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, May 25, 2016

Will Conservatives go back to the future or just look forward to the past?

Delusional nostalgia, or a pragmatic about-face?

Those are the choices facing the Conservative Party of Canada as it heads into the dress rehearsal later this month for its 2017 convention to choose a new leader.

Make no mistake about it, the party’s conclave in Vancouver later this month is much more than a policy convention. It is a reality check for a party that suffered a crushing defeat last October. The ‘ostrich faction’ still has its head buried in the sand, led by defeated cabinet ministers like Joe Oliver and delusional MPs like Candice Bergen.

Top Aide Denies That Donald Trump Posed As His Own Spokesman

WASHINGTON, 2016 - A top aide to Donald Trump said on Sunday he did not believe a report that the billionaire once posed as his own spokesman to brag about his personal life to a celebrity magazine.

The Washington Post released an audio recording on Friday of a man who identified himself as Trump’s publicist, “John Miller,” and talked about the billionaire’s romantic encounters during a conversation with a People Magazine reporter in 1991.

RNC Chair Says ‘People Just Don’t Care’ About Reports Donald Trump Mistreated Women

WASHINGTON — Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on Sunday said voters don’t care about reports that the party’s presumptive presidential nominee has disrespected women and made unwelcome advances toward them in the workplace.

A New York Times investigation published Saturday included dozens of interviews with women and men who worked with Donald Trump over decades, detailing crude comments about the female form, disturbing workplace conduct and more.

KPMG Has Complaints Filed Against It Over Offshore Accounts For Canadians

OTTAWA — The union representing more than 4,500 government financial officers has lodged two formal complaints of professional misconduct against accounting firm KPMG over its work in setting up offshore tax structures on the Isle of Man.

The Association of Canadian Financial Officers wants the Ontario and Quebec chapters of the self-regulating Chartered Professional Accountants, or CPA, to assess KPMG's behaviour against the profession's code of conduct, bylaws and regulations.

Crossing the Line: How Donald Trump Behaved With Women in Private

Donald J. Trump had barely met Rowanne Brewer Lane when he asked her to change out of her clothes.

Donald was having a pool party at Mar-a-Lago. There were about 50 models and 30 men. There were girls in the pools, splashing around. For some reason Donald seemed a little smitten with me. He just started talking to me and nobody else.

Riding Through A Haiti Slum Exposed Our Society's Casual Greed

While my family passed through the slums of Port-au-Prince the other day after visiting my wife's ancestral village in Haiti's countryside, something else was happening 1,500 miles away: the annual Met Gala, the Super Bowl of the fashion industry.

Trudeau may be killing his own electoral reform project

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau needs to tell Canadians again why his government is engaging in a difficult — and potentially doomed — effort to reform the country’s voting rules.

In the House of Commons this week, Trudeau gave a cheap answer to questions put by the opposition about why his government isn’t going to put electoral reform proposals to a referendum. “Canadians heard loudly and clearly that we made the commitment that this was going to be the last election held under the first-past-the-post system and we are committed to doing that,” said Trudeau in question period. “Canadians also chose to support us with a majority and are expecting us to deliver on the promises that we gave.

On corruption, Cameron casts the first stone

In the world of global politics, Tuesday was a tad awkward for Queen Elizabeth. Although impeccably dressed — first in a bright pink spring coat and then a blue and white floral day dress — the 90-year-old monarch found herself inadvertently embroiled in controversy, twice on the same day.

First, it was her comment in a private conversation at Buckingham Palace about the “very rude” Chinese officials who came to London last October in advance of their president’s state visit to Britain.

The Progressive Case For Hillary Clinton Isn’t Much of a Case At All

In a recent issue of In These Times, Sady Doyle made “A Progressive Case for Hillary Clinton.” That such a case could be made might come as a surprise to many progressives, considering that Hillary Clinton has, for instance, derided single-payer healthcare as something that will “never, ever come to pass,” and has poohed-poohed calls for free public higher education by stating that students need more “skin in the game.”

Cuts for the Poor, Tax Havens for the Rich

In 1960, when we moved into the house I still inhabit, the real estate agent described this part of Chelsea as “run-down” but “coming up.” Indeed, my mother-in-law, who’d just stopped being a stalwart Communist, congratulated her son on living at last “among his own people.” She’d lived in our street briefly in the 1930s and remembered it as working class. Nowadays, the news that I live in Chelsea occasions whistles of surprise or disapproval or possibly envy. It’s where rich people live.

