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.]

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Toronto's growing food insecurity crisis

Six years ago this spring, I was challenged by low-income people in my community to live for one week on a “food bank diet” to better understand the stress experienced by so many on social assistance who have to make the choice between food and rent each month. The affect on me and my family was profound.

But while that publicity stunt helped raise awareness about hunger in our city, little has improved since. In fact, our local food banks are busier than ever.

Democrats, this is why you need to fear Hillary Clinton: The NY Times is absolutely right — she’s a bigger hawk than the Republicans

Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is even more of a war hawk than her Republican counterparts, the U.S. newspaper of record says in a new report.

“How Hillary Clinton Became a Hawk,” a long-form article published this week in the New York Times Magazine, details how Clinton’s hyper-hawkish “foreign-policy instincts are bred in the bone,” based on what one of her aides calls “a textbook view of American exceptionalism.”

Former Tax Lobbyists Are Writing the Rules on Tax Dodging

The secret tax-dodging strategies of the global elite in China, Russia, Brazil, the U.K., and beyond were exposed in speculator fashion by the recent Panama Papers investigation, fueling a worldwide demand for a crackdown on tax avoidance.

But there is little appetite in Congress for taking on powerful tax dodgers in the U.S., where the practice has become commonplace.

Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist resigns

Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith resigned from the paper on Tuesday, after the paper prevented him from writing about casino owners Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson, whose family owns the Review-Journal.

"In Las Vegas, a quintessential company town, it’s the blowhard billionaires and their political toadies who are worth punching. And if you don’t have the freedom to call the community’s heavyweights to account, then that 'commentary' tag isn’t worth the paper on which it’s printed," he wrote in a letter to colleagues, which he printed out and left around the newsroom.

Chris Van Hollen Wins Maryland Democratic Senate Primary

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, long considered a rising star, won Maryland’s Democratic Senate primary on Tuesday.

In the heavily blue state, the 57-year-old congressman is expected to triumph again in November, taking over the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D).

Ontario Taxpayers Subsidized Buyers Of $1.1 Million Porsche 918 Spyder

The Ontario government gave taxpayer-funded rebates to five millionaires to buy one of the most expensive cars ever manufactured, the Porsche 918 Spyder.

CBC News has learned that five Ontario drivers received funding through the province's Electric Vehicle Incentive Program in 2015 for buying the Porsche 918, which retailed in Canada at about $1.1 million.

Corporate Canada Poured More Than $270B In Tax Havens Last Year

OTTAWA — Corporate Canada increased spending in its ten favourite tax havens by 17 per cent in 2015, according to new figures on direct foreign investment released Tuesday by Statistics Canada.

Canadians for Tax Fairness crunched the numbers and found that Canadian corporations invested almost $40 billion last year in the top 10 tax haven destinations for Canadian capital — taking investment totals since 1990 to $270.2 billion.

Sharon’s story: Trip to Buffalo for stem-cell transplant came too late

The trunk of her silver Ford Taurus was packed with everything Sharon Shamblaw needed to get through the next three months, including a pile of stationery so she could write to her three kids, Amy Poehler’s biography, and a DVD of the Chicago Blackhawks’ greatest moments leading up to their Stanley Cup victory last year.

Shamblaw, 46, rolled up to Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo on Jan. 25, 2016, expecting to be admitted to the stem cell transplant ward the next morning for an intensive, life-saving treatment program for acute myeloid leukemia.

That was the plan.

Kansas Governor Justifies Kicking 15,000 People Off Food Stamps

For over five years now, Kansas has served as an economic policy experiment for anti-tax, small-government conservatives. Their lab work is costing the state hundreds of millions of dollars, crippling public service budgets, and making life harder for low-income families without reducing the state’s poverty rate at all.

With his political star beginning to tarnish, Gov. Sam Brownback (R) came to Washington on Wednesday to discuss his poverty policies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. At one point, the embattled governor justified his policy of forcing people off of food stamps if they can’t find a job by likening low-income and jobless people to lazy college students.

Trump and Clinton share Delaware tax 'loophole' address with 285,000 firms

There aren’t many things upon which Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump agree, especially as they court very different Delaware voters ahead of a primary on Tuesday. But the candidates for president share an affinity for the same nondescript two-storey office building in Wilmington. A building that has become famous for helping tens of thousands of companies avoid hundreds of millions of dollars in tax through the so-called “Delaware loophole”.

Secret Court Takes Another Bite Out of the Fourth Amendment

Defenders of the NSA's mass spying have lost an important talking point: that the erosion of our privacy and associational rights is justified given the focus of surveillance efforts on combating terrorism and protecting the national security. That argument has always been dubious for a number of reasons. But after a November 2015 ruling [.pdf] by the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) was unsealed last week, it's lost another chunk of its credibility. The ruling confirms that NSA's warrantless spying has been formally approved for use in general criminal investigations. The national security justification has been entirely blown.

Austria’s Far-Right Party Leads The Vote In Presidential Election

VIENNA, April 24 (Reuters) - Austria’s far right won more than a third of the vote in the presidential election on Sunday and will face an independent in next month’s run-off, dumping out the country’s two main parties from the post for the first time.

