lowest recorded levels since the 1930s — recent proposals to legalize rain barrels in Colorado have been stalled or defeated.

The Rob Ford saga would be hard to swallow — if we didn’t live through it

Had we not lived through it, we might not now believe it.

But we did live through it, and so we know that it was neither a dream nor a fantasy.

It was something altogether real — the topsy-turvy four-year mayoralty of Robert Bruce Ford, a man known to Torontonians and most Canadians, not to mention many late-night television viewers across the continent, as just plain Rob Ford, a simple, unadorned moniker for a complicated and flamboyant man, who split this city’s residents into two mutually uncomprehending camps.

Trump’s and Cruz’s Tax Plans Would Be the Largest Redistributions to the Rich in U.S. History

The tax cuts for the rich proposed by the two leading Republican candidates for the presidency – Donald Trump and Ted Cruz – are larger, as a proportion of the government budget and the total economy, than any tax cuts ever before proposed in history.

Trump and Cruz pretend to be opposed to the Republican establishment, but when it comes to taxes they’re seeking exactly what that Republican establishment wants.

Hydraulic Fracking to Blame for Big Alberta Bitumen Spill, Regulator Confirms

Three years after an eruption of 10,000 barrels of melted bitumen contaminated the boreal forest and groundwater near Cold Lake, Alberta, the provincial energy regulator has now officially blamed hydraulic fracturing, or the pressurized injection of steam into the ground for fracturing nearby rock.

The bitumen blowout occurred sometime between May and June 2013 at Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.'s Cold Lake project, an operation that uses steam injection to melt bitumen and bring it to the surface.

Liberals dishonour generations of war and torture victims

A once-in-a-lifetime selfie opportunity presented itself at a March 10 State Department luncheon in Washington, D.C., when Justin Trudeau and his team were being feted by one of the worst comedians on the touring circuit, Secretary of State John Kerry, whose stabs at humour could only be considered capital punishment.

After the polite laughter died down, Rufus Wainwright serenaded the room as guests dug into a feast courtesy of a Montreal-born chef. Meanwhile, it seems that Canadian cabinet ministers Navdeep Bains and Mélanie Joly were busily scanning the room for famous people. As members of the Canadian delegation, one would think that they had been chosen for their ability to exercise judgment and good taste while on the international stage, rather than their skill with a smartphone.

A preventable tragedy: How Nova Scotia's mental health services failed Cody Glode

Cody Glode had everything to live for.

He was a handsome 20 year-old, the youngest firefighter -- and first Mi'kmaw -- in Truro's fire service. "The boys at the fire department welcomed [him] with open arms," his mother says, but Cody's "true passion" remained mixed martial arts.

He was a featherweight fighter. His goal was to turn pro. He won his most recent bout by a technical knockout in the third round, and had three more fights scheduled this spring.

Putting off defence acquisitions cuts $1-billion from federal deficit: Page

The government’s decision to shift funding for $3.7-billion worth of large-scale defence acquisitions until after 2020 reduced next year’s projected deficit by $1-billion and by similar annual amounts until the projects go ahead, according to fine print in the budget Finance Minister Bill Morneau tabled on Tuesday.

Former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page confirmed the funding shift—called a “reallocation” of planned funding not yet allocated to specific acquisition projects or funding that cannot be spent due to unforeseen delays in planned projects—effectively reduced what would have been a projected $30-billion federal deficit for 2017-18 by $1.052 billion.