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, August 15, 2012

Medicaid Health Care Denied To Needy Due To Red Tape, Costs

She jumped through hoops, wrangled with bureaucrats and overcame obstacles, but Gracie Fowler finally figured out how to make sure her kids weren't among the more than 500,000 Florida children without health insurance.

Fowler, 35, has struggled since becoming pregnant with her 8-year-old son to get, and hold onto, the Medicaid health benefits to which he and his seven-year-old sister are entitled. They've been dropped by the state, and she's fought with agencies and their private contractors about lost applications, multiple requests for the same documentation and conflicting information about whether her kids were even covered.

France Roma Camps Demolished, Gypsies Forced Into Hiding

GENNEVILLIERS, France — The camps weren't much to begin with: They had no electricity or running water. Grocery carts served as makeshift grills. Rats ran rampant and fleas gnawed on young and old alike.

But they were home – and they were better than the new reality for thousands of Gypsies who have been forced into hiding after France launched its latest campaign this month to drive them from their camps.

The last big sweep came in 2010, when France expelled Gypsies to Romania and Bulgaria. Then the European Commission imposed sanctions and thousands of French came out to protest in sympathy for the Gypsies, also known as the Roma.

Paul Ryan, Capitol Hill's Most 'Serious' Man

If there's one word that's become associated with Wisconsin Representative and vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan over his long tenure in Washington, D.C., it is "serious." Ryan is credited, up and down, with being a "serious" man. His reputation for seriousness precedes him in every fresh encounter on Capitol Hill and every booking on Sunday morning's political chat shows. And more amazingly, that reputation lingers long after those encounters have ended, despite each new pile of evidence to the contrary. He's as pure a product as the Beltway Bubble has ever produced.

Jamie Dimon's Great New Slogan for Romney-Ryan

Who knew that in addition to his prodigious talents as a Too Big To Fail banker, Jamie Dimon also had such great skills as a political PR guy? The Republicans have been struggling to come up with just the right slogan for the Romney-Ryan ticket. They had been strongly leaning toward "To the victor goes the spoils", since that phrase is such a great summary of both the Bain Capital philosophy and the Ryan budget, but had been afraid it didn't have quite enough edge to it. But now Dimon has nailed it for them. In an interview with New York Magazine that came out yesterday, Dimon unveiled the new slogan: "It's a free. F*cking. Country." The fact that he was saying this in reaction to the idea of new regulations on Wall Street bankers fits perfectly with Romney and Ryan's vision for America, since they are violently opposed to any regulations on Wall Street bankers or other big corporate interests.

Pennsylvania Voter ID Decision: Judge Refuses To Grant Injunction To Halt Law

HARRISBURG, Pa. — A tough new voter identification law championed by Republicans can take effect in Pennsylvania for November's presidential election, a judge ruled Wednesday, despite a torrent of criticism that it will suppress votes among President Barack Obama's supporters and make it harder for the elderly, disabled, poor and young adults to vote.

Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson said he would not grant an injunction that would have halted the law, which requires each voter to show a valid photo ID. Opponents are expected to file an appeal within a day or two to the state Supreme Court as the Nov. 6 election looms.

Ann Romney: No More Tax Returns Will Be Released

In an interview with NBC set to air Thursday, Ann Romney, wife of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, said her husband's campaign will not release any additional tax returns to the public ahead of the election.

"We have been very transparent to what's legally required of us," Romney told reporter Natalie Morales, according to excerpts from NBC News. "There's going to be no more tax releases given."

What the Affordable Care Act Means for Transgender People

For the first fifty years of his life, New Yorker Jay Kallio had no problem getting the health care he needed. A volunteer EMT since age 15, he knew the medical community inside and out. When he came out as transgender and transitioned at age 50, though, his experience with doctors and nurses changed wildly—and almost cost him his life.

“I have this very stark before and after experience,” says Kallio. “It’s totally different being a transgender person trying to access care.”

