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, May 06, 2016

Scott Walker Really Wants To Drug Test Unemployed People

Under current law, states aren’t allowed to institute drug tests for unemployment benefits. But that hasn’t kept Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) from trying.

In July, Walker approved legislation that would implement drug tests for both unemployment benefits and food stamps, neither of which are currently permissible. To get his way, he’s suing the government to allow him to move forward with implementation, arguing that these programs are “welfare” just the same as the welfare cash assistance program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, that does in fact allow states to implement drug tests.

Street Artist Likens Trump To Hitler, Gets Death Threats

Street artist Pegasus says he won’t be censored, despite receiving death threats from Donald Trump supporters over a piece that likens the presumptive GOP presidential candidate to Adolf Hitler.

He told The Huffington Post via email that dozens of menacing telephone calls have been made to his manager in recent days.

Some people have threatened to stab, kidnap or gun him down.

Others have vowed to sabotage his upcoming show in Los Angeles, where he is planning to exhibit a version of the piece he initially painted on the side of a pub in Bristol, England, in February.

Panama Papers source breaks silence over 'scale of injustices'

The whistleblower behind the Panama Papers broke their silence on Friday to explain in detail how the injustices of offshore tax havens drove them to the biggest data leak in history.

The source, whose identity and gender remain a secret, denied being a spy.

“For the record, I do not work for any government or intelligence agency, directly or as a contractor, and I never have. My viewpoint is entirely my own.”

Organizers Say Peabody Coal Will Not Escape Justice Through Bankruptcy

Missouri activists have long struggled against the environmental devastation, residential displacement and unsafe labor practices of Peabody Coal, the world's second-largest coal producer, which is based in St. Louis. Peabody's acts of destruction have been vast and numerous, from contaminating aquifers with toxic coal sludge to its disregard of labor safety standards, and even the looting of sacred Native artifacts. But the company's recent bankruptcy filing has brought little comfort to those most affected by Peabody's conquest and avarice.

Hillary Clinton Is Now The Most Religious Candidate Running For President. Here’s Why That Matters.

During a town hall campaign event in Iowa this past January, a woman stood and asked Hillary Clinton an unusually blunt question about faith. The woman, a high school guidance counselor, said she identifies as both a Democrat and a Catholic Christian, but expressed frustration about having to defend her support for Clinton to conservative friends who insist that progressivism and Christianity are incompatible. How, she asked, does Clinton — a self-identified Methodist Christian who also happens to be one of America’s most famous Democrats — grapple with the same question, and how does her faith in things such as the Ten Commandments square with her left-leaning politics?

Israeli Justice Minister: It’s Anti-Semitic To Ever Criticize Israel

Israel’s notoriously militant Justice Minister, Ayelet Shaked, equated criticism of Israel to anti-Semitism on Wednesday, in light of rising European support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS).

“In the past, we saw European leaders speaking against the Jews. Now, we see them speaking against Israel. It is the same anti-Semitism of blood libels, spreading lies, distorting reality and brainwashing people into hating Israel and the Jews,” Shaked told the Washington Post. “Today, it is not politically correct to be anti-Semitic but being anti-Israeli is acceptable. People who have such anti-Semitic views should not be allowed to hold central leadership positions.”

Senate Republicans Are Breaking Records for Judicial Obstruction

There's a growing judicial crisis created by Senate Republicans, and it's not the one that's been making headlines. While Democrats have publicly hammered the GOP's refusal to consider Merrick Garland's nomination to the Supreme Court, Republicans have mounted an equally important, if quieter, effort to block President Barack Obama's nominees to other federal courts, creating widespread vacancies in courts across the country.

Pope Francis castigates Europe in speech on solidarity

Europe is struggling to live up to the vision of its founders, Pope Francis has said in a powerful speech that asked: “What has happened to you, the Europe of humanism, the champion of human rights, democracy and freedom?”

Speaking as he became the first pope to accept the prestigious Charlemagne prize for his work on behalf of European solidarity, the pontiff called for Europe to reclaim the principles that had been established after the second world war, above all by embracing integration and revamping its economic model to “benefit ordinary people and society as a whole”.

Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Resumé: What the Record Shows

“Very competent, very professional, very intelligently moving towards the center, very shrewdly and effectively serving on the Armed Services Committee.”

    — Rep. Newt Gingrich, referring to fellow committee member Hillary Clinton, April 2005

    “She ran the State Department in the most effective way that I have ever seen.”

    — Henry Kissinger, referring to Hillary Clinton, Sept. 9, 2014

    “Her so-called foreign policy ‘experience’ has been to support every war demanded by the US deep security state run by the military and the CIA.”

