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, March 27, 2014

25 Percent Of People In Mississippi Can't Afford Food

Twenty-five percent of Mississippi residents struggled to afford food last year -- more so than any other state -- a new Gallup report found.

For the sixth straight year, Mississippians were the most likely to have problems putting food on the table, according to the report. Those who revealed that they’ve been struggling said that there was at least one point in the past year when they didn’t have enough funds to buy the nourishment they or their families needed.

Rent Prices Shut Out Minimum-Wage Workers In Every State: Report

Think the rent is too damn high? Well, it actually is. No matter where you live in the country, a new report says that no full-time worker making minimum wage can adequately afford a one-bedroom or two-bedroom rental at fair market rent.

Faced with that bleak fact, it makes perfect sense why President Obama and Congress have been making such a big push to raise the federal minimum wage.

13 examples of the Harper government's anti-democratic abuses

Recently, it has not been a good time for the Harper government and they have also shown a disturbing pattern of illegal and anti-democratic abuses.

Here is a baker's dozen of examples with two highly unsettling themes: (1) ignoring the rule of law and (2) flouting the traditional processes of parliamentary democracy.

1. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Harper government's legislation making retroactive changes to parole eligibility breaches the Charter of Rights and is thus unconstitutional.

Canada's Telecoms Have Built Databases For Police Spying: Geist

Canada’s telecoms appear to be building databases of subscriber information that law enforcement agencies can access without a warrant, according to documents released under access to information laws.

The news comes as Parliament once again gears up to debate the merits of giving police greater access to telecom subscriber data.

Ring Of Fire Agreement Places Northern Ontario Project Step Closer To Reality

Ontario and Matawa First Nations have reached a momentous agreement that paves the way for progress in developing the lucrative but lumbering Ring of Fire mining project.

The province’s Ministry of Northern Development and Mines said Wednesday that the agreement had been signed by the province and the chiefs of all nine member First Nations of the Matawa Tribal Council.

Egypt Announces New Mass Trials As Prosecutor Charges 919 Islamists

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's chief prosecutor on Wednesday ordered two trials for a total of 919 suspected Islamists on charges that include murder, pushing ahead with a series of mass tribunals of supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi despite international criticism.

The policy of mass trials sparked an uproar among rights groups after a judge this week issued death sentences against more than 520 defendants on charges of killing a policeman during an attack on a police station last summer.

Inherited wealth is an injustice. Let's end it

Inherited wealth is the great taboo of British politics. Nobody likes to talk about it, but it determines a huge number of outcomes: from participation in public life, to access to education, to the ability to save or purchase property. When David Cameron recently promised to raise the threshold for inheritance tax to £1m and praised "people who have worked hard and saved", he is singing from the hymn sheet of inherited inequality: it is, after all, easier to save if you inherit substantial sums to squirrel away, or if you can lock money in property that is virtually guaranteed to offer huge returns. Hard work has very little to do with it.

British Columbia Enacted the Most Significant Carbon Tax in the Western Hemisphere. What Happened Next Is It Worked.

SUPPOSE THAT YOU LIVE IN VANCOUVER and you drive a car to work. Naturally, you have to get gas regularly. When you stop at the pump, you may see a notice like the one above, explaining that part of the price you're paying is, in effect, due to the cost of carbon. That's because in 2008, the government of British Columbia decided to impose a tax on greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, enacting what has been called "the most significant carbon tax in the Western Hemisphere by far."

Corporate Religious Freedom Means Freedom to Discriminate

Reports from the Supreme Court, where the Hobby Lobby case was argued today, suggest that a majority of the judges appear sympathetic to the idea that corporations are not just people, but people with religious liberty. “The court seemed ready to accept that at least some for-profit corporations may advance claims based on religious freedom,” Adam Liptak wrote in The New York Times. Granted, it’s easy to read too much into the judges’ questions, and no one knows how the case will ultimately be decided. Still, it seems possible that logic of the Citizens United case – that corporate “persons” have the same first amendment rights to political speech as individuals – is about to be expanded, with frightening implications that go far beyond birth control.

