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.]

Friday, April 18, 2014

Why Do Bosses Want Their Employees’ Salaries to Be Secret?

Asking someone at a party how much they make in a year might get you a weird look. Asking someone about their salary at work might get you fired. Seem unfair? Don’t bother complaining: Washington just once again reaffirmed the boss’s inalienable right to punish workers for talking about whether they’re being treated fairly.

Israel Celebrates a Return to the Status Quo in the Middle East

Arguments about Israel/Palestine often turn, I’ve noticed, on when one chooses to start the clock. The most recent flare-up began, in this view, at 7 am on Tuesday, April 1, when Housing Minister Uri Ariel of the far-right Jewish Home Party issued tenders for 708 new homes in the illegal East Jerusalem settlement of Gilo. In doing so, he set off a sequence of events that saw the Palestinians deciding to apply for membership in fifteen international organizations, which led Israel to reject the deal that Secretary of State John Kerry had painstakingly assembled (in which Israel would release over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners and extend the peace negotiations for four months, while receiving the gift of freedom for superspy-traitor Jonathan Pollard in return). The day ended with chief Israeli negotiator and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni threatening the Palestinians not only with cancellation of the previously agreed-upon prisoner release, but with additional, potentially devastating economic sanctions. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat parried with a threat to “pursue [the Israelis] as war criminals in all the international forums.”

Fracking Linked To Earthquakes In Ohio, New Permit Conditions Issued

COLUMBUS, Ohio - State geologists in Ohio have for the first time linked earthquakes in a geologic formation deep under the Appalachians to gas drilling, leading the state to issue new permit conditions in certain areas that are among the nation's strictest.

A state investigation of five small tremors in the Youngstown area, in the Appalachian foothills, last month has found the high-pressure injection of sand and water that accompanies hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the Utica Shale may have increased pressure on a small, unknown fault, said State Oil & Gas Chief Rick Simmers. He called the link "probable."

Truth In Sentencing Act, Tories' Sentencing Law, Downed By Supreme Court

OTTAWA - The bell has sounded ending one more round in what is shaping up to be a long-running bout between the county's highest court and the Harper government.

The latest skirmish erupted Friday when the Supreme Court of Canada once again softened the Conservative government's tough-on-crime agenda.

In a unanimous 7-0 ruling, the high court affirmed that offenders can receive extra credit for time spent in custody before they are sentenced.

NSA Knew About And 'Exploited' Heartbleed For Years: Bloomberg

The Heartbleed bug just went from bad to worse to truly, utterly terrifying.

The National Security Agency knew of the existence of the catastrophic bug for at least two years and kept it a secret from the public and the cybersecurity community in order to exploit it, according to a bombshell report from Bloomberg News. However, the agency is denying the story.

Free transit: Three reasons it is an idea whose time has come

On January 1, 2013, Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, became the largest city in the world to make mass transit free for its residents. While the effects of having done this are, of course, specific to the context of the city itself, it has shown that a major city can do it and that it is has been widely popular with its residents. It has also focused attention on a growing international movement of groups, activists and parties who feel that free mass transit in major urban areas is an important social and environmental goal to be worked towards in the near future.

CIA's 'Harsh Interrogations' Exceeded Legal Authority, Report Finds

WASHINGTON, April 10 (Reuters) - A classified U.S. Senate report found that the CIA's legal justification for the use of harsh interrogation techniques that critics say amount to torture was based on faulty legal reasoning, McClatchy news service reported on Thursday.

The Central Intelligence Agency also issued erroneous claims about how many people it subjected to techniques such as simulated drowning, or "water boarding," according to the news service, citing conclusions from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report obtained by McClatchy.

Can We Trust What Israeli Leaders Say on Iran?

Israeli President Shimon Peres visited Vienna ahead of the latest round of nuclear talks between Iran and world powers there this week. Peres stopped by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). And he brought a warning. "The implementation of the agreement between the agency and Iran is proceeding, unfortunately, at a slow pace. Iran is buying time, but not answering the call," he said in remarks made available to the press. "Iran does not uphold its commitment to cooperate with the Agency's investigation and does not provide full transparency."

Clark's Hidden Ties to Investment Bank RCI Revealed

The Vancouver businessman that named Christy Clark a founding director of a company he formed in 2007 claimed in a January interview that she was never connected to his company.