Leaks Show Senate Aide Threatened Colombia Over Cheap Cancer Drug

Leaked diplomatic letters sent from Colombia’s Embassy in Washington describe how a staffer with the Senate Finance Committee, which is led by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, warned of repercussions if Colombia moves forward on approving the cheaper, generic form of a cancer drug.

The drug is called imatinib. Its manufacturer, Novartis, markets the drug in Colombia as Glivec. The World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines last year suggested it as treatment not only for chronic myeloid leukemia, but also gastrointestinal tumors. Currently, the cost of an annual supply is over $15,000, or about two times average Colombian’s income.

Anatomy of a Snitch Scandal

Prosecutorial misconduct and the misuse of jailhouse informants are persistent problems in the criminal justice system. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, since 1989 there have been 923 exonerations tied to official misconduct by prosecutors, police, or other government officials,­ 89 of them in cases involving the use of jailhouse snitches. Over the last two years, a scandal involving both has engulfed Orange County, California, exposing systemic violation of defendants’ constitutional rights and calling into question the legality of the prosecution of a number of violent felony cases.

Police altercation with First Nations girl in Kenora caught on video weeks before her death

The parents of a 14-year-old from Grassy Narrows First Nation are releasing a video of an altercation between provincial police and their daughter in the weeks before her death.

Azraya Kokopenace disappeared on April 15 after provincial police dropped her off at the hospital in Kenora, Ont. Police won't say why they picked her up.  The teen was last seen leaving the hospital, alone, late at night, according to police. She was found dead two days later in the woods nearby.

How the High Cost of Justice Pushes the Poor into Prison

In the American justice system, there’s often an assumption that if you can’t afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you. But thousands of Americans arriving in court each year over family disputes, domestic violence, eviction, foreclosure, denied wages, discrimination on the job, and an array of other civil issues have no right to counsel. If they can’t afford a lawyer, they’re on their own to face a system that is often confusing and riddled with fees. For poorer citizens, the cost of seeking justice often becomes so prohibitive they just give up.

Russia Will Act To Neutralize U.S. Missile Shield Threat: Putin

A ballistic missile defense shield which the United States has activated in Europe is a step to a new arms race, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday, vowing to adjust budget spending to neutralize “emerging threats” to Russia.

The United States switched on the $800 million missile shield at a Soviet-era base in Romania on Thursday saying it was a defense against missiles from Iran and so-called rogue states.

Sheldon Adelson: Party Hack

In previous dispatches about the billionaire donor class that now runs America, we’ve had cause to consider casino mogul and ersatz newspaperman Sheldon Adelson. The low-information donor is something of a political oddity. Despite publicly professing to support a number of nominally liberal policies — he’s pro-Dream Act, pro-socialized health care — he apportions his considerable largesse to politicians who will never enact those policies.

A Man Ripped Off A Muslim Woman’s Hijab, Screamed ‘This Is America!’

A North Carolina man ripped off a Muslim woman’s hijab and screamed “This is America!” during a Southwest Airlines flight late last year, court documents revealed Friday.

Gill Parker Payne, 37, of Gastonia, North Carolina, pleaded guilty in a New Mexico federal court Friday to a misdemeanor hate crime charge of using force to intentionally obstruct the woman’s free exercise of her religious beliefs.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio Found In Contempt Of Court In Racial Profiling Case

PHOENIX (Reuters) - Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and three of his top officials were found to be in civil contempt on Friday after a federal judge ruled that he violated court orders stemming from a 2007 racial profiling case.

U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow found the sheriff and the three others persistently disregarded the court’s orders and showed an intent to “violate and manipulate the laws and policies regulating their conduct.”

Donald Trump Taps Climate Change Skeptic As Key Energy Adviser

WASHINGTON, May 13 (Reuters) - Republican presidential contender Donald Trump has asked one of America’s most ardent drilling advocates and climate change skeptics to help him draft his energy policy.

