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, June 23, 2017

Putin defends climate deniers and looks forward to the Arctic melting

Russian President Vladimir Putin praised U.S. EPA head Scott Pruitt during a television interview on Thursday, then went on to say Russia stands to benefit from global warming, despite the fact the country has already seen deaths, wildfires, and anthrax outbreaks related to climate change.

“Climate change brings in more favorable conditions and improves the economic potential of this region,” Putin said told CNBC while attending the International Arctic Forum in Arkhangelsk, Russia. “Today, Russia’s GDP is the result of the economic activity of this region.”

Judge throws out jury decision to award $4 million to families impacted by fracking

A judge in Pennsylvania has overturned a jury’s decision to award $4.24 million to two families in Dimock, Pennsylvania, saying that the science used in the case, which linked fracking to methane contamination in drinking water, was not adequate.

Judge Martin Carlson wrote Friday that the evidence “was spare, sometimes contradictory, frequently rebutted by other scientific expert testimony, and relied in some measure upon tenuous inferences,” the Hill reported.

3 car companies pull ads from ‘The O’Reilly Factor’ as sexual harassment allegations grow

Mercedes-Benz is pulling advertisements from Fox News’ top program, The O’Reilly Factor, as a history of sexual harassment allegations against its host, Bill O’Reilly, comes to light.

“We don’t feel this is a good environment in which to advertise our products,” a spokesperson for the luxury car maker told CNN on Monday.

A New York Times investigation published over the weekend found that five women who had accused O’Reilly of sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior had received payouts from either O’Reilly or Fox News — totaling roughly $13 million — to keep quiet.

Bernie is wrong and Malcolm was right: What white liberals so often get wrong about racism and Donald Trump

In the United States, white liberals and progressives have historically shown a serious inability to grapple with the realities of the color line and the enduring power of white supremacy. Many of them are either unable or unwilling to understand that fighting against class inequality does not necessarily remedy the specific harms done to African-Americans and other people of color by white racism.

Scott Walker will ask Trump to let him drug test poor people who need health care

First he sent a letter to then President-elect Donald Trump asking to let him drug test state residents who apply for food assistance. Now Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) is gearing up to persuade the Trump administration to let him drug test those who need help affording health insurance.

The failure of the Republican repeal and replace bill for Obamacare means that governors who want to change Medicaid requirements have to ask the federal government for permission. Walker is readying a request to let his state screen Medicaid applicants for drug use, which he plans to make public on April 19 and then send to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services by the end of May.

Explosion In St. Petersburg Metro System Kills At Least 11 People

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia, April 3 (Reuters) - A blast in a St Petersburg train carriage on Monday that killed 11 people and injured 45 was carried out by a suspected suicide bomber with ties to radical Islamists, Russia’s Interfax news agency cited a law enforcement source as saying.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was in the city when the blast struck, visited the scene of the explosion late on Monday night and laid a bunch of red flowers at a makeshift shrine to the victims.

Lithuania fears Russian propaganda is prelude to eventual invasion

Russia is trying to create a false history that denies the Baltic states’ right to exist, with alarming parallels to its justifications for the annexation of Crimea in March 2014, top Lithuanian officials have said.

The country’s defence minister and officials from the army’s department of strategic communication have told the Guardian that they are taking very seriously the threat of disinformation campaigns orchestrated by Moscow that aim to destabilise the region.

Poor Families To Lose Up To £7,000 A Year Under Tory Welfare Cuts, New Figures Show

The human cost of George Osborne’s austerity drive has been laid bare as it emerged that poor families will lose up to £7,000 a year under benefits and other cuts that kick in this week.

Charities, think tanks and MPs hit out after figures showed that the former Chancellor’s curbs on tax credits, universal credit and sickness benefits will bite hardest on those with three or more children.

How a Private Prison Company Used Detained Immigrants for Free Labor

When Carlos Eliezer Ortiz Muñoz arrived at the Denver Contract Detention Facility in Aurora, Colorado, in 2014, he was given a clothing package and assigned to a housing unit, where he’d have to stay for months. Like tens of thousands of other immigrants across the country who are kept in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention each night, Ortiz and his fellow detainees were waiting to see if they’d win their immigration cases or face deportation.