    — Jeffrey Sachs, referring to Hillary Clinton, Feb. 5, 2016

Harper Government Gave Seaspan Shipyard $40M Contract On Election Day

On the very day of its defeat last fall, the Harper government quietly awarded a $40-million "engineering" contract to the Seaspan shipyard in North Vancouver, despite having promised that the yard would prepare itself to build new ships "at no cost to Canada."

Two months later, in December 2015, a confidential report for the new Liberal government, obtained by CBC News, found that the program remains chaotic, poorly managed and marked by "fragmentation, inefficiencies and delays."

Taxman gouges car buyers for money never spent

Federal tax authorities are "respectfully declining" to discuss just how deeply they are thrusting the grasping hand of government into the pockets of new car buyers, and no wonder.

New car sales are up nearly 10 per cent this year over last year, and last year broke sales records. Canadians are spending tens of billions, and federal and provincial governments are raking in a healthy chunk of every dollar spent — 13 per cent, for example, in Ontario.

Canada Post Review Committee Faces Quick Criticism

The Liberal government's four-person panel charged with reviewing Ca
nada Post is already facing concerns over one member's links to a private sector partner of the Crown corporation.

Public Services Minister Judy Foote announced the Review Thursday, saying the panel will focus on the "needs and expectations" of Canadians for Canada Post.

But the panel includes Krystyna Hoeg, who is on the board of directors of Shoppers Home Health Care, a subsidiary of Shoppers Drug Mart, a drug-store chain owned by grocery giant Loblaws.

The sins of the past are catching up to Premier Wynne

Can the Ontario Liberals sink any lower?

The party is under investigation already by the Ontario Provincial Police over allegations that it destroyed files related to the cancellation of two gas plant projects during the 2011 provincial election. Two former aides to former premier Dalton McGuinty have been formally charged. Now the Ottawa Citizen is reporting that the OPP is launching a second investigation — into the alleged destruction of documents related to the cancellation of a wind farm project.

Shut up, voters. Joe Oliver is still talking

If you ever have to give Joe Oliver a lift in the family car, I’d recommend using the backward-facing baby seat.

Has Canadian public life ever seen a more delusional, fiction-obsessed revisionist than the former finance minister? Proof of that statement abounds; the latest is his recent op-ed piece penned for Chairman Godfrey at Postmedia arguing that the damned Liberals are erasing the glorious legacy of Stephen Harper.

Greece Bailout Was for EU Banks: Study Confirms That Rescue Loans Didn’t Serve the Greek People

A new study offers more confirmation that the so-called bailout packages the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) delivered to Greece primarily served European banks rather than the Greek people.

The study released Wednesday by the Berlin-based European School of Management and Technology (ESMT) analyzed where funds from the two aid bailout deals—received on the condition of imposing harsh austerity measures—since 2010 went.

Sheldon Adelson Says He Will Support Donald Trump

The casino magnate Sheldon G. Adelson said on Thursday night that he would support Donald J. Trump now that he has become the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee.

“Yes, I’m a Republican, he’s a Republican,” Mr. Adelson said in a brief interview. “He’s our nominee. Whoever the nominee would turn out to be, any one of the 17 — he was one of the 17. He won fair and square.”

Mr. Adelson made the comments while at a gala dinner in Manhattan for the World Values Network, a Jewish organization.

Hate Crimes Rise Along With Donald Trump’s Anti-Muslim Rhetoric

A NEW REPORT published by Georgetown University’s Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding has documented an upsurge in violence against Muslims in the United States coinciding with the 2016 election campaign.

The major uptick in hate crimes dates back toward the end of 2015, which corresponds with Donald Trump’s call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States — but also with other possibly inciting factors such as the San Bernardino shooting and intensified political debate over the Syrian refugee crisis.

The Ugliest American

Happy first day of a half year of living with the possibility (however remote we have to believe it to be in order to stay sane) that Donald Trump — this crass and crude boor, this bloodthirsty psychopath, this Brobdingnagian narcissist, this proudly misogynistic ignoramus, this pus-filled boil of hate, this odious short-fingered vulgarian — could be the 45th President of the United States.

The TPP Is The Latest In A Bad Generation Of Trade Deals

The ideal of a democracy such as ours is that we elect governments to enact laws in the general public interest. We may not each like every single law that is passed, but overall the laws passed should be in our general good interest.

