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, July 19, 2017

A basic income really could end poverty forever

I first heard the term “basic income” in the socialist magazine Dissent in 2005. I was a 15-year-old leftist with a taste for weird, radical plans to restructure society: say, having the government buy up majority stakes in every company and then distribute them equally to every American; converting all companies into worker cooperatives; trying a planned economy where the planning is done by decentralized worker and consumer councils rather than a government bureaucracy. Basic income, wherein the government gives everyone enough cash to live on with no strings attached, struck me as an idea in that mold: another never-going-to-happen but fun-to-think-about alternative to the unfettered financial capitalism of the second Bush term.

Beijing’s Balkan backdoor

BELGRADE — In the thick of a discussion about the future of the Balkans, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić jumped from his chair, unfurled a wall-sized map and spread it across the thick mauve carpet in his private receiving room.

“You’ll see what my real passion is,” he said, kneeling next to a multicolored map of Serbia criss-crossed with planned highways and rail lines. “It’s roads and economy.”

Serbia is in the midst of a physical transformation that Vučić has promised his compatriots will end their isolation and open the door to the European Union. To turn his “passion” into reality, the Serbian president is relying not just on Europe, but on an old ally farther east — China.

The Strange Defense of Martin Shkreli

On Wednesday, June 28th, the criminal-defense attorney Benjamin Brafman stood in front of a Brooklyn jury and presented an unusual argument. In white-collar trials, which this was, defense lawyers often do their best to portray their clients—typically wealthy executives from companies or industries that may not be known for high ethical standards—as generous folk who go to church and coach children’s soccer leagues, gentle-hearted people who happen to drive Porsches. In this case, though, Brafman was representing Martin Shkreli, the notorious hedge-fund manager and drug-company entrepreneur, and such an argument wasn’t an option. Instead, Brafman tried to build a case around Shkreli’s greatest potential liability, one that Shkreli has highlighted live-streaming himself and in interviews—his behavior. “Is he strange? Yes,” Brafman said, of his client, during his opening argument. “Will you find him weird? Yes.” He said that Shkreli had been compared to “Rain Man” for his eccentricity, and finally added, “As Lady Gaga would say, he was born this way.”

Ukraine wants Russia held to account over MH17 downing

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says Russia must be held to account over the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, three years after the tragedy that killed 298 people.

International investigators have said the Boeing jet flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over war-torn eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014 by a Russia-supplied missile system that was fired from territory held by Russian-backed fighters.

Defend Europe boat tries to block migrant rescues

Far-right activists have set sail in a boat with plans to prevent the arrival of Europe-bound boats carrying refugees and migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, sparking criticism from an anti-racism monitor.

Defend Europe, the group behind the journey which began Sunday, said on its fundraising page that its members would set sail in a 422-tonne vessel with a 25-member crew after receiving more than $115,000 in donations in recent weeks.

Turkey’s free press on trial

In a small courtroom at the city’s gargantuan Palace of Justice, Canan Coşkun took the stand with her hands clasped nervously behind her back.

As a journalist covering the courts for Cumhuriyet — the Turkish newspaper that has been most outspokenly critical of the government — Coşkun is no stranger to judicial proceedings. But on this Tuesday morning in June, she wasn’t there to cover a case. She was on trial herself, for the fourth time this year.

My Visit With One of the Forgotten Prisoners of Guantánamo

Last month, I took my first trip to the US military detention camp at Guantánamo Bay to visit Sufyian Barhoumi. As a military handler drove me and my colleagues from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) down the winding road from the ferry landing to the camp, I marveled at the lush green hills and sparkling blue water around us. The serenely beautiful setting stands in stark contrast to the detention camp, which is jarringly ugly: Endless rolls of rusty barbed wire, layers of fencing enmeshed with opaque green cloth, cages with peeling paint, gravel pits where grass should be. A warehouse to store men we don’t know what to do with.

Pierre Poilievre Launches Petition To Condemn Trudeau Over Khadr Payout

OTTAWA — Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre has launched an electronic petition calling on the "government of Canada to condemn Prime Minister [Justin] Trudeau's $10.5 million payment to Omar Khadr."

