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 03, 2017

Bill Would Allow Killing Of Bears And Wolves Again On Alaska Wildlife Refuges

WASHINGTON — House lawmakers on Thursday advanced a measure to repeal an Obama-era rule that largely banned the hunting of bears, wolves and other predators on more than 76 million acres of national wildlife refuge land in Alaska.

The Republican-sponsored legislation would undo the Alaska National Wildlife Refuges Rule, ultimately opening the door for the state to resume aggressive predator control tactics, including shooting bears and wolves from airplanes and killing cubs and pups in their dens.

Greece Under Continuous Siege: Syriza's Disastrous Political Stance

It's been seven years since the outbreak of the Greek debt crisis, yet Greece -- the country that gave birth to democracy -- is still stuck in a vicious cycle of debt, austerity and high unemployment. Three consecutive bailout programs have deprived the nation of its fiscal sovereignty, transferred many of its publicly owned assets and resources into private hands (virtually all of foreign origin), produced the collapse of the public health care system, slashed wages, salaries and pensions by as much as 50 percent, and led to a massive exodus of its skilled and educated labor force. As for democracy, it has been seriously constrained since the moment the first bailout went into effect, back in May 2010, as all governments that have come to power have pledged allegiance to the international actors and agencies behind the bailout plans -- the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) -- and follow closely and obediently their commands, irrespective of the needs and wishes of the Greek people.

What the right keeps getting wrong about free speech

On Wednesday night, a rally against the federal Liberals’ Motion M-103 was held in Toronto. The motion is moderate and largely exploratory, and is in part a response to the grotesque slaughter of Muslim worshipers in Quebec City in January. Frankly, it would be shocking if Ottawa had not initiated some sort of response to Islamophobia and religious hatred.

Nevertheless, the organizers of the protest seemed convinced that this was actually binding legislation, and that it would prevent informed criticism of the Islamic faith or of Islamist-linked terrorism — a pernicious chimera.

Iqra Khalid, Liberal MP, Reads Threats Received Over Anti-Islamophobia Motion

A Liberal MP stood in the House of Commons Thursday and read a list of racial slurs and threats she’s received over her motion calling on Parliament to condemn Islamophobia and all forms of racism.

Motion 103 was tabled by Iqra Khalid in December. It builds on one proposed by NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair in October, which passed with unanimous consent.

Rising Violence In Ukraine Puts The Spotlight On U.S. Relations With Russia

Eastern Ukraine has seen a deadly spike in violence in recent weeks, as shelling and fighting between Ukrainian soldiers and pro-Russian rebels have killed dozens. On Wednesday, the Ukrainian government also alleged that Russia launched a new series of cyber attacks against the country’s infrastructure.

The surge in Ukraine’s ongoing conflict with Kremlin-backed separatists comes as the government in Kiev is concerned over Russian escalation and questioning what kind of support it can expect from President Donald Trump’s administration.

Texas law could stop affordable housing development in its tracks

The future of fair housing under the Trump administration is still up in the air, but a new Texas bill paints a bleak picture of what could happen to low-income housing (LIH) development. If state representative and real estate broker Valoree Swanson (R) gets her way, affordable housing developers will have to jump through hoops to build low-income homes, potentially making housing opportunities for poor people few and far between.

G.O.P.’s Grand Visions for Congress Now Look Like a Mirage

WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans, who craved unified control of the government to secure their aggressive conservative agenda, have instead found themselves on a legislative elliptical trainer, gliding toward nowhere.

After moving to start rolling back the Affordable Care Act just days after President Trump was sworn in last month, Republican lawmakers and Mr. Trump have yet to deliver on any of the sweeping legislation they promised. Efforts to come up with a replacement for the health care law have been stymied by disagreements among Republicans about how to proceed. The same is true for a proposed overhaul of the tax code.

Brexit Article 50 Case Saw Some Media ‘Undermine Rule Of Law’, Lord Neuberger Says

The president of the Supreme Court has issued a veiled warning to the Daily Mail and other media which he said risked “undermining the rule of law” over the Article 50 case.

Lord Neuberger told the BBC: “We were certainly not well treated. I think some of what was said was undermining the rule of law.”