A story in the April 10 National Post, based on leaked documents, showed Clark was contracted as chair of an RCI Capital Group international education subsidiary in Sept. 2007, two years after she originally left the BC Liberal government and was hosting an afternoon talk show on CKNW AM 980.

Venezuela protest crackdown threatens region's democracy, warns Vargas Llosa

The Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa has warned that Venezuela's crackdown on anti-government street protests is a threat to democracy across Latin America.
In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, the Nobel laureate saidNicolás Maduro's government was becoming a "messianic dictatorship" intent on spreading its influence across the region.
"If the regime in Venezuela crushes the resistance and becomes a totalitarian regime, I think all democratic Latin American countries would be threatened because the explicit goal of the Venezuelan government is to expand," he said from his home in the Peruvian capital, Lima. "As our democracies are quite fragile and weak this threat is extremely worrying because it can succeed."

Why US fracking companies are licking their lips over Ukraine

The way to beat Vladimir Putin is to flood the European market with fracked-in-the-USA natural gas, or so the industry would have us believe. As part of escalating anti-Russian hysteria, two bills have been introduced into the US Congress – one in the House of Representatives (H.R. 6), one in the Senate (S. 2083) – that attempt to fast-track liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports, all in the name of helping Europe to wean itself from Putin's fossil fuels, and enhancing US national security.

Satellite images reveal Russian military buildup on Ukraine's border

Nato has released satellite images of the Russian military buildup on Ukraine’s eastern border: a powerful concentration of fighter planes, helicopters, artillery, infantry and special forces which officials say could be ready to move with just 12 hours notice.

The images appear to undermine official suggestions from Moscow that there is nothing unusual about the troop movements, nor any reason to be alarmed.

New Rule Prohibits Voters In Miami-Dade County From Using The Restroom, No Matter How Long The Line

During the 2012 presidential election, voters reportedly waited on line for upwards of six hours. That wait alone is enough to deter would-be voters from going to the polls. But now residents in Florida’s most populous county will have another disincentive: they won’t be able to go to the bathroom.

Prison Culture: How Biases Trump Evidence and Land People in Jail

There are many ways to tell a story. Here’s one: In 2012, Chinese-Americans Grace and Matthew Huang moved with their three children from Los Angeles to Qatar for a construction project on which Mr. Huang was an engineer. In January 2013, their 8-year-old daughter, Gloria, who had been diagnosed with serious eating disorders, died of cachexia and dehydration. In March, the Huangs were sentenced to three years in a Qatari prison for homicide.

Putin Warns Europe About Ukraine's Gas Debts

MOSCOW (AP) — Vladimir Putin warned Europe on Thursday that it may face a shutdown of Russian natural gas supplies if it fails to help Ukraine settle its enormous Russian gas bill — a debt that far exceeds a bailout package offered by the International Monetary Fund.

The Russian president's letter to 18 mostly Eastern European leaders, released Thursday by the Kremlin, aimed to divide the 28-nation European Union and siphon off to Russia the billions that the international community plans to lend to Ukraine. It was all part of Russia's efforts to retain control over its struggling neighbor, which is teetering on the verge of financial ruin and facing a pro-Russian separatist mutiny in the east.

Wall Street, GOP Poised For Mutual Gain From Supreme Court's McCutcheon Decision

WASHINGTON -- Who will benefit first from McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission? The Republican Party and the financial industry are already primed to take advantage of the Supreme Court's April 2 ruling.

The decision, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, ended longstanding aggregate limits on campaign contributions, which would have prevented a donor in this election cycle from giving more than $48,600 to federal candidates, more than $74,600 to political parties and PACs, and more than $123,200 overall.

The three key moments in Canada's neoliberal transformation

The last three decades have witnessed a far-reaching transformation of the Canadian economy, politics and culture. Canada is not unique in experiencing this neoliberal transformation, of course, but it has been as dramatic, thorough and socially destructive here as almost anywhere else in the industrialized world. Even before that transformation began, Canada was hardly a model of inclusion, equality, and democracy. But in the latter years of the postwar expansion, Canada progressed both economically and socially. Living standards were improving quickly for most -- fuelled by rising real wages (which doubled in a generation), and a dramatic expansion of the social wage (including the introduction of national medicare, unemployment insurance and the Canada Pension Plan within six remarkable years, from 1965 through 1971). We were catching up to the U.S. economically (and surpassing it socially), escaping our traditional status as "poor cousins" to the North. And we carved a unique and somewhat independent role for the country in global economic, political and military affairs. This confidence, hope and momentum was symbolized by Canada's hosting of Expo 67 in Montreal, the year of the country's centenary -- officially opened with then-prime minister Lester Pearson's claim that it constituted "one of the most daring acts of faith in Canadian enterprise and ability ever undertaken."