The Ottawa MP's petition, E-1194, states that the Canadian government "did not force Omar Khadr to fight for the Taliban and murder a U.S. medic," that "the Canadian government had no role in his subsequent incarceration," and that "the people of Canada owe Omar Khadr no compensation."

Sears managers to earn thousands in bonuses while laid-off workers get no severance

Sears Canada plans to dole out big bonuses to senior management while the retailer restructures, even as thousands of laid-off workers aren't being paid severance.

According to court documents, Sears will pay up to $7.6 million in retention bonuses to 43 executives and senior managers at the company's head office in Toronto. That works out to an average of $176,744 per employee, although it's unlikely the money will be divided up so evenly.

Jerusalem: Israeli policemen killed in shooting attack

Two Israeli policemen died after Palestinian gunmen reportedly opened fire near al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem's Old City, before they too were killed in a gunfight.

Israeli police said the three gunmen reached one of the gates near the al-Aqsa compound, opened fire and fled towards al-Aqsa Mosque where they were shot dead by police officers on Friday.

'The attacks were relentless': CSIS employees launch $35-million suit

Five intelligence officers and analysts with Canada’s spy service have launched a $35-million lawsuit against their employer, claiming the Canadian Security Intelligence Service is a toxic workplace with managers who openly espouse Islamophobic, racist and homophobic views and discriminate against Muslim, Black and gay employees.

The allegations contained in a 54-page statement of claim — filed in Federal Court and obtained by the Toronto Star — provide detailed accusations from inside one of the country’s most secretive organizations.

What Is “Neo” About Neoliberalism?

In the buildup to the 2015 General Election, Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), reiterated his support for an “Australian-style points system” as a means of controlling immigration, the policy issue that his party had prioritized above all others. What was curious about Farage’s statement was not the policy commitment itself, which had been known for some time, but the liberal rhetoric that he used to justify it. Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Farage argued “what UKIP wants is not to do down migrants. It’s not to stigmatize, or discourage, or blame people for coming to this country and trying to make a better life for themselves” and that the “points system” is the only fair basis for managing immigration.

EU says Brexit talks could fail after Johnson's 'go whistle' remarks

The European Union has said the Brexit talks could be derailed by an escalating fight over money as it fired back at Boris Johnson for telling the EU leaders to “go whistle” if they expected Britain to pay a divorce bill for withdrawing from the bloc.

“I am not hearing any whistling, just a clock ticking,” said the EU negotiator Michel Barnier at a press conference in Brussels to preview the next round of talks, due to begin on Monday.

Exclusive: House Democrats introduce new plan to fix Obamacare

A small group of Democratic legislators will do something unusual Wednesday morning: hold a press conference to talk about the parts of Obamacare that are broken.

Ten House Democrats will unveil a new plan to fix Obamacare, highlighting the parts of the law that have struggled to work and offering modest steps to improve them. The proposal includes more funding to help insurance plans cover the sickest patients, along with possibly changing the timing of the open enrollment season in hopes of attracting more Americans to sign up for insurance.

Vancouver Fix? Peg Its Minimum Wage to Housing Costs

A few months ago we published our Slowest City Action Plan for Vancouver. While delivered with tongue at least partly in cheek, the proposals were actually quite serious. Basically, they argued the city’s leaders have chosen goals and policies that make citizens more sped up and anxious. In contrast, we offered paths for Vancouver to:

1. Shift to a more relaxed way of getting around,

2. Adapt housing stock to conform to actual, achievable incomes,

3. Reimagine the city’s cultural “third places,” proliferating different kinds of settings where people can comingle, and

4. Acknowledge that our jobs mostly are about serving each other in one way or another, therefore foster an urban economy where people doing such work can afford life in Vancouver.

Toronto Parking Authority keeps executive salaries secret

The Toronto Parking Authority is keeping secret the salaries of its top executives, including the compensation of its president, Lorne Persiko, who was put on paid leave this week pending further investigation of a land deal.

The Star has tried for a year to find out how much Persiko and other parking authority executives are paid, but the city agency has hired an employment law firm to fight the release of the information.