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.]

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Canada 150: sesquicentennial or sesqui-colonial?

This is tough, Canada.

The centennial in 1967 was a heck of a celebration. For our sesquicentennial, marked by cross-country events this Canada Day weekend, we’re less confident about ourselves. Lots of catchy tunes, but no world party. It feels more like a sesqui-colonial, given the ongoing struggle to reconcile our historical mistreatment of First Nations. The shame is overwhelming.

America’s Flagship ‘Clean Coal’ Experiment Abandoned After 11 Years And $7.5 Billion

The coal industry suffered a major blow on Wednesday when the utility giant Southern Company abandoned work on its troubled Mississippi “clean coal” facility amid skyrocketing costs.

The Kemper County Energy Facility, conceived under President George W. Bush, promised to turn coal into cleaner-burning gas and provide a model for the future of coal. But after 11 years and $7.5 billion, the plant failed to produce commercially viable technology.

Laura Poitras on her WikiLeaks film Risk: ‘I knew Julian Assange was going to be furious’

Laura Poitras wants to make one thing absolutely clear. She still admires Julian Assange despite everything that has happened. But, it soon emerges, this is a mighty caveat.

Risk, Poitras’s film on Assange, six years in the making, is finally finished. During this time she has gone from being an Assange supporter given privileged access to an outsider banished from the WikiLeaks inner sanctum; she has exposed the National Security Agency’s global spying programme (a lot of it published in Britain by the Guardian) after being the first journalist to make contact with whistleblower Edward Snowden, and she has made an Oscar-winning documentary about Snowden called Citizenfour.

Why Mitch McConnell and the Republicans Can’t Fix Health Care

Mitch McConnell’s decision to postpone a vote on his health-care-reform bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017, is a political setback (and perhaps only a temporary one) for the Republican Party. But, beyond this week’s drama, the bill and its troubles reflect conservatism’s failure when it comes to thinking about health care.

Even if McConnell somehow manages to revive the bill in the coming weeks and put together the fifty votes that he needs to get it through the Senate, that broader failure will remain a problem for him and his party. If they end up passing this bill or something like it, they will be betting their future on a reform that cannot deliver what Donald Trump promised during the election campaign and what Paul Ryan and his colleagues promised last December: reasonably priced access to health care for every American. Over time, political pressure would mount for the restoration of Obamacare, or even for a public option available to everyone.

Russia Slams U.S. Warning To Syria Over Chemical Weapons As ‘Unacceptable’

Russia denounced a U.S. warning to the Syrian leadership that it will pay a heavy price for any chemical weapons attack, and dismissed White House assertions that a strike was being prepared as “unacceptable.”

The White House said on Monday the preparations in Syria were similar to actions before an April 4 chemical attack which killed dozens of civilians and prompted U.S. President Donald Trump to order a missile strike on a Syrian air base.

The Poverty Just Over the Hills From Silicon Valley

On the drive up the coast from the southernmost part of Northern California’s San Mateo County, Highway 1’s two lanes are surrounded by wind-whipped seas on one side and redwood forests on the other. The landscape is dotted with wild yellow mustard in the spring and pumpkins in the fall. A popular place for day-trippers to picnic, go wine-tasting, and shop at roadside farm stands, the region—affectionately nicknamed “the Slowcoast” for its unhurried pace—is a balm to the busyness nearby in Silicon Valley, to the east, and San Francisco, to the north.

Elizabeth Warren Calls For Democrats To Embrace Single-Payer Health Care

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) says it’s time for Democrats to run on single-payer health care across the country.

President Barack Obama “tried to move us forward with health care coverage by using a conservative model that came from one of the conservative think tanks that had been advanced by a Republican governor in Massachusetts,” Warren, referring to Mitt Romney, said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal published Tuesday.

Corbyn’s Bold, Listening Labour Is The Natural Party Of Business

Everything I am, everything good in my life, and everything I have achieved I owe to the Labour Party and to a Labour government. Today people see a successful entrepreneur who sits on the boards of several public companies and charities in the UK and the USA, but this was not always so.

