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.]

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Biggest Myth About Inequality Is We Can't Fix It

When in a New Statesman editorial and BBC interview this fall, English actor Russell Brand called for revolution and dismissed the possibilities of democracy, the response made it clear he'd expressed something many were feeling.

The current system is delivering widening disparity and creating an underclass that's exploited, Brand said. There's no point voting because it won't make a difference, he said in the widely shared interview.

Mi'kmaq speaking tour appeals for solidarity with New Brunswick anti-fracking struggle

It was standing room only in downtown Vancouver on January 24 as 250 people crowded into a meeting room at Simon Fraser University to hear two Mi'kmaq activists describe the ongoing fight in against gas fracking in the eastern Canadian province of New Brunswick.
Suzanne Patles and Coady Stevens are two veterans of the battle that has fought the frackers to a standstill and inspired continent-wide solidarity actions. The January 24 event was the beginning of a lengthy speaking tour that has them speaking across British Columbia and then moving on to Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario in the coming weeks.

Birth Control Letter In Ottawa Clinic Denies Patients Any Contraceptives

When Kate entered an Ottawa-area walk-in clinic for birth control, all she got was a doctor’s note explaining “no.”

In a post on XOJane, Kate wrote that the note was set on top of a pile of others just like it, each outlining that any requests for birth control, vasectomies, abortions, the morning after pill, or any other form of artificial contraception would be denied due to the doctor’s “professional ethical concerns and religious values.”

Want to See Pay Discrimination Against Women? Look at the Top.

The car industry is no bastion of female empowerment, so it was groundbreaking to see General Motors appoint Mary Barra as CEO in December. She is the first woman not just to run the company, but to run any global carmaker. But on the heels of that historic news came something sadly less surprising: her current pay package is less than half of what was given to the man who just vacated the role. True, as the company has pointed out, she may well get more when shareholders vote later this year on her long-term compensation package, but her base salary and short-term package are lower than the man’s before her. And she is in no way the only female executive to be paid less than the men around them.

Why Widening Inequality is Hobbling Equal Opportunity

Is it to be inequality or equal opportunity?

Under a headline “Obama Moves to the Right in a Partisan War of Words,” The New York Times’ Jackie Calmes notes Democratic operatives have been hitting back hard against the President or any other Democratic politician talking about income inequality, preferring that the Democrats talk about equality of opportunity instead.

“However salient reducing inequality may be,” writes Democratic pollster Mark Mellman, “it is demonstrably less important to voters than any other number of priorities, including reducing poverty.”

Raising The Minimum Wage Is More Popular Than Capitalism

Raising the minimum wage is about as popular an economic policy position as any in America. In fact, more people want to increase the minimum wage than have a positive view of the capitalist system that underpins the nation's economy.

A new HuffPost/YouGov poll found that 62 percent of Americans support raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour, while 26 percent are opposed. Meanwhile, 53 percent have a positive opinion of capitalism, while 19 percent have a negative view.

Free Trade Disagreement

The Obama administration’s negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation trade agreement, have become a test of the compatibility of globalization with the increasing expectation among democratized populations of transparency in government.

The secrecy surrounding the current discussions, which began in 2010, has angered traditional critics of free trade, including the AFL-CIO, Public Citizen and the Sierra Club, but also some of its most ardent backers, including Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, Darrell Issa, a Republican congressman from California, and Jagdish Bhagwati, a professor of law and economics at Columbia who is a leading expert on world trade.

Billionaire Sam Zell Defends Tom Perkins: 'The 1 Percent Work Harder'

When the going gets tough, the rich dudes stick together. Or at least rich dude Sam Zell did in an interview with Bloomberg TV Wednesday.

The billionaire chairman of Equity Group Investments backed up fellow rich guy Tom Perkins, who set off a firestorm when he recently compared the "progressive war on the 1 percent" to Nazi anti-Semitism in a letter to the Wall Street Journal. (He later apologized for using the word "Kristallnacht" but defended the overall "message.")