Paul Ryan: Cruel, Not Courageous

A word of advice: If you’re announcing the most radical and reactionary Republican ticket in half a century, don’t do it on a ship named for the birthplace of progressivism, to Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.”

But that is precisely the kind of audacity congressman-turned-vice presidential-nominee Paul Ryan brings to the flailing Romney campaign. Courage! Vision! And that hair! (Within minutes of the announcement, @VPRyansCowlick boasted dozens of follicle-fixated followers.)

How Would Paul Ryan's Vision Change the U.S. Education System?

If you've heard anything about Paul Ryan by now, then you can probably guess his instructions for education reform. Step one: Cut spending. Step two: Use the private sector to drive cost reforms. Say this for the man: He's relentlessly consistent.

Still, unlike Ryan's blueprints for shrinking Medicare and Medicaid -- which have been remarkable for their grisly specificity -- there is a bit of mystery lurking in his education agenda. The spending plans he's spearheaded in the House give us a vague outline of what he would do to public school funding and financial aid for college students were he to ever have his way with the federal budget, but it's tough to attach any hard numbers to his ideas.

Who's Behind the Anti-Islam Ads on MTA and Muni?

They're popping up on public transit all over New York and San Francisco: Advertisements sponsored by anti-Muslim blogger Pamela Geller that imply Muslims are "savages," dismiss "Islamophobia" as "Islamorealism," and urge passengers to "support Israel" and "defeat jihad."

This isn't the first time Geller, who warned America about "stealth halal" turkeys last Thanksgiving, has used a public transit ad campaign to get her views out. In 2010, she sponsored ads attacking a proposed Islamic Community Center near Ground Zero as a "Mega Mosque" celebrating the 9/11 attacks. Another ad campaign Geller sponsored offered help to those who may have a "Fatwa on [their] head" and are considering "leaving Islam." This time, her ads, which are sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI)—one of the many anti-Islam groups Geller is associated with, were so controversial that New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority initially rejected them.

Can Tammy Baldwin Win Over Wisconsin?

It's breakfast time at the Larson Acres Dairy in rural Evansville, Wisconsin, and the line for hot-off-the-griddle pancakes and iced chocolate milk winds around the big barn, past the kids crawling in a bed of corn kernels, the live band tuning up, and out to the silver grain silos gleaming in the morning sun. June is Dairy Month in Wisconsin, highlighted by the weekend dairy breakfasts put on by farms across the state. On this Saturday, droves of sleepy-eyed cheeseheads descend on Larson Acres to eat, drink, buy T-shirts, and see the latest in milk-pumping technology.

Search For Canada's Top General Behind Schedule

The search for a new head of the Canadian Forces has slipped more than a month behind schedule.

CBC News has learned Gen. Walt Natynczyk, Canada's outgoing chief of defence staff, has already held his own going away party — a cottage barbecue attended by close staff held in June.

Sources tell CBC News the military was planning for a late July change of command ceremony to herald the appointment of a new chief.

Stephen Harper And Angela Merkel: PM To Host German Chancellor Over Informal Dinner At Harrington Lake Retreat

OTTAWA - German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Stephen Harper will meet over dinner tonight at Harper's Harrington Lake retreat in Gatineau, Que.

The two will have a rare, uninterrupted session — with no aides and no agenda — that's set for two hours, but could last longer.

There will be a more formal meeting held on Thursday morning in Harper's Parliament Hill office.

Northern Gateway pipeline review panel demands consideration of 'Keystone Kops' report on Enbridge

OTTAWA - The federal review panel assessing the controversial Northern Gateway oilsands pipeline to B.C. is now demanding that Enbridge table a report from a U.S. regulator who concluded that the company acted like the Keystone Kops in a 2010 Michigan spill and had a corporate "culture of deviance."