Ontario Sunshine List 2017: Jeff Lyash Tops List Of Province's Highest-Paid Public-Sector Employees

TORONTO – The CEO of Ontario Power Generation earned nearly $1.2 million last year, making him the highest-paid public-sector employee in the province on a growing list of those earning $100,000 or more.

Jeff Lyash tops the so-called sunshine list with $1,155,900 in pay and $9,800 in taxable benefits, but next year he could be making even more.

OPG wrote a letter this week to the Ontario government saying its CEO would be paid a maximum of $1.9 million, but it is not changing a $3.8-million compensation cap the premier had asked to be revised.

Bombardier Defends Executive Raises Amid Backlash

Bombardier issued an open letter explaining the company's compensation policies and called it "inappropriate'' to compare the 2016 compensation to that of the previous year.

Bombardier must compete with firms globally to recruit and retain talent, said the letter from Jean Monty, the head of Bombardier's human resources and compensation committee. It also contended that 75 per cent of compensation for most senior Bombardier executives is based on meeting performance targets and is not guaranteed.

Chechen police 'have rounded up more than 100 suspected gay men'

Authorities in the Russian republic of Chechnya have launched an anti-gay campaign that has led to authorities rounding up dozens of men suspected of being homosexual, according to the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta and human rights activists.

The newspaper’s report, by an author regarded as a leading authority on Chechnya, claimed that more than 100 people had been detained and three men killed in the roundup. It claimed that among those detained were well-known local television personalities and religious figures.

Theresa May would go to war to protect Gibraltar, Michael Howard says

Theresa May would be prepared to go to war to protect Gibraltar as Margaret Thatcher once did for the Falklands, former Conservative leader Michael Howard has suggested, in comments that were immediately criticised as inflammatory.

Lord Howard’s suggestion that the prime minister would be ready to follow in the footsteps of her predecessor 35 years ago came alongside a government pledge to protect the sovereignty of Britain’s overseas territory.

Israel-Lebanon maritime dispute explained

Beirut, Lebanon - Earlier this month, the new Lebanese government, led by President Michel Aoun, published a tender to explore untapped gas and oil reserves that lie in the eastern Mediterranean.

Lebanese Minister of Energy and Water Cesar Abou Khalil has said that the offshore resources could be a major economic boost for the country at a time when its financial lifelines, namely tourism, have taken a major hit due to the ongoing war in neighbouring Syria.

Why It’s Become So Hard to Get an Abortion

At a town-hall meeting in Green Bay, Wisconsin, last March, Donald Trump was prompted for his views about abortion. He’d been pro-choice once, but as a Presidential candidate he was an eager, if ill-informed, pro-lifer. Much of his answer took the form of free-floating clauses, like dialogue from a bad experimental play, which made his actual positions challenging to parse. But Trump did manage to make one point clearly, and to repeat it. When the interviewer, Chris Matthews, of MSNBC, asked whether women who’d had abortions should be punished, Trump answered in the affirmative.

Politically speaking, this was not good. In recent years, the anti-abortion movement has tried hard to show that it cares as much about women as it does about fetuses. Right-to-life groups criticized Trump’s wayward messaging, and, later that day, his campaign issued a statement explaining that it was actually doctors who ought to be punished if abortion were made illegal again: “The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb.”

Fox News’ Growing Challenge: High Ratings Vie With Troubling Disclosures

LOS ANGELES ( - These should be halcyon days for Fox News Channel: Its outsize ratings have been growing even more in the wake of the public’s fascination with the all-encompassing news cycle revolving around President Donald Trump. A primetime transition from the popular Megyn Kelly to the stalwart Tucker Carlson has taken place without a hitch or hiccup. Indeed, the network’s viewership among the audience advertisers want mos, people between 25 and 54, soared in the first quarter - rising 30% over the year-earlier period.

Thousands dead: the Philippine president, the death squad allegations and a brutal drugs war

“Throw them in the ocean or the quarry. Make it clean. Make sure there are no traces of the bodies.”

The words are shocking. That they allegedly came from the man who is now president of the Philippines makes them explosive. It is claimed that Rodrigo Duterte gave the orders to his first death squad in Davao, in the southern island of Mindanao, in 1989 when he was ‘“mayor Rudy”.