It was the Freedom Party’s best result in a national election after a campaign that focused on the impact of the migrant crisis, which has seen around 100,000 asylum seekers arrive in Austria since last summer.

Exhibit One in Any Future American War Crimes Trial

The allegations against the man were serious indeed.

* Donald Rumsfeld said he was “if not the number two, very close to the number two person” in al-Qaeda.

* The Central Intelligence Agency informed Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee that he “served as Usama Bin Laden’s senior lieutenant. In that capacity, he has managed a network of training camps… He also acted as al-Qaeda’s coordinator of external contacts and foreign communications.”

* CIA Director Michael Hayden would tell the press in 2008 that 25% of all the information his agency had gathered about al-Qaeda from human sources “originated” with one other detainee and him.

* George W. Bush would use his case to justify the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation program,” claiming that “he had run a terrorist camp in Afghanistan where some of the 9/11 hijackers trained” and that “he helped smuggle al-Qaeda leaders out of Afghanistan” so they would not be captured by U.S. military forces.

None of it was true.

The Real Hillary Clinton

Recently in the presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton supporters have complained vociferously that Bernie Sanders is being too critical. In reality, he’s been far too polite. He’s obviously uncomfortable insulting his opponent, shooting from the hip, using sarcasm instead of facts. Clinton’s comfort zone is all of that. Her sarcasm slops over the brim, and facts vanish like so much fairy dust. She dismisses the effective Sanders, with the solid progressive agenda, as a dreamer, while she, the proud warrior, paints herself as the pragmatist.

David Swanson: US Wars Are Not Waged Out of Generosity or for Democracy

In this interview, David Swanson, author of War Is a Lie, counters the theory that war is an inevitable part of human nature, says the antiwar movement is larger than the dominant media suggest and shares the view that wars are fought primarily for money and markets.

Mark Karlin: How do you respond to people who say that war is due to human hard-wiring that goes back to battling clans of cave people over territory and resources?

David Swanson: Thanks for the terrific questions. At least 90 percent of humanity is represented by governments that wage war much less than the US government. Over 99 percent of people in the United States are not in the military. There is not a single case of PTSD from war deprivation. The largest cause of death in members of the US military is suicide. So you can try to claim that hunter-gatherers waged wars despite the lack of evidence, or that chimpanzees wage wars despite the lack of either evidence or relevance. But the very claim that humans all wage war is ridiculous on its face. The notion that it comes naturally to them is a horrible joke, given the damage it inflicts even on drastically better-armed aggressors who kill even from the safety of a drone base thousands of miles from their victims. If someone thinks war comes naturally, I would suggest, respectfully, that they should try sexual abstinence, starvation or eating feces.

Time to flush out the truth in the Duffy investigation

They cut off the wrong leg, mixed up the babies, confused the medications, screwed up the blood types and didn’t much like the patient.

If RCMP investigators and ministry of the attorney general’s lawyers had been doctors, they would have been facing a malpractice suit over Duffygate.

When will someone call for an investigation into this institutional witch-hunt in which a legal calamity was only avoided thanks to a crusading and indefatigable lawyer and a clear-eyed and fearless judge?

The First Amendment Hasn't Stopped Police From Harassing Copwatchers

At a protest in downtown Denver, on April 29, 2015, a police officer stole Jessica Benn's smartphone.

Benn had been filming her husband, Jesse, from the safety of the sidewalk as police arrested him. That was enough for her to be targeted and to have her property illegally seized.

"An officer just stepped up to me and grabbed it right out of my hand," she told Truthout. "Right behind him was an officer in SWAT gear who then took me and pushed me up against a bus with a baton across my neck and held me there."

Charles Koch: Clinton Might Make Better President Than Republican Candidates

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Billionaire industrialist Charles Koch, a key source of financing for conservative Republican causes along with his brother, said Democrat Hillary Clinton might make a better president than the candidates in the Republican field.

Andrew Bacevich and America’s Long Misguided War to Control the Greater Middle East

THE CONVICTION that invasion, bombing, and special forces benefit large swaths of the globe, while remaining consonant with a Platonic ideal of the national interest, runs deep in the American psyche. Like the poet Stevie Smith’s cat, the United States “likes to gallop about doing good.” The cat attacks and misses, sometimes injuring itself, but does not give up. It asks, as the U.S. should,

    What’s the good
    Of galloping about doing good
    When angels stand in the path
    And do not do as they should

America’s frightening oligarchy: Thomas Piketty on our widening inequality and the right-wing billionaires who profit from it

Will oligarchy, or plutocracy, be America’s future? A recent Supreme Court decision striking down all limits on private funding for political campaigns has rekindled that fear. The hundreds of millions doled out by the hyper-Republican billionaire Koch brothers for TV ads and think tanks backing the farthest-right candidates have become the symbol of all-powerful wealth. The specter of a slide into hyper-inequality and a politics increasingly captured by the “1 percent” is animating political debates across the Atlantic like never before. It’s been several years now since the Occupy Wall Street movement and its peculiar slogans (“We are the 99 percent”) took Europe by surprise. Our continent is far more preoccupied—in part for good reason—with modernizing its welfare state, and the dysfunctions of its single currency. If President Obama could recently deem inequality “the defining challenge of our time,” it’s above all because inequality’s rise has been incomparably more massive in the United States. First the country witnessed an unprecedented takeoff in supermanager salaries; now it’s the growing concentration of wealth that looks set to become the main issue. The share of national wealth held by the richest 1 percent in America is approaching the dangerous heights seen in Ancien Régime or Belle Époque Europe. For a country founded in large part as an antithesis to Europe’s patrimonial societies, it’s a rude awakening.