The Politics Around Welfare Show Why the Poor Need a Real Break, Not Just a Tax Break

The Earned Income Tax Credit occupies a curious space in Washington’s budget wars: it’s the rare welfare program conservatives can embrace, because it can be presented as a tax rebate, rather than a benefits check. A brainchild of the Nixon administration, the EITC has long been held up as an “incentive to work,” presumably in contrast to public assistance programs that support the unemployed.

And so the EITC, along with the parallel Child Tax Credit (CTC) aimed directly at supporting children within a household, are key pillars of both the White House budget proposal as well as the far-right counter-proposal of Representative Paul Ryan. While he rails against public assistance in general for supposedly destroying a “culture of work,” Ryan has praised the EITC as part of a conservative anti-poverty agenda, in which “federal assistance should not be a way station [but] an onramp—a quick drive back into the hustle and bustle of life.”

How the Supreme Court Blowtorched Democracy and What You Can Do About It

In 1971, before becoming an associate justice of the Supreme Court, Lewis Powell penned a memo to the director of the US Chamber of Commerce advocating a comprehensive strategy to strengthen corporate power in America. Powell wrote, “Under our constitutional system, especially with an activist-minded Supreme Court, the judiciary may be the most important instrument for social, economic and political change.” In its recent McCutcheon v. FEC ruling, which overturned forty years of campaign finance law by repealing federal limits on overall individual campaign contributions, the Court was not so much an instrument as a blowtorch, searing a hole in the fabric of our democracy.

Head Of Top Conservative Think Tank Makes Spectacularly Uninformed Statement About Slavery

Jim DeMint, the former U.S. senator from South Carolina who now leads the conservative Heritage Foundation, went on a Christian radio show last week where he discussed the topic of slavery. He offered some rather unusual views on the subject of slavery while he was a guest on this show.
Well the reason that the slaves were eventually freed was the Constitution, it was like the conscience of the American people. Unfortunately there were some court decisions like Dred Scott and others that defined some people as property, but the Constitution kept calling us back to ‘all men are created equal and we have inalienable rights’ in the minds of God. But a lot of the move to free the slaves came from the people, it did not come from the federal government. It came from a growing movement among the people, particularly people of faith, that this was wrong. People like Wilberforce who persisted for years because of his faith and because of his love for people. So no liberal is going to win a debate that big government freed the slaves. In fact, it was Abraham Lincoln, the very first Republican, who took this on as a cause and a lot of it was based on a love in his heart that comes from God.

Republicans Say No to Workers, Women, Gays and Mine Safety All in One Day

Claiming to stand for “working families,” Republicans in Congress voted down measures that would increase the minimum wage, protect gays and lesbians from workplace discrimination, broaden equal pay guarantees for women, and finally do something about mine safety four years after the Upper Big Branch disaster.

How was your Wednesday?

One committee alone, the Education and Workforce Committee in the House, shot down three of the big ideas, which were proposed as amendments to a GOP effort to kneecap unions. The chairman of that committee, Republican John Kline of Minnesota, dismissed his colleagues’ parliamentary maneuvering: “Today’s antics are further proof that Democrats have different priorities than working families.”

Kim Jong Un 'Re-Elected' To Top Post, Surprising Absolutely No One

The only news coming out of North Korea that is hardly ever shocking are the country's "election" results.

Pushing the terminology of democracy to its very limit, North Korea's parliament "re-elected" Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un as the head of the country's military body, Agence France Press reports on Wednesday. The announcement of Kim's victory was made by North Korean state media, which added that "all the deputies and participants in the session broke into stormy cheers of 'hurrah!', extending the highest glory and warmest congratulations to him."

Putin Turns Up Economic Heat Ahead Of Ukraine Talks

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin turned up the heat on Ukraine on Wednesday by threatening to demand advance payment for gas supplies, a move designed to exert economic pressure as Ukraine confronts possible bankruptcy, a mutiny by pro-Russian separatists in the east and a Russian military buildup across the border.

NATO's top commander in Europe warned that the alliance could respond to the Russian military threat against Ukraine by deploying U.S. troops to Eastern Europe, but Putin's latest tactics suggest he may be aiming to secure Russia's clout with its neighbor without invading.