U.S. Republican Congressman Kevin Cramer of North Dakota - a major oil drilling state - is writing a white paper on energy policy for the New York billionaire, Cramer and sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Sheldon Adelson Is Poised to Give Donald Trump a Donation Boost

The casino magnate Sheldon G. Adelson told Donald J. Trump in a private meeting last week that he was willing to contribute more to help elect him than he has to any previous campaign, a sum that could exceed $100 million, according to two Republicans with direct knowledge of Mr. Adelson’s commitment.

As significant, Mr. Adelson, a billionaire based in Las Vegas, has decided that he will significantly scale back his giving to congressional Republicans and direct most of his contributions to groups dedicated to Mr. Trump’s campaign. The two Republicans familiar with Mr. Adelson’s plans spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Texas Lt. Gov. Would Forfeit Billions Over Anti-Trans Discrimination. Here’s What That Means For Schools.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said Friday his state would give up all federal education funding in order to avoid complying with the gender equity law Title IX in how trans students are treated.

The result of forfeiting the $10 billion currently flowing from the U.S. government to schools and public universities in Texas could leave thousands of college students without a way to pay tuition, grind to a halt a majority of research taking place on the campuses, and leave low-income children without support for meals.

In Canada's concentrated banking industry, what we need is a public bank

For those with a yacht or a Porsche, banks are warm, welcoming places. But banks are considerably less hospitable to those needing financial services that don't include "wealth management."

Indeed, for hundreds of thousands of Canadians who have no wealth to manage and really aren't richer than they think, banks are increasingly inaccessible places.

As they've turned their attention to catering to the wealthy, Canada's six big banks have shut down more than 1,700 branches across the country in recent years. In many rural communities today, you're no more likely to see a bank than a buffalo.

'A lot of testosterone and little pigment': Brazil's old elite deals a blow to diversity

Brazil’s image as a socially liberal, multi-ethnic democracy may always have been more myth than reality, but any lingering illusions of this type have been swept away by interim president Michel Temer’s appointment of the country’s first all-male cabinet since the end of dictatorship in1985.

After conspiring to suspend Brazil’s first female president, his former running mate Dilma Rousseff, the 75-year-old patrician quickly showed his conservative instincts with a mostly white lineup of ministers that also included a soy baron in charge of agriculture, and a finance minister who immediately declared the need for sweeping cuts.

The Vultures’ Vultures: How A New Hedge-Fund Strategy Is Corrupting Washington

WASHINGTON - Take Robert Shapiro.

A Harvard-trained economist, Shapiro is the head of a consulting firm called Sonecon. That business card doesn’t do it for you? He’s got a few more in his wallet:

  •     Senior fellow at the Georgetown University School of Business.
  •     Adviser to the International Monetary Fund.
  •     Director of the Globalization Initiative at NDN, a progressive think tank.

Interview With BDS Co-Founder Omar Barghouti: Banned by Israel From Traveling, Threatened With Worse

Despite having lived in Israel for 22 years with no criminal record of any kind, Omar Barghouti (above) was this week denied the right to travel outside the country. As one of the pioneers of the increasingly powerful movement to impose boycotts, sanctions and divestment measures (BDS) on Israel, Barghouti, an articulate, English-speaking activist, has frequently traveled around the world advocating his position. The Israeli government’s refusal to allow him to travel is obviously intended to suppress his speech and activism. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was one of the world leaders who traveled last year to Paris to participate in that city’s “free speech rally.”

Brazil’s First Female President Has Just Been Suspended, And The New Cabinet Is All Men

On Thursday, Brazil’s Senate voted after an all-night debate to suspend President Dilma Rousseff and begin an impeachment trial. Rousseff, the country’s first female president, has been replaced by Vice President Michel Temer, who immediately unveiled a new cabinet entirely devoid of women or people of color.

Although Brazil is hardly a leader when it comes to female representation — women are less than 10 percent of lawmakers — Temer’s cabinet marks a decided step back in representation for the country. Brazil has more female than male voters, and in a 2010 census, 50.7 percent of Brazilians defined themselves as black or mixed race.

Beating a dead horse: Why can’t Senate Conservatives let the Duffy affair go?

Despite a few grim similarities — the presumption of guilt, the trial by social media — the Mike Duffy affair is not Fifty Shades of Ghomeshi.

It’s as black and white as it gets — though you’d never know that from the course events have taken since the senator’s celebrity trial ended.