Congressman says constituents asking for a town hall are ‘enemies’ of democracy

A group of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s (R-CA) constituents went to his office on Tuesday to deliver Valentine’s cards. They go every Tuesday now, asking Rohrabacher to hold a town hall meeting in his district.

But now, after a confused tussle in the hallway involving a 2-year old and a 71-year-old-woman, Rohrabacher is now accusing them of engaging in “political thuggery, pure and simple.”

Uber and Lyft's Trumpian Problem: It's Not the App, It's the Exploitation!

On the night after Donald Trump's Muslim Ban executive order was announced, thousands headed to airports to protest the detention of refugees who had arrived after the order went into effect. That same night, taxi workers across New York City famously went on strike in solidarity with those protesting at airports.

"We are very proud of the fact that the history books will say that the taxi workers in New York City were the first workforce to strike against Donald Trump," says Bhairavi Desai in this interview conducted just days later.

Toxic Liquid Nuclear Waste Headed for US Roadways

The Department of Energy, to the consternation of environmental groups, is preparing to transport 6,000 gallons of highly toxic liquid nuclear waste over American roadways.

The spent nuclear fuel is "target residue material" containing highly enriched uranyl nitrate—which after processing can be used as fuel. The DOE has spent years planning for the transfer of the waste from Canada's Chalk River Laboratories in Ontario to the Savannah River Site, a reprocessing facility in South Carolina. It will be transported in at least 100 to 150 separate truck shipments over a period of about three years, encased in cannisters normally used to transport solids that have been retrofitted to handle liquids. For security reasons, DOE won't reveal the exact timing or routes of the shipments. But elected officials in states it is likely to pass through are concerned about safety.

Republican senators start attack on US consumer financial watchdog

Republicans lawmakers are starting to put in motion plans to destroy or defang the U.S. agency intended to protect individuals from financial fraud.

On Tuesday, two Texas Republicans, Senator Ted Cruz and Representative John Ratcliffe, introduced a one-page bill to kill the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau entirely.

Brazil judge rules Uber drivers are employees, deserve benefits

A Brazilian judge ruled that a driver using the Uber ride-hailing app is an employee of the San Francisco-based company and is entitled to workers’ benefits, adding to the global debate over labor rights for drivers on the platform.

Uber said on Tuesday it would appeal the decision by Judge Marcio Toledo Gonçalves, who issued the ruling late Monday in a labor court in Minas Gerais state.

India’s polluted air now kills 1.1 million people per year

In early November, a thick layer of smog choked Delhi, prompting the Indian government to close schools, shut down construction sites, temporarily cease operations at coal-fired power plants. In the country’s capital city, levels of harmful particles in the air were so high that they could not be measured by most air quality instruments. Those that could measure the pollution found levels of particulate matter — tiny particles that can penetrate deep into lungs and cross the blood-brain barrier — to be 16 times the safe limit.

Turkey: Hundreds detained over alleged links to PKK

Turkish police have detained more than 800 people over alleged links to Kurdish fighters in nationwide operations, according to state media.

Police conducted simultaneous raids in 37 different provinces and taken 834 people into custody, state-run Anadolu Agency quoted police forces as saying on Tuesday.

Russia Deploys Missile, Violating Treaty and Challenging Trump

WASHINGTON — Russia has secretly deployed a new cruise missile that American officials say violates a landmark arms control treaty, posing a major test for President Trump as his administration is facing a crisis over its ties to Moscow.

The new Russian missile deployment also comes as the Trump administration is struggling to fill key policy positions at the State Department and the Pentagon — and to settle on a permanent replacement for Michael T. Flynn, the national security adviser who resigned late Monday. Mr. Flynn stepped down after it was revealed that he had misled the vice president and other officials over conversations with Moscow’s ambassador to Washington.

For so many Americans, Obamacare offered career freedom. A repeal could take that away.

Health insurance and career opportunity are impossible to separate for Erin Hoover.

Hoover is a 37-year-old Florida State University student who will graduate with a doctorate in English literature this spring. She is also eight months pregnant.

Until recently, Hoover had a clear plan. She would have her baby in March, graduate in May, and begin adjunct work to build up her resume. She felt like she was on a good path; one of her poems was recently selected for the Best American Poetry anthology of 2016.

Canada misses out on nearly $50 billion in tax each year

The federal government forgoes as much as $47.8 billion in uncollected taxes every year, according to a new report by the Conference Board of Canada.