Solar Power Is Now Just As Cheap As Conventional Electricity In Italy And Germany

Once all its costs are accounted for, the price of commercial solar power has pulled even with retail electricity rates in Italy and Germany, according to a new report.
The analysis is the third installment in a regular report by the consulting firm Eclareon, done on behalf of an international group of sustainable energy interests. This installment was also the first to look at solar power in the commercial sector rather than the residential sector. It looked at a standard 30 kilowatt solar photovoltaic system for your average commercial building, and the built a methodology to assess its “leveled cost of energy” (LCOE) in seven different countries: Brazil, Chile, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico and Spain.

BP Refinery Leaks Oil Into Lake Michigan

A BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana leaked an unknown amount of oil into Lake Michigan Monday afternoon, an incident that occurred less than two weeks after the U.S. lifted BP’s ban on seeking new oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico.
BP says the spill, which has since been stopped and contained, was caused by a “disruption in the refining process” at its Whiting refinery in northwest Indiana. Dan Goldblatt, spokesman at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, told ThinkProgress that his office was notified at about 4:30 CDT Monday of an oil sheen, which EPA officials said on a press call Thursday totaled about 5,000 square yards, on Lake Michigan. Mike Beslow, On-Scene Coordinator for the EPA, said that when he visited the site around 9 p.m. Monday, the sheen was no longer visible. Neither Goldblatt nor EPA officials had information on how much oil had spilled, but CBS, citing unnamed sources, reports that between 10 and 12 barrels — around 500 gallons — spilled into the lake.

The New Billionaire Political Bosses

Charles and David Koch should not be blamed for having more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of Americans put together. Nor should they be condemned for their petrochemical empire. As far as I know, they’ve played by the rules and obeyed the laws.

They’re also entitled to their own right-wing political views. It’s a free country.

But in using their vast wealth to change those rules and laws in order to fit their political views, the Koch brothers are undermining our democracy. That’s a betrayal of the most precious thing Americans share.

Gas Prices Will Feel The Brunt Of Falling Loonie

Canada’s falling loonie is good news for exporters but bad news for consumers, who face higher prices as the dollar loses its spending power on global markets.

That’s especially true when it comes to gas prices. Economist Philip Cross, formerly StatsCan’s chief economic analyst, crunched the numbers to see exactly what a falling dollar would do to prices at the pump. Here’s a chart of Cross’ findings, compiled by the Globe and Mail:
gas price chart

UK To Start Buying Gas From Russia Despite Threats Of Sanctions Over Crimea

Britain is set to start buying gas directly from Russia this year despite EU politicians threatening to bring in further sanctions against Moscow amid tensions over the crisis in Ukraine.

Centrica, the UK's largest energy firm that owns British Gas, will start importing Russian gas directly from this October in a deal signed back in 2012, Reuters reported.


Two weeks ago, I was invited to testify before the Senate Finance Committee on the subject of the economic problems of the middle class. Senator Ron Wyden, of Oregon, who became chairman of the committee in February, let me know that he wanted someone to bring news from outside Washington to the hearing. He wanted me to tell a few of the stories about hard-pressed Americans from my book “The Unwinding,” to help him steer the committee’s agenda in a new direction. This isn’t the sort of request I regularly receive, so I said yes.

Cost of Marc Nadon appointment process? $250K

The federal government spent nearly $250,000 to review the aborted nomination of Marc Nadon to fill a Quebec vacancy on the Supreme Court of Canada — an appointment the court struck down last week.
Documents tabled in the Commons set out the costs of choosing and nominating Nadon.
The total includes $80,894 for legal services and another $152,294 for translation and other professional services.

Buyer beware: A guide to anti-choice advertising

Two pro-choice organizations in Nova Scotia recently ran a successful grassroots campaign to counteract anti-choice advertising on buses in Halifax, raising enough money to produce their own ads for the sexual and reproductive health services that they offer in their clinics. A petition is also calling to remove the anti-choice ads. Their campaign was driven by seeing an uptick in ads presenting misinformation and false claims about the risk of abortion on local transit. But who is behind the anti-choice ads in the first place?