The request was among a series of tough new questions the panel is putting to Enbridge on matters relating to safety, including the company's plan to deal with leaks and with unforeseen weather calamities that might endanger supertankers approaching or leaving Kitimat.

Will government play third wheel in CAW, Big Three talks?

National President of the Canadian Auto Workers union Ken Lewenza, centre, speaks at a press conference flanked by Assistant to the CAW President Jerry Dias, left, and National Secretary Treasurer Peter Kennedy following a meeting discussing contracts with General Motors in Toronto, Tuesday. CP/Michelle Siu

The federal government stayed up way past its bedtime when confronted with a pair of Air Canada labour disputes just before the March Break earlier this year. It was 1:30 a.m. when the Conservatives voted to force the disputes to binding arbitration and keep the planes flying.

Supreme Court should have 4 women says retiring justice

The federal government should ensure there are at least four women on the Supreme Court of Canada's bench, according to retiring Justice Marie Deschamps, but she doesn't think appointees have to be bilingual on day one of the job.

The 59-year-old Quebec justice, whose retirement took effect Aug. 7, expressed her views on those issues and many more during a wide-ranging interview in her office at the Supreme Court. She said she likes the current gender balance with four out of the nine justices being women, and hopes it stays that way when the government fills vacancies.

Only 2 per cent of Canadians don’t believe in climate change

REGINA — Only two per cent of Canadians who responded to a new opinion poll believe climate change is not occurring. However, a majority believes natural climate variation is playing at least some role in the warming trend.

The findings are in a survey conducted by Insightrix Research, Inc. for IPAC-CO2 Research Inc., a Regina-based centre that studies carbon capture and storage.

The online poll of 1,550 people was done between May 29 and June 11. The results were to be released on Wednesday.

Prime Minister hedges his bets on B.C. pipeline

When the prime minister gets out of the nation’s capital and sees how his policies affect people's lives, welcome changes occur.

They’re often subtle and sometimes hard to interpret. But Stephen Harper listens to local opinion, allows questions from the media (which he almost never does in Ottawa) and adjusts his course ever so slightly.

Last week’s West Coast visit was an interesting example. Harper went to Vancouver to attend Senator Gerry St. Germain’s barbecue, a 28-year Conservative tradition, and to re-announce his party’s plan to offer paid leave to parents who take time off work to care for a child with a life-threatening illness.

Keep church out of state or democratic governance suffers

The debate centered on the nature, scope and impact of institutional religion on Canadian governance has re-emerged with a vengeance over the past decade in Canada. This overdue debate is both necessary and healthy. It should not be seen as a sign of an attack on religion or religious institutions. This debate reflects our society’s legitimate concerns regarding a remarkable game changing political realignment that is now well underway in Canadian national politics.

The last time Canadians experienced a similar political realignment was in the 1890s when a French-Canadian, Catholic Wilfrid Laurier, leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, became Prime Minister in the election of 1896. Laurier remained Prime Minister until 1911 and Liberal leader until his death in 1919. He faced strong pressures from very powerful Quebec Catholic Church leaders to formulate government policies that protected and advanced the interests of the Catholic Church. Laurier steadfastly refused to bow to these pressures. Nonetheless, the majority of French-Canadian Catholic voters continued to support Laurier’s Liberal Party and government.

How a canoeist got frisked for stumbling into Harper’s picnic

In more than three decades of canoeing, Garry Almond has raced on swift-flowing rivers, braved whitewater rapids and rescued people from drowning. But he found himself in uncharted waters Monday evening when he inadvertently tried to paddle near Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s barbecue.

This is what happens when a national pastime bangs smack into national security. Mr. Almond says he was stopped by police near his Mississauga home, thoroughly searched and told to find a different spot to canoe so as not to pass by the Conservatives picnicking in a park beside the Credit River.

The Annals of Alberta Labour Relations: Redford Government goes boldly where no Tory's gone before

Premier Alison Redford, Health Minister Fred Horne, Human Services Minister Dave Hancock and Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk yesterday went boldly where no Alberta Conservative has dared to go before! And good for them.