Abandoned at Sea

The rescuers prepare for the calm days, more than the stormy ones.

On land in small towns near the Libyan coast, refugees from Africa and the Middle East are crowded into safe houses, waiting for good weather. When the sea quiets, the refugees pack onto rubber dinghies or large wooden fishing vessels and set off in the early morning toward Europe.

Constituents Heckle GOP Congressman At Town Hall: 'Do Your Job'

Constituents booed and heckled Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) Friday evening at a town hall meeting in Salt Lake City, where audience members questioned him on issues including immigration and President Donald Trump’s Russia ties.

More than 1,000 people attended Friday’s town hall at West High School, the first held in the state since Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) claimed protesters at a forum he held in February were paid. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that members of the audience frequently shouted at Stewart to “do your job,” called him a “liar” and asked “who are you in bed with?” They also held up signs that read “agree” or “disagree” to show the congressman how they felt about his responses to questions.

Child Abuse by Omission: How American Law Holds Mothers Responsible for Their Partners' Crimes

Are mothers responsible for the abuse their children suffer at the hands of their male partners? While most of us recognize the complexity involved in trying to protect a child or anyone else from an abuser, the law takes a far less nuanced view -- particularly when it concerns mothers. As a legal scholar who studies how the law is applied unevenly to men and women, I have pored over hundreds of gut-wrenching child abuse cases and observed patterns of prosecution that betray a striking gender asymmetry.

With Nighttime Raids, Police Wage War on Black and Brown Families in New York

Paula Clarke and her family found themselves crawling half-naked on the floor of her Bronx home at 4:51 am on April 27, 2016, after multiple heavily armed men broke through her front door and demanded that she tell them where her son was.

Helicopters could be heard hovering right about her home. The loud flashbang grenades that initially woke Clarke up even left marks on the back of the house.

"I thought we were at war or something," she told Truthout. "Just being woken suddenly from your bed to all of this. It was like we were in a war zone."

This Epic PBS Documentary Shows How Creepily Little Has Changed Since World War I

I was never that much of a history buff, so it’s pretty rare for me to sit down and watch a documentary about a war that ended before my mom was born. But I’m rethinking my slacker ways after watching The Great War, a captivating new series premiering April 10 on PBS’ American Experience.

The history of this nation’s involvement in World War I is as fascinating as it is unsettling. The Great War also was our global coming of age, the beginning of America’s transformation into a nation deeply engaged in world affairs and conflicts. Perhaps what struck me most about the three-part, six-hour series was the familiarity of so many of its themes—a sense of déjà vu that left me feeling like even those of us who know our history are doomed to repeat it.

The CPC race is slapstick. The NDP race is politics for adults.

The NDP leadership race has two big things going for it — compared to the Conservative race, and compared to recent decisions by the Liberals alienating voters on the progressive left.

The contrasts can help the New Democrats rebuild their brand to the 20 per cent polling threshold they need to consider themselves back in the game.

GOP Lawmakers Now Admit Years of Obamacare Repeal Votes Were a Sham

It is hard to overestimate the role of the Affordable Care Act in the Republican resurgence.

Over the last seven years, the GOP has won successive elections by highlighting problems with Obamacare, airing more than $235 million in negative ads slamming the law, and staging more than 50 high-profile repeal votes. In 2016 every major Republican presidential candidate, including Donald Trump, campaigned on a pledge to quickly get rid of it.

‘Corrupt Elite' Laundering Money In Canadian Housing: Report

Loopholes in Canadian law are allowing a "corrupt elite" to use the housing market for money-laundering, says a new report from Transparency International (TI).

The report found 10 problem areas with the laws related to real estate transactions in Canada, Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. — four countries it identifies as being hot-spots for real estate-related money laundering.

As Venezuela's high court backtracks on power grab, is it still a de facto dictatorship?

From jailing political opponents, to cracking down on the press, to annulling elections, Venezuela's socialist government has spent years chipping away at democratic checks and balances. But this week's Supreme Court ruling that temporarily shut down the country's legislature may have finally convinced much of the international community that Venezuela's democracy has collapsed.