Nova Scotia threatens to sweep away patient care with nurses' right to strike

Let me see if I understand this.
Capital District nurses have the legal right to strike. In February, they voted 90 per cent in favour of striking to back contract demands. But if they actually walk off their jobs, they will effectively -- and almost instantly -- lose that right. (See the McNeil government's legislation forcing striking home-care workers to return to their posts even before the ink on their picket signs was dry. McNeil will do the same if nurses down their stethoscopes.)
So what are their options?
The nurses could quit.
Oh… no, they can't.

Top five posts on the UnFair Elections Act

Today is the National Day of Action to stop the Conservatives' vote-suppressing election law, Bill C-23 the Fair Elections Act. Communities are speaking out and joining together to protest the UnFair Elections Act by delivering a joint petition to Conservative and Opposition MP offices.

Canada Blocking UN Support for Harm Reduction: Observers

Observers attending international drug control negotiations at the UN Commission for Narcotic Drugs last week in Vienna say Canadian negotiators helped block the inclusion of life-saving harm reduction health strategies within future international drug policies.

"It was clear that the delegation's hands were tied," said Don MacPherson, director of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition and adjunct professor in the faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University. "Our diplomatic delegation had instructions from Ottawa to not mention harm reduction and to get the term deleted from the statement."

Betting at the Copper Casino

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- British Columbia copper ends up in smartphones, in the cars we drive, in our plumbing and electrical systems, as well as in our scrap yards and landfills. But to understand how it gets there, you need to visit a nondescript office tower on Pender Street in Vancouver's financial district. Or perhaps more aptly put, Vancouver's mining district.

If mining capital were mineral ore, Vancouver would be the mother lode of all mother lodes. More publicly-traded mining companies are headquartered here (and in Toronto) than anywhere else on earth: 60 per cent of all mining corporations on the planet are found in Canada. Their collective market value in 2012 approached half a trillion dollars: an estimated $449 billion. (See sidebar.)

Housing Watchdog Slams Massive Property Inspection Industry

The inspectors who decide whether homes have been abandoned and are ready for foreclosure are doing such a terrible job that the whole system requires a major overhaul, and maybe should be scrapped altogether, a government watchdog warned on Tuesday.

Property inspectors hired by banks and other mortgage companies are routinely doctoring photographs to make it look as if they have visited a property when they actually haven't, among other serious record-keeping errors, according to a report by the inspector general of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the nation's top housing regulator.

Supreme Court Struggles In Hobby Lobby Case With Question Of Companies' Religious Rights

WASHINGTON -- Justices on the Supreme Court seemed to struggle Tuesday with the question of whether a private company can get out of a federal law by citing the religious beliefs of its shareholders.

Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a Christian-owned crafts supply chain, and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., owned by Mennonite Christians, are challenging the provision of the Affordable Care Act that requires for-profit companies to include all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives in their health insurance plans.

Harper: government respects Nadon decision

THE HAGUE, Netherlands - The Conservative government intends to respect the Supreme Court's decision to deny Marc Nadon the chance to occupy the vacant Quebec seat on the high court bench, says Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

But the government is still reviewing the decision about Nadon's eligibility, which Harper admitted Tuesday left him "very surprised."

"What I can tell you is this: we're obviously going to respect the decision," Harper told a news conference following the conclusion of the two-day Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague.

Five Offenses That Can Land Kids (But Not Adults) In Jail

Supporters of the U.S. criminal justice system often justify locking people up in jails and prisons by saying that this promotes public safety. Given how many prisoners are serving extraordinarily long sentences for non-violent offenses, this line of reasoning is questionable to begin with. But what about people who are detained for something that's not even a crime? Across the country, thousands of children are removed from their homes and confined in juvenile facilities for offenses that would not be considered criminal if committed by an adult. A new report from the Texas Public Policy Foundation, "Kids Doing Time for What's Not a Crime," explores the nationwide phenomenon of "status offenses" and the long-term effects this treatment can have on already vulnerable young people.