Egypt's new dictatorship model for the digital age

Egypt was ruled by the Mubarak dictatorship for 30 years before the people managed to overthrow him in 2011.
Mubarak was not overthrown by the Internet. Some business and technological literature claimed that, because the Internet made it more difficult to keep secrets (a valid claim), the "dictator business" was obsolete. An NBC news story from February 2011, hardly unique, described the Egyptian government's attempt to shut down the Internet to slow the spread of public outrage at government atrocities, but did not really offer an argument to substantiate its title "How the internet brought down a dictator."

Tories move to cut short debate on new elections act

OTTAWA – The governing Conservatives moved Wednesday to cut short debate on a new election bill that critics say helps the Tories and weakens oversight by Elections Canada.

House Leader Peter Van Loan gave notice Wednesday afternoon, a day after the 242-page bill was tabled, that the government will vote to send the bill to committee on Thursday, a move that seemed to signal the government plans to push the bill through the legislative process without changes.

Fair Elections Act Unfairly Favours Tories, Opposition Parties Claim

OTTAWA - Canada's former elections watchdog is panning the Harper government's electoral reform bill for giving political parties both a front and back door route to significantly increase spending during campaigns.

And opposition parties say it's no accident that will benefit the party with the deepest pockets — which happens to be Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives.

Indeed, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair charged Wednesday that the bill is mostly about "loading the dice" in favour of the Conservatives, whom he called "serial cheaters."

Medically Discharged Canadian Veterans Denied Benefits In 'Unfair' Process, Ombudsman Warns

OTTAWA - Some Canadian soldiers given medical discharges find they don't qualify for benefits because Veterans Affairs uses different, more stringent criteria in an "unfair" process, the military ombudsman told a Senate committee Wednesday.

Pierre Daigle, whose term ends in a few weeks, said many ex-soldiers have to fight to prove that the conditions that made them ineligible to serve are in fact a result of their service.

At Least 26 Children Or Teens Died In Florida Stand Your Ground Cases

Michael Dunn stands trial this week for the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Jordan Davis after Dunn complained that Davis was playing loud music. Dunn is expected to raise the defense that gained notoriety after the death of Trayvon Martin, Stand Your Ground. (If Martin were still alive, he would turn 19 Wednesday.)
Martin and Dunn are two of at least 26 children and teens who have died in Florida Stand Your Ground cases. Stand Your Ground laws that have proliferated in at least 20 states are associated with vigilantism, authorizing violence by individuals who perceive a “reasonable” imminent threat to their life, without any duty to attempt retreat. But they have also taken the lives of a dramatic number of young victims. Out of 134 fatal Florida casesanalyzed by the Tampa Bay Times in which the Stand Your Ground defense was raised or played a role, 19 percent saw the deaths of children or teens. Another 14 involved victims were 20 or 21. And another 8 teens were injured in nonfatal cases. The Tampa Bay Times last updated its database last year, and there have likely been more such deaths since.

Egypt Army Chief Sisi Says He Will Run For President, Report Says

CAIRO, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Egyptian army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who deposed the country's first freely elected leader, has said he will run for president, a Kuwaiti newspaper reported on Thursday.

The widely expected move is almost certain to increase political tensions and anger Islamist militants who have stepped up attacks on the state since Sisi ousted Islamist leader Mohamed Mursi in July after mass protests against him.

House Passes Republican-Backed California Water Plan

WASHINGTON, Feb 5 (Reuters) - The Republican-led House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a bill that would roll back federal rules to provide more water for farmers and municipalities in California's Central Valley as the state copes with its worst drought in decades.

Backers said the legislation would provide drought relief by permitting federal and state authorities to pump more water out the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta.

Russian Village Used, Abused, and Forgotten by the Olympics

ASHTYR, Russia -- If any one place embodies the allegations of corruption, abuse, and alarming human cost of the Sochi Olympics, it's here.