Russia’s 1989 plea for a new world order was rejected, and so Putinism was born

Long before Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000, the stage was set for Russia’s current confrontation with the west by the failure to achieve a transformed and inclusive peace order after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Two incompatible narratives came into conflict after the Eastern Bloc began to crumble in 1989. For the west, nothing needed to change. The Atlantic community had effectively won the cold war, demonstrating the superiority of the western order, and thus all that was required was for Russia to join the expanded western community. The door was indeed opened, but the terms were not right. Boris Yeltsin made this clear, in an incoherent and contradictory manner. Putin ultimately made the same point, rather more forcefully. The west invited Russia to join an expanded Atlantic community, but Russia sought to join a transformed west and a reconfigured Europe, goals that remain active to this day.

Why This Isn't the Time for a Public Option or Medicare for Some

This has been a tumultuous week for healthcare reform. First there was the pleasantly quick defeat of the American Health Care Act in the House of Representatives Friday afternoon. Then, that evening, Senator Sanders spoke at a town hall in Vermont with Senator Pat Leahy and Representative Peter Welch where he announced that he would introduce a Medicare for All bill. Medicare for All and Bernie supporters lit up social media with their excitement over the announcement. This should have been great news, but it wasn't exactly.

Who’s Paying for the Clean Up of the Worst Mining Spill in Canadian History?

British Columbian taxpayers will be on the hook for $40 million to clean up the worst mining spill in Canadian history and the company responsible has once again escaped criminal charges after a private prosecution was dismissed this week.

In August 2014 the 40-metre-high tailings dam at the Mount Polley mine near Williams Lake collapsed, sending 25-million cubic metres of contaminated sludge and mine waste sweeping into lakes and rivers — but no charges have been laid and no fines have been levied against Imperial Metals, the parent company of Mount Polley Mining Corp.

Forest Company Broke Law in Keeping Logging Plans Secret

The Forest Practices Board has found Lemare Lake Logging Ltd.’s operations in the East Creek Valley on northern Vancouver Island met provincial standards, but that the company had failed to follow the law requiring it to provide public access to its site plans.

“The board concludes that the licensee did not provide the complainant with reasonable access to [site plans] ‘on request at any reasonable time’ as required by [the Forest and Range Practices Act],” concluded the report released this week.

Erdoğan’s power grab

ISTANBUL — The cure-all for Turkey’s ills is close at hand — if you believe Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: a ‘yes’ result in next month’s referendum would restore security and stability, the president promises.

Yet opposition leaders warn that switching to a presidential system of government, as proposed by Erdoğan, would threaten democracy. To foreign observers, this may be strange to hear. After all, a number of democracies are governed by an executive presidency, among them the United States.

Democrats Will Lose a War of Obstruction With Republicans

Claire McCaskill, the Democratic senator from Missouri, is wavering on whether to support President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, who is up for a vote on April 7. In a closed-door meeting with party donors, she said that there “is enough in his record that gives me pause…so I am very comfortable voting against him,” and acknowledged that many of her supporters wanted to fight his nomination because the Republicans refused to consider President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland. But McCaskill also admitted she’s “uncomfortable” that, by filibustering Gorsuch, she would be “part of a strategy that’s going to open up the Supreme Court to a complete change.”

Who Moved My Teachers?

The school of education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison never used to have trouble attracting applicants with dreams of becoming teachers. Its graduate program is ranked fourth in the country by U.S. News & World Report, and until recently, its undergraduate program in elementary education typically received between 300 and 400 applications for its 125 spots. Now, says Michael Apple, a professor in the program, it only gets about one applicant per opening.

What happened? Scott Walker became Wisconsin’s governor in 2011 and promptly enacted a wide-scale rollback of unionization rights for state employees. That law, Act 10, effectively wiped out the ability of teachers and other public-sector workers to bargain collectively over salary and benefits.

6 Trends Track Rise in Deadly Police Encounters Across America—Including Using Police Cars to Kill, Report Finds

Police killings are on the increase across America, including the first months of 2017, according to a new study of thousands of police reports in recent years.