There may even be laws that cause us inconvenience from time to time, but we accept them for the greater good. Take the laws that allow us to be pulled over, with no evidence to suggest we are guilty of anything, to see if we have been drinking while driving. Ride Checks are a minor inconvenience we all accept to help keep our roads safe.

Harper's Wireless Policy Created 'Phoney' Competition, Study Says

OTTAWA — Consumers were on the losing end of a gamble by the former Conservative government when it sought to create more competition in the wireless market by interfering in it, says a new report released Thursday.

And researchers at the Montreal Economic Institute say the country's telecom regulator can learn from that failed policy by backing away from calls to interfere in the broadband Internet marketplace.

You Have To Work Twice As Long As Your Parents Did To Own A House

If you suspect your parents and grandparents had an easier time buying a house than you, a new study from a University of Ottawa professor says you’re probably right.

The amount of work time it takes for a Canadian to buy a typical home has more than doubled since the 1970s, economics professor Marc Lavoie concluded in the study.

"My Son Was Beautiful": Palestinian Bodies and the Truths That Do Not Reach Us

On October 13, 2015, news media reported two Palestinian men entering a No. 78 bus in the Armon Hanatziv district of East Jerusalem, then fatally stabbing and shooting two Israeli citizens. One of the alleged attackers, Bahaa Allyan, 22, was shot dead by Israeli police; the other, Bilal Ghanem, 23, was shot and remains in custody. The attack happened during what some have termed the Third Intifada, whose epicenter is Jerusalem, where the Palestinian poverty rate is over 75 percent.

On October 15, 2015, TIME magazine published an article titled, "The Desperation Driving Young Palestinians to Violence," which describes the anger of young Palestinians whose families "pay taxes like Israeli residents, but receive comparatively few services." The article opened by describing Bahaa Allyan: "On Tuesday, Allyan, a graphic designer from the predominantly Palestinian neighborhood Jabel Mukaber, was killed by Israeli security forces after allegedly trying to carry out an attack in Jerusalem."

Gimme Shelter (From the Tax Man)

There’s a pile of money hiding offshore. It’s true that jobs are also leaving the United States because American companies find it convenient to cut labor costs by moving manufacturing abroad, the economic issue you’re hearing most about in this election season. But the stunning amount of money that continues to flow across American borders (and those of other countries), and eventually disappears into the pockets of the corporate and political elite, ultimately causes even more damage to our finances and our lives.

Skip the rhetoric: The selective free-market principles of the Wall government

Speaking in a 2013 year-end interview with CTV News, Premier Brad Wall had this to say about his government's approach to the economy and the private sector:

    "We've said, as a government, that we're not going to try to pick winners and losers. In the past, governments of all stripes have used taxpayers' dollars to provide grants to companies, and we've found that that just didn't work. When we took office, we said we would stop that and focus on the basics."

Since that time, Mr. Wall continued to champion this hands-off approach -- particularly during the 2016 election -- posting on his Facebook and Twitter feed that "The Saskatchewan Party has taken a different approach to our economy. Under the NDP, the government picked winners and losers by investing in or giving grants directly to businesses."

Are Trudeau's promised reforms to Bill C-51 ever coming?

One of the few issues in the 2015 election that lined up along the comfortable left-right-centre dynamic of Canadian politics as traditionally defined was that of Bill C-51. Passed by the Conservatives with Liberal support in the wake of the 2014 Parliament Hill shooting (though resurrecting shelved elements of a series of surveillance-related bills that the government had previously been unable to pass), it generated due controversy and strong public pushback.

A Nation in the Grip of Greed

Casual browsers might mistake Rana Foroohar’s Makers and Takers for a Tea Party manifesto. The phrase is most famously identified with House Speaker Paul Ryan, who warned in 2010 that “takers”—i.e., people who receive more in federal benefits than they pay in taxes—were poised to become the majority of Americans, eclipsing the “makers”—the business owners and financiers who create hardy economic value.

But Foroohar, an economics columnist for Time and analyst for CNN, inverts Ryan’s callow sloganeering to devastating effect. Makers and Takers is a closely argued, richly reported anatomy of the sluggish, unequal and crisis-prone state of the U.S. economy under the dictates of financialization—the tax giveaways, financial-sector deregulation, securitized debt, etc., that are celebrated by figures such as Ryan.

Mitch McConnell Says He’ll Back Donald Trump As The GOP Nominee

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) affirmed on Wednesday that he will support presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and urged fellow Republicans to do the same.

“I have committed to supporting the nominee chosen by Republican voters, and Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee is now on the verge of clinching that nomination,” McConnell said in a statement.