Ripley’s Believe it or Not might take an interest in in Sen. Leo Housakos and his ill-considered attempt to add double jeopardy to the Senate’s list of ongoing, abject failings.

How A Giant Restaurant Conglomerate Teamed Up With Banks To Stiff Its Workers

The struggling corporate giant behind The Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, and other national restaurant chains is forcing tens of thousands of workers to effectively pay rent on their own money.

Workers at Darden Restaurants chains are routinely told they must accept prepaid debit cards instead of paychecks, according to a new report from the worker organization Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) United. A quarter of workers surveyed said they asked to be paid some other way and were told the cards are their only option.

Paul Ryan Is Making Donald Trump Worse

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is meeting with presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump Thursday after Ryan declined to endorse Trump last week, saying he’s looking for “a standard-bearer that bears our standards.”

Ryan has previously denounced Trump’s inflammatory tone because, he said in March, “the Republican Party does not prey on people’s prejudices.”

Children given lifelong ban on talking about fracking

Two young children in Pennsylvania were banned from talking about fracking for the rest of their lives under a gag order imposed under a settlement reached by their parents with a leading oil and gas company.

The sweeping gag order was imposed under a $750,000 settlement between the Hallowich family and Range Resources Corp, a leading oil and gas driller. It provoked outrage on Monday among environmental campaigners and free speech advocates.

20 Percent of Plant Species Could Go Extinct

One out of every five plant species on Earth is now threatened with extinction. That's the disturbing conclusion of a major report released this week by scientists at Britain's Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. The planet's vegetation—from grasslands to deserts to tropical rainforests—is being hit hard by human activity. And deforestation, pollution, agriculture, and climate change are all playing a role.

An Unprecedented Number Of Unaccompanied Children Are Seeking Asylum In Europe

One tragic consequence of war is that some children have to flee their homes — often without their parents — in search of peace and safety. Europe has experienced an unprecedented surge in the number of unaccompanied children arriving on its shores in the last two years, according to Pew Research Center data.

The number of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum jumped from 13,800 to 23,200 between 2013 and 2014, Pew said Tuesday. The think tank has been tracking these figures since 2008 through Eurostat, the European Union’s statistical agency.

Brazil’s Democracy to Suffer Grievous Blow Today as Unelectable, Corrupt Neoliberal is Installed

In 2002, Brazil’s left-of-center Workers Party (PT) ascended to the presidency when Lula da Silva won in a landslide over the candidate of the center-right party PSDB (throughout 2002, “markets” were indignant at the mere prospect of PT’s victory). The PT remained in power when Lula, in 2006, was re-elected in another landslide against a different PSDB candidate. PT’s enemies thought they had their chance to get rid of PT in 2010, when Lula was barred by term limits from running again, but their hopes were crushed when Lula’s handpicked successor, the previously unknown Dilma Rousseff, won by 12 points over the same PSDB candidate who lost to Lula in 2002. In 2014, PT’s enemies poured huge amounts of money and resources into defeating her, believing she was vulnerable and that they had finally found a star PSDB candidate, but they lost again, this time narrowly, as Dilma was re-elected with 54 million votes.

Most Canadian workers are a bike accident away from the financial abyss: Cash

TORONTO – Sitting at the Saving Gigi Café on Bloor Street West, surrounded by young people working on their laptops, Andrew Cash was reflecting on the all-too-precarious existence faced by an increasing number of Canadians.

People lurching from contract to contract. People forced to work two or even three part-time jobs to make ends meet. People who are working the equivalent of full time but who don’t qualify for employment insurance, maternity leaves or a mortgage.

“If you peel back what looks like middle-class stability in a lot of workers, what you actually see is that most people are a bike accident away from the abyss, from financial crisis,” said the former NDP MP.

Donald Trump Has Already Destroyed the GOP

When I was a boy, we had a small cocker spaniel. Though she was dumber than a can of paint -- she would run headlong into walls on a regular basis -- the pup had moves like Barry Sanders coming out of the backfield. At the sound of a door to the outside being opened she'd come charging, claws raking the hardwood floor. A feint to the left, a jink to the right, a hesitation followed by a surge and she was gone down the front steps and into the world like a blur. Stopping her was like trying to catch smoke.