Ashtyr, a tiny, impoverished village in the foothills between the coastal and mountain parks where the upcoming Winter Games will be held, has been used by Olympic planners for its limestone deposits, suffered from the effects of nearby construction, and had its pleas for help ignored. The benefits of the more than $51 billion spent on the Olympics and related infrastructure investments are nowhere to be seen here.

Election bill reveals Conservatives’ view on voter turnout

It is not only because the long-awaited Conservative electoral reform bill came in at almost 250 pages of legal jargon and a minimum of background information on Tuesday that reaction to its content was initially tentative.
Over the past eight years Stephen Harper’s government has woven more than one piece of legislative tapestry that has featured major threads that did not jump out at observers.

Alberta Government Quietly Funded Researchers Behind ‘Independent’ Report Boosting Keystone XL

Before the State Department released its controversial Environmental Impact Study last week, a consulting firm called IHS CERA primed the news media by releasing its own study last year claiming that the Keystone XL wouldn’t make a substantial difference in emissions. The report was released as an “independent” study. filed a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act request to the Alberta government, and found that taxpayers in Canada paid IHS CERA hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Fuck George Zimmerman and the Culture He Rode In On

For the rest of my life, there won’t be a February that goes by where I won’t reflect on the life of Trayvon Martin and how he went from a boy to a martyr to a symbol of a movement. Trayvon’s death is a painful reminder of the way white supremacy lords over black life in the United States.

And it’s only getting worse.

From CNN:

Let’s get ready to … mumble. As in, what now, George Zimmerman? Seems like the former neighborhood watchman has found yet another way to remain in the public limelight. This time, he’ll be stepping into a boxing ring to fight rapper DMX….

“Prior to the incident, I was actually going to the gym for weight loss and doing boxing-type training for weight loss,” he told Radar. “A mutual friend put me in contact with Damon and provided me with an opportunity and motivation to get back in shape and continue with my weight loss goals and also be able to help a charity out.” Damon is Damon Feldman, owner of Celebrity Boxing and self-described opportunist, whose claim to fame is putting together bizarre matchups. Think Tonya Harding, Michael Lohan. He said last week that he was accepting offers for someone to step into the ring for a three-round, pay-per-view fight with Zimmerman….

'Christian Patrols' Warning In East London Investigated By Police

Muslim community leaders have expressed growing fears of community tension after a far-right group posted a video threatening "Christian patrols" in Tower Hamlets.

The East London Mosque said it was "shocked to note the provocation and antics" of Britain First, a splinter group of the British National Party, which has claimed it carried out ‘Christian Patrols’ outside the mosque last Friday evening. It was a reaction to the so-called "Muslim patrols" by individuals in the area, where a number of Muslims had threatened to attack gay people and confiscate alcohol.

Israel gives permits for 550 settlement homes

Israel has approved plans for more than 550 new homes in three settlement neighbourhoods of occupied East Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem municipality said its planning committee had granted permits to build 386 units in Har Homa, 136 units in Neve Yaakov and 36 units in Pisgat Zeev; built on land taken by Israel in 1967.

Israel captured East Jerusalem and other territory during the 1967 conflict and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.

Canada-U.S. Tax Deal Means CRA Will Report To IRS

OTTAWA - Canadian financial institutions won't be forced to report directly to American tax authorities under a new deal with Washington on a law aimed at rooting out tax cheats north of the border.

"To be clear, the agreement will not impose any new or higher taxes, and CRA will not assist ... in collection of U.S. tax penalties," junior finance minister Kevin Sorenson said Wednesday in the House of Commons.

But it's still unclear whether the changes will cost banks tens of millions of dollars in administrative fees.

Harper's election reform menu has too many poison pills

Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre's new, self-styled "Fair Elections Act" does contain at least a few positive changes.
Even Opposition Critics such as the NDP's Craig Scott recognize that.
The Act would create a registry of "voter contact" calls, for instance, although records will only be maintained for a year, and it would put those "contact" activities under the supervision of the CRTC.
The Act also introduces prison terms for impersonating an Elections Canada official, and increased penalties for the use of deception to prevent people from voting.