A Racist, Sexist Lying Con Man Sits Atop The Party Of Lincoln

Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee for president. Let that sink in.

One year ago, in May 2015, the nation’s political attention was focused on former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), who was making the case for immigration reform, including a path to legal status for undocumented residents. At the time, Bush’s message seemed in tune with a new direction for his party. In 2012, the Republican National Committee published a report on how to win the White House in 2016. Key to the plan was expanding the GOP’s appeal to minorities, women and young people.

That’s not exactly what happened.

Let this sink in: The Republican Party has chosen a birther as its presidential candidate

This is happening, people. This is really happening. Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee for president of these United States. Let that sink in.

The hot takes will abound in the days and weeks ahead. Pundits will conduct the autopsy on Ted Cruz’s campaign. We’ll ask why John Kasich is still running. We’ll question if there’s still any hope of a contested convention. We’ll express wonderment at how quickly and awkwardly the Republican establishment surrenders to Trump.

This is how Trump becomes more dangerous: Treating him as a normal political candidate obscures everything that makes him so threatening

Ted Cruz has quit the race. John Kasich’s campaign is no more. They were the last stragglers of a field of 16 candidates – among them senators, governors, a brain surgeon, and the precise opposite of a brain surgeon – who all tried and failed to wrest the Republican presidential nomination away from Donald Trump. The Republican Party has been thoroughly usurped by an unlikely political force, and now the media and political worlds are doing their best to come to grips with how this happened.

Uber To Be Legal In Toronto After City Council Vote

TORONTO — Uber is voicing its thanks after Toronto city council gave the ride-hailing service the green light to operate legally in the city.

In a message to those who use its app, Uber said Toronto Mayor John Tory and city council have voted to "embrace ride sharing."

Elizabeth May: Top Level Of Public Service 'Contaminated' From Harper Years

OTTAWA — Green Party Leader Elizabeth May is calling for all the top senior public servants to be removed from their current jobs because, she says, they are tainted from the Harper years and resisting change.

"It's awkward as a person in politics, you don't want to single out public servants," May said. "But it can't escape note that the deputy minister for trade negotiated the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the deputy minister at Environment Canada was Harper's lead negotiator at Copenhagen blocking climate action…

Workers Must Unite to Fight Global Power, Wealth: Leo Gerard

At 69, Leo Gerard's been arrested more times than he can count, on picket lines and in protests.

But his first time in the slammer, at age 13, was especially memorable. He was detained by "company police" in his "company town" near Sudbury, Ont., after getting in a fistfight while leafleting for his dad's union, which was in-fighting with a rival union at the Creighton Mine.

His brief detention, and father's admonition later, remind him of the dangers of workers turning against each other. Today, Gerard is based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as the international president of the 1.2 million-member United Steelworkers, and sits on President Barack Obama's trade advisory committee.

Democratic Senator Urges Business Elites to Get More Involved in Politics

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., called on an audience of business and political elites earlier this week to respond to populist anger by lobbying harder for a deficit-reduction package that would reduce corporate tax rates and cut public retirement programs such as Social Security.

Although a dominant populist sentiment is that the system is already rigged in favor of the rich, Warner suggested that the “business community” needs to get more involved in politics or face unpleasant repercussions.

Elizabeth Warren Blasts Donald Trump’s ‘Toxic Stew Of Hatred And Insecurity’

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is calling on Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike to unite against Donald Trump, who on Tuesday became the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee after winning the Indiana primary.

“Trump has built his campaign on racism, sexism and xenophobia,” she wrote on Facebook. “There’s more enthusiasm for him among leaders of the KKK than leaders of the political party he now controls.”

How To Win Friends And Influence People, Paul Ryan Edition

It’s been six months since Paul Ryan took the speaker’s gavel, and House conservatives who helped put the former in front of former Speaker John Boehner’s name say Ryan has dramatically altered the House — even if its legislative outcomes and internal dynamics haven’t really changed.

Unlike Boehner, Ryan does not mislead members to vote for something they ultimately wouldn’t want, Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) told The Huffington Post last week.

Big Banks Just Claimed A Constitutional Right To A Taxpayer Subsidy

WASHINGTON — Big banks get a lot of free money from the federal government. And their lobbyists think they have a constitutional right to it.

Each year, the government pays billions of dollars to banks to thank them for being part of the Federal Reserve system. These payments aren’t structured to influence or encourage any particular business activity — banks just get straight cash, no matter what they do. The subsidy is economically useless. It doesn’t push interest rates lower or boost pay for bank tellers or help more farmers qualify for loans. The money just goes straight to the bottom line, boosting bank profits.