China's Northwest Passage Ambitions Could Challenge Canada's Sovereignty: Expert

China wants to run tankers right up our Northwest Passage.

Not to find the hand of Franklin. But to ship goods to North America's East Coast ... and challenge Canadian jurisdiction over Arctic waters.

Tories Offer No Apologies After Duffy Verdict Shines Light On Harper's PMO

OTTAWA — There were no apologies from Conservatives on Friday following a scathing court judgment that exonerated Sen. Mike Duffy of 31 expense-related criminal charges while indicting his former political masters in the Prime Minister's Office of Stephen Harper.

Only Conservative MP Candice Bergen was willing to speak with reporters, offering up a stout defence of Harper's leadership while avoiding the specifics of the Duffy verdict.

After Duffy, there’s nothing left of Harper’s legacy but ashes

Mike Duffy wasn’t just acquitted — he was vindicated. And almost exactly to the degree he was vindicated in court, the Conservative leadership in the Senate was excoriated and the former PMO eviscerated in the scathing verdict of Ontario Justice Charles Vaillancourt.

While Duffy was acquitted of 31 charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery, Stephen Harper and his former PMO were convicted in absentia of abuse of power.

Plea from dying teen: Please help

“Hello. I’m Laura Hillier.”

The voice of the 18-year-old girl cracks in distress. She’s propped up on a hospital bed, eyes swollen from crying, lips stained red from bleeding lungs.

“. . . I’m in the ICU . . . I can’t breathe. Soon, a tube will be stuck down my throat again. And for feeding as well. And I won’t be able to talk. They said I may not wake up but I really hope I do. But if I don’t, I hope this never happens to anyone ever again. And that the government sees that there needs to be funding. Because people are dying when we can save them. We can save these people. Please help. Thank you.”

Ontario’s top-billing doctor charged OHIP $6.6M last year

A specialist who charged the Ontario Health Insurance Plan a “staggering” $6.6 million last year is one of 500 doctors billing more than $1 million annually, Health Minister Eric Hoskins said Friday.

Hoskins is refusing to release the doctors’ names for privacy reasons, but is calling on the Ontario Medical Association to come back to the negotiating table to rework outdated fee codes that make it possible for some to snap up 10 per cent of the $11.6 billion budget for paying doctors.

This College Student Was Kicked Off a Flight Because He Speaks Arabic. He's Not the Only One.

The night before 26-year old Iraqi refugee Khairuldeen Makhzoomi was kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight and interrogated by the FBI, he was at an event hosted by the World Affairs Council in Los Angeles, asking UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon about Popular Mobilization Units, the Shiite militia forces fighting against the so-called Islamic State in his home country.

Hillary Clinton’s Limited Feminism: Why Electing a Woman President Is Not Enough

Over the past several months, the Clinton campaign and its celebrity supporters have worked hard to convince the American public that “Hillary” is synonymous with feminism. On the campaign trail, Lena Dunham stated, “Our first female president would send a message that we are here. We are ready to lead. In fact, she has been leading all along.” In a pro-Hillary video posted on YouTube, Jamie Lee Curtis said, “I want my President to make decisions on my behalf based on her experience, her command, her intelligence and from her big, warm, embracing feminine heart.” Countless other celebrities — Amy Poehler, Shonda Rhimes, Kerry Washington and Katy Perry to name a few — have all endorsed Clinton, proudly declaring #ImWithHer and celebrating Clinton’s bid for the Presidency as a historic feminist victory.

Uber Settles Class-Action Lawsuits For Price Of Up To $100 Million

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Ride service Uber has agreed to pay up to $100 million to settle a class action lawsuit over whether its California drivers are employees or independent contractors, resolving a major challenge to its business model.

The settlement maintains Uber drivers as independent contractors, even though the lawsuit had alleged that Uber drivers are employees entitled to reimbursement of expenses.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage To Heroin Addicts: Drop Dead

Maine Gov. Paul LePage has routinely attracted attention for off-color, racist or bizarre public statements.

But in what ranks as one of the most vicious messages ever to accompany a veto, LePage explained Wednesday that he blocked a bill to increase access to a life-saving overdose medication because the people it could save are just going to die later anyway.

“Naloxone does not truly save lives; it merely extends them until the next overdose,” LePage wrote.

The Hypocrisy Underlying Brazil’s Impeachment Movement

Beleaguered Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff struck a defiant tone on Tuesday, two days after 367 members of Brazil’s lower house of Congress voted to advance impeachment procedures against her.

Speaking with reporters, Rousseff described the move as “a coup” and vowed to defend herself before the Senate, which will begin impeachment hearings on April 26.