Specifically, yesterday Redford and the three members of her cabinet went where former premier Ralph Klein, human resources and employment minister Mike Cardinal and infrastructure minister Lyle Oberg hinted they might think about going, then chickened out, back in 2005.

To wit: the 2012 quartet of Progressive Conservative cabinet members finally, justly and quite properly imposed first-contract binding arbitration in a labour dispute that just couldn't seem to be settled in the normal course of collective bargaining.

Silencing the outriders, silencing democracy

Since taking power federally in 2006, the Conservative government has undertaken a continuous attack on civil society organizations. One of the government's first actions was to cut support for women's organizations that lobbied or did research on the status of women. Environmental organizations have been accused of acting in the interest of foreign powers. Revenue Canada was given extra money to investigate them.

How did we come to the point where organizations advocating equality and changes to public policy appear to be seen by the government as the enemy of Canadians?

Design for Democracy: Ontario Northlander, treasured transit

"We are like the Third World in trains; I am surprised we are not shovelling coal back there."

- Ontario Northlander employee

Since I was born, I have spent every summer at the gateway of northern Ontario in Gravenhurst. In Lake Muskoka, I learned to swim and navigate the shoals of my childhood. My grandfather bought a cottage on this sheltered bay three generations ago for his grandchildren because it was shallow, and in the mid-'60s there were once a dozen of my cousins under the age of 10, seated at a picnic table, breathlessly waiting for lunch.

Homeless death toll continues to climb

The photo, featuring a yellow candle burning brightly, hung over the Toronto Homeless Memorial board as a symbol of hope that one day homeless deaths will be a thing of the past.

For now though, anti-poverty and housing activists continue to gather on the second Tuesday of every month to honour those who’ve died on the streets of Toronto the previous month.

Passersby were reflected in in the plexiglass cover of the Homeless Memorial Board that now contains the names of over 600 men, women and children.

Final report on F-35 costs likely won't get Parliamentary scrutiny until 2013, 'seems very suspect': opposition MPs

PARLIAMENT HILL—A new contract tender the Public Works department has issued for an outside audit to verify the true costs of the Conservative government’s multi-billion-dollar F-35 stealth fighter jet project will delay a final report to Parliament until just before Christmas and delay Parliamentary scrutiny until well into 2013, opposition MPs say.

Liberal and NDP MPs were also highly critical on Tuesday of a major change in the request for bids on the contract that switches contracting authority from the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, which was not involved in controversial F-35 decisions, to an official in Public Works, which was singled out for breaking procurement rules in Auditor General Michael Ferguson’s scathing report on $25-billion in projected F-35 costs last April.

77 Years After FDR Signs Social Security, VP Pick Paul Ryan Pushes Dismantling the Social Safety Net

Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney’s newly picked running mate, Paul Ryan, is on the forefront of efforts to dismantle Social Security by putting seniors’ savings into risky Wall Street investments. Over the years, Ryan has not only pushed for privatizing Social Security, but also dismantling Medicare and slashing funding for Medicaid. In the Republican response to President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address, Ryan defended cutbacks on social spending. "We’re in a moment where if government’s growth is left unchecked and unchallenged, America’s best century will be considered our past century," Ryan said. "This is a future in which we will transform our social safety net into a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency." For more, we speak with two experts on Social Security: independent journalist Eric Laursen, author of the book "The People’s Pension: The Struggle to Defend Social Security Since Reagan," and Heather McGhee, vice president of policy and outreach at the progressive policy group Demos and co-author of a chapter on retirement insecurity in the book "Inequality Matters: The Growing Economic Divide in America and its Poisonous Consequences."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

CAW needs to be 'more flexible,' expert warns

With Canada's auto industry on the rebound, it should come as no surprise that auto workers, having had to make concessions years ago, are now asking for a share of the profits as they begin contract negotiations with the big three Detroit automakers.