When I was a young man in my early twenties, I found myself homeless. Public housing assistance, thanks to the Blair Labour government, ensured I could get back on my feet, climb the ranks of large corporations and ultimately become a successful entrepreneur. The Labour also taught me about giving back, a value that has become a consistent and large part of my life.

Scotland and Wales Are Furious About Theresa May Giving Northern Ireland £1bn

The Tories’ deal with the DUP was branded a “straight bung” as anger flared across Great Britain over the extra £1bn for Northern Ireland.

The Conservatives have struck deal with the DUP in exchange for a chunk of money for schools, hospitals, roads and economic development in Northern Ireland.

The Supreme Court Strikes Down a Major Church-State Barrier

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the state of Missouri cannot deny public funds to a church simply because it is a religious organization.

Seven justices affirmed the judgment in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, albeit with some disagreement about the reasoning behind it. The major church-state case could potentially expand the legal understanding of the free-exercise clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It is also the first time the Supreme Court has ruled that governments must provide money directly to a house of worship, which could have implications for future policy fights—including funding for private, religious charter schools.

Russia recalling ambassador at center of Trump campaign controversy: report

Russia is reportedly recalling Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, the man who has emerged as a focal point in the FBI probe into Russia’s election meddling.

BuzzFeed News is citing three sources saying Russia is calling Kislyak back home.

This “bitch” won’t shut up: Sexist attacks on outspoken women are a problem for men to fix, too

When the message arrived with the photograph of my bedroom, the intent was clear: We know where you live, where you sleep at night. Be afraid.

I was. I am.

The message appeared in my inbox after I had published an essay on Salon sharply criticizing Sen. Bernie Sanders. The essay went viral and I received an onslaught of hate, threats and intimidation, which is not unusual for me — reactions to my pieces criticizing Sen. Sanders have typically been delivered with more velocity and opprobrium than any of the many other controversial political and feminist subjects I’ve written about — and apparently it’s not unusual for feminist writers in general to receive threats, either.

Cyber-attack on UK parliament: Russia is suspected culprit

The Russian government is suspected of being behind a cyber-attack on parliament that breached dozens of email accounts belonging to MPs and peers.

Although the investigation is at an early stage and the identity of those responsible may prove impossible to establish with absolute certainty, Moscow is deemed the most likely culprit.

Milton Friedman: a study in failure

Milton Friedman, who has died aged 94, was not the most important economist of the post-war era - that title belongs to the brilliant Paul Samuelson - but he was certainly the most controversial. Yet despite his views being championed by so many politicians on the right, it may come as a surprise that Friedman's career as a policymaker largely ended in failure.

Given his status as a long-standing hate figure, the assumption by many of the left is that his agenda was cemented into place during the Reagan and Thatcher administrations in the early 1980s, especially Friedman's well-known view that inflation is solely influenced by changes in the money supply. But very few of Friedman's most cherished proposals were ever put in to practice. Of those that where - such as monetarism - almost all turned into failure.

Kentucky's Hedge Funder Governor Keeps State Money In Secretive Hedge Funds

Kentucky’s public pension system is a long-running, worst-in-the-nation disaster. Even as state workers chip in their fair share, the system suffers from years of chronic underfunding by the state. Seeking higher returns, the program, formally known as Kentucky Retirement Systems, has turned to “alternative investments” such as private equity and hedge funds. But those funds also carry far more risk than traditional investments in stocks and bonds ― and much higher fees.

'Modern-Day Slavery': Many Southern States Have Prison Inmates Working in Governor's Mansions and Capitol Buildings

When activist Sam Sinyangwe was awaiting a meeting with the governor’s office at the Louisiana state capitol building in Baton Rouge, he noticed something odd. A black man in a dark-blue jumpsuit was printing papers while a correctional guard—with a badge and gun—stood watching over him. The pair stood out against the white, middle-aged legislators populating the building.

Sinyangwe said he did not know exactly what he was looking at, until he saw another black man in the same dark-blue outfit serving food at the capitol building’s cafeteria. This time, Sinyangwe noticed that the man had a patch on his chest labeling him a prisoner of the Louisiana State Department of Corrections, complete with an identification number.