“From the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man having car trouble to the death of a convicted felon who injured three Chicago officers, the data show that fatal law enforcement encounters are rising year-over-year – despite the fact that crime has been on the general decline since 1996,” concluded, a legal news service, in its report, Deadly Law Enforcement Encounters.

Larry Summers Had the Power to Punish Wall Street. Now He’s Slamming Obama’s Gentle Treatment.

As head of Barack Obama’s National Economic Council during 2009 and 2010 at the height of the foreclosure crisis, Larry Summers broke many promises to help homeowners while simultaneously dismissing Wall Street’s criminality. Now, after the Obama administration has left power and Summers has no ability to influence anything, he finds himself “disturbed” that settlements for mortgage misconduct are full of lies. Those of us who screamed exactly this for years, when Summers might have been able to do something about it, are less than amused.

Are the Irvings Canada's biggest corporate welfare bums?

“Do you see, it’s over there,” said Gerry Lowe, pointing out across the cove as we stood on the shores of the Bay of Fundy on the outskirts of Saint John, New Brunswick, gazing into the distance towards the Canaport LNG terminal – its three enormous grey concrete storage tanks and jetty just visible in the midday gloom. It was a bitterly-cold overcast day in January of last year and Lowe, a garrulous 73-year-old Saint John city councilor, was giving me a guided tour of New Brunswick’s largest city in his black Ford sedan. I’d come to this hardscrabble burgh to research the Irvings – Canada’s seventh-richest family.

Should Airbnb be regulated in Toronto?

Taking a page from Vancouver, the first of a series of public consultations on regulating short-term rentals were held at the North York Civic Centre yesterday.

The unprecedented surge in housing prices have led to calls for the city to step in with solutions to remedy the growing unaffordability of housing. One way city council hopes to ease the pressure on the housing market is by curbing sharing economy apps like Airbnb.

Calgary think tank says environmentalists need to "end the charade" against oil sands

At an energy conference deep in American oil country earlier this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau received an award for his global energy and environmental leadership.

“No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there,” he told oil and gas execs. “Our job is to ensure that this is done responsibly, safely and sustainably.”

Arkansas law will force doctors to investigate abortion patients

A new law in Arkansas will force doctors to investigate their patients’ medical records before providing them with a legal abortion — and represents the first provision of its kind across the country.

Signed into law by Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) on Wednesday, HB 1434 is broadly focused on policing the reasons that people may seek abortion care.

Iowa lawmaker embraces forcing women to carry dead fetuses to term

Iowa House Republicans advanced an unconstitutional ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy on Wednesday, sending it from the Human Resources Committee to the full House on a 11 to 8 vote. All seven Democrats and one Republican voted no. This legislation replaced their original attempt to ban abortions after just six weeks.

But a question by a Democrat on the committee revealed just how little the measure’s manager understood about the possible ramifications of her legislation — and how little concern she has for the women who face tough choices about whether to terminate a pregnancy even in the most difficult situations.

The Republicans Have Primed Our Government for Failure

In the wake of Trumpcare’s spectacular demise last week, Republicans are having a difficult time sticking to a coherent story about what went wrong, what comes next, and why they’ll succeed.

President Donald Trump appeared determined on Friday to shift the GOP’s attention away from health care, saying, “[W]e will probably start going very, very strongly for the big tax cuts and tax reform. That will be next.” The same day, House Speaker Paul Ryan said that “Obamacare is the law of the land ... for the foreseeable future.” But earlier this week, the White House and Republican leaders reportedly decided to give American Health Care Act the old college try again. “We are going to keep getting at this thing,” Ryan assured donors on Monday. “We’re not going to just all of a sudden abandon health care and move on to the rest.”

Meet the Midwestern Contractor That Appears Hundreds of Times in the CIA WikiLeaks Dump

In a suburb of Cincinnati about 30 minutes north of the Ohio River, right down the street from the local Hooters, a little known subsidiary of defense giant Northrop Grumman works on contracts for the Central Intelligence Agency.

Xetron Corporation, whose products range from military sensors to communications systems to information security software, shows up in nearly 400 documents published earlier this month by WikiLeaks. Those documents describe some of the tools the CIA uses to hack phones, smart TVs, and other digital products to conduct espionage overseas — and some of the partners that help them do it, like Xetron.