But with observers predicting tough negotiations ahead, at least one analyst says that the contract that is eventually negotiated will go a long way in determining the future of the auto industry.

Euro crisis 'elephant in the room' for Harper-Merkel talks

As political dates go, apparently this one was a long time coming.

Officials have been trying to arrange bilateral talks between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper for months. After failing to co-ordinate their schedules around successive G8 or NATO summits, Merkel finally arrives in Ottawa Wednesday afternoon for a whirlwind 24-hour visit.

This German visit is no stopover: officials emphasize that she's journeying across the Atlantic especially to see her Canadian allies.

Mayor Ford’s policy guru is his new chief of staff

Rob Ford’s controversial policy guru has a new title: chief of staff to the mayor of Toronto.

Mr. Ford has elevated Mark Towhey to the top political job in the city, a decision that is likely to make the mayor’s already frosty relationship with city council even colder.

Mr. Towhey, 48, is unpopular among councillors – including some Ford allies – for his allegedly brusque manner and uncompromising views.

Merkel’s visit to climate scientists heightens contrast with PM on environment policy

Angela Merkel will make a special visit to Halifax this week to highlight the work of climate scientists, a stop that underscores the German Chancellor’s focus on science and the environment in a summer when those same issues are dogging Canada’s Prime Minister.

After two days in the national capital region for meetings with Stephen Harper, Ms. Merkel will visit Dalhousie University in Halifax Thursday on her way home.

Tempted, Angela?

FOR all you know, Angela Merkel is even now contemplating how to break up the euro. Surely Germany’s long-suffering chancellor must be tempted, given the endless euro-bickering over rescues that later turn out to be inadequate. How she must tire of fighting her country’s corner, only to be branded weak by critics at home. How she must resent sacrificing German wealth, only to be portrayed as a Nazi in some of the very countries she is trying to rescue.

Fighting back against health inequity and its origins

Despite rising inequality of market incomes and solemn assertions by governments that compensatory social policies are unaffordable, there are Canadian voices calling for change, within and outside the health research and policy community.

One of the most important of these is the Canadian Women’s Health Network (CWHN), which has just launched a new, user-friendly web site.  CWHN has been going since 1993, functioning as a clearinghouse and information broker on a variety of women’s health issues ranging from depression to domestic violence.  “Health is a human right that, because of poverty, politics and dwindling resources for health and social services, eludes many women” is part of its mission statement; recent links on its website connect users with a feature article and archived webinar on women and alcohol and a Conference Board of Canada report on the generally mid-pack performance of Canadian health care among OECD countries. CWHN is now seeking alternative sources of funding since support from our national government will end in 2013, as part of a larger pattern of funding cuts to women’s health research and advocacy.  Gotta pay for those fighter jets and new prison cells somehow.

Bev Oda’s Real Legacy at CIDA

Media commentary has been remarkably lenient regarding Bev Oda’s record at the end of her five-year stint as Canada’s Minister of International Cooperation. Coverage has by and large ignored how, under her watch, the government systematically undermined both the fundamental purpose of Canadian foreign aid, which is to fight poverty in developing countries, and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) itself.

Though the vast majority of voices in the media condemn her peccadillos, most are praising the focus, transparency, accountability and greater effectiveness she brought to CIDA. Lacking, however, is a more sober examination of these claims that Oda has made about herself and that others are parroting.

Get used to hearing ‘Mr. Justice Vic Toews’

The fix is in. It’s now just a matter of time before Public Safety Minister Vic Toews becomes a Manitoba justice and his departure triggers the next cabinet shuffle.

All the legal chips are falling into place. There’s a looming vacancy on the Manitoba Court of Appeal, a friendly nominating committee and a willing justice minister.

Will the Mounties get this man?

OTTAWA — Elections Canada has turned to the Mounties for help as its 15-month robocalls investigation drags on without signs of progress.