These billions represent only a fraction of all taxes that go unpaid because they don’t include taxes owed to the provinces and municipalities — all of which are in need of additional revenues to close budget deficits and deliver on major public works projects.

Syrian Military Pounded Rebel-Held Aleppo With Chemical Weapons: Report

The Syrian military pounded parts of eastern Aleppo with chemical weapons during its offensive to retake the city at the end of last year, according to a new report published by international watchdog Human Rights Watch on Monday.

There are at least eight instances in which Syrian army helicopters dropped chlorine on opposition-controlled areas of Aleppo, according to the testimony of more than 20 witnesses and an analysis of video footage, photographs and social media posts, Human Rights Watch says. The attacks killed nine people and took place between Nov. 17 and Dec. 13, 2016, in the final stages of the battle for the city. Around 200 people were injured.

National Action Still ‘Active’ And ‘Poses Serious Terrorist Threat’ Despite Ban, Report Claims

National Action, the neo-Nazi group proscribed as terrorist group in December, is continuing to operate amid concerns members may be “emboldened by the attention the ban has awarded them,” a report has claimed.

Some activists within the organisation - banned after celebrating the actions of Thomas Mair for murdering MP Jo Cox - have split off to form “more extreme groups,” charity Hope not Hate (HNH) has warned in its annual State of Hate report.

Mike Flynn’s love of Putin has dangerous echoes across Europe’s right

There’s blood in the water, and the anti-Trump opposition should be in a hunting mood. Michael Flynn, the US national security adviser, is the first major scalp of Donald Trump’s administration, and so soon. This regime is weak. A president who lost the popular vote by nearly three million votes, who has increasingly catastrophic personal ratings, is now embroiled in a major scandal. An opposition that has mobilised the biggest protests in US history should exploit this opportunity ruthlessly by piling pressure on the Trump regime, and on a Democratic establishment that might otherwise seek compromise with it.

Big Oil’s Grip on California

On the morning of June 21, 2011, a worker named Robert David Taylor was walking through an oil field west of Taft, California, when he noticed a plume of steam coming from the darkened earth. Taylor, 54, was a Chevron supervisor who had spent three decades around Kern County’s Midway-Sunset field, the largest and most productive in the state. He and two co-workers had been dispatched to fix the “chimney” near an idled well known to spew scalding geysers of oil, water, and rocks as high as 40 feet in the air.

Oklahoma Lawmakers Want Men to Approve All Abortions

Something unexpected happened in the Oklahoma Legislature on February 8 that had Karo Chowning feeling pretty optimistic. That morning, lawmakers in the House Public Health Committee blocked one anti-abortion bill and a second was tabled without discussion.

It was certainly unusual for a deeply conservative Republican government that over the years has distinguished itself by passing some of the strictest abortion regulations in the country — regardless of whether those measures are unconstitutional, which many certainly are. Since 2011, lawmakers in Oklahoma have passed 20 such measures, a number of which have been blocked by the courts or are tied up in litigation.

Sanders: Tea Party Was Funded By Kochs; Progressive ‘Uprising’ Driven By Passion

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) bridled at a suggestion that people protesting against the Trump administration are similar to tea party demonstrators.

“It’s not a tea party because the tea party was essentially funded by the billionaire Koch brothers,” Sanders said during an interview Sunday on “Meet the Press.” “This is a spontaneous and grass-roots uprising of the American people.”

This Is How the Republican Party Plans to Destroy the Federal Government

Before moderate Republicans became virtually extinct, the party advocated limited government. Today, however, President Trump is pursuing a radical shrinkage of the federal government that comes close to overthrowing it entirely. The goal of this project: to leave the country with a minuscule government that is basically an appendage to private enterprise. Call it the Overthrow Project.

The essence of the Overthrow Project is familiar: to reduce taxes on the very rich, free the business community from taxes and regulations that interfere with its money-making, and subsidize that community with public funds. In addition, the Overthrow Project aims to privatize as many governmental activities as possible. Left for government is the maintenance of the remaining public infrastructure that enables private enterprise to operate efficiently and safely, as well as the assurance of public safety through ever-higher funding of the military, the homeland-security apparatus, the police, and other forces of so called law and order.