RCMP Sgt. Paul Thompson of the commercial crime unit at Kitchener detachment met with a Guelph resident Kevin Morris on June 27 to get a recording of the deceptive call that sent hundreds of voters to the wrong polling stations on election day in 2011.

CAW says they want to share Detroit Three automakers’ profits

As Canada’s first auto talks in four years got underway, CAW president Ken Lewenza issued a clear warning to the auto makers – stop asking for concessions.

Canada's 24,000 auto workers deserve to share in the gains the auto makers have made since 2009 when a multi-million dollar government bailout and worker concessions helped keep a struggling industry in business, he said.

Israeli Journalist Gideon Levy on the Escalating Talk of a Military Attack on Iran

Could Israel launch an attack on Iran before the U.S. election in November? On Friday, Israel’s largest-selling daily newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, published an article suggesting an Israeli attack could be imminent. The article reported: "Insofar as it depends on Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, an Israeli military strike on the nuclear facilities in Iran will take place in these coming autumn months, before the U.S. elections in November." To discuss the situation in Israel and the possibility of a military confrontation with Iran, we’re joined by Israeli journalist Gideon Levy, a columnist at the Haaretz newspaper.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

Europe edges closer to recession as economy shrinks 0.2 per cent

After treading water for months, the euro zone economy is showing its first official signs of sinking.

The economies of both the 17 countries that use the euro currency and the wider 27-country European Union contracted by 0.2 per cent in April to June period, Eurostat said Tuesday.

That’s after a flat result for both regions in the first quarter. It’s also down 0.4 per cent from the year-earlier period.

U.S. drought could spark another global food price crisis, experts warn

As the worst U.S. drought in more than half a century persists, experts are calling for international action to avoid a repeat of the worldwide food price crisis of 2008.

Sixty-two per cent of America’s farms are in drought-struck areas, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As of last year, U.S. exports of maize and soybeans accounted for more than 40 per cent of total world exports.

Police to Mayor Rob Ford: ‘Please get a driver’

Mayor Rob Ford was photographed reading a document while driving on the Gardiner Expressway on Tuesday morning, prompting the police to issue an unusual plea urging him to begin using a driver.

“On behalf of all the citizens of Toronto that value road safety, Mr. Mayor ... please get a driver. It is obvious that you are busy enough to require one and no amount of money you are saving by not having one is worth the life of one of your citizens,” Sgt. Tim Burrows, a social media officer and former spokesperson for the traffic services unit, wrote on the official police Facebook page.(Later in the day, the statement was amended to end at “please get a driver.”)

David Suzuki reveals Ontario’s climate-change fighter

A funny thing happened on the way to climate-change policy in Ontario — nearly everyone forgot their elementary-school lesson about photosynthesis and how plants remove carbon from the atmosphere.

That’s something the David Suzuki Foundation now hopes to rectify with “Carbon in the Bank,” a report released Wednesday on the greenbelt’s role in mitigating the effects of climate change.

“It’s a massive carbon storehouse,” said Faisal Moola, the Suzuki Foundation’s director of science.

Coroner calls single inquest into 3 police shootings of mentally ill people

The coroner’s office has called an inquest into the deaths of three GTA residents suffering from mental health issues who were shot by police while carrying knives or scissors.

Reyal Jardine-Douglas, 25; Sylvia Klibingaitis, 52; and Michael Eligon, 29; “all may have been experiencing the effects of a mental disorder at the time of their deaths,” according to a statement from the coroner’s office released on Tuesday.

No date or location has been set for the combined inquest.

A history of outbursts: Rob Ford's track record with the public

These days, Torontonians barely bat an eye when our mayor behaves badly in public. We are well used to it: Rob Ford has been fuelling headlines that would be political suicide in other cities for more than a decade.

From blaming citizens for his political losses to yelling drunkenly at fans at a hockey game, our mayor knows how to outburst with the best of them.