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.]

Monday, September 08, 2014

Xi Jinping Battles for a 'Chinese Communist Party 2.0'

Four major changes have occurred in China since President Xi Jinping took power: the concentration of power in the hands of Xi, an iron-handed war against corruption, the bold "Third Plenary Session reforms" and much tighter controls on speech and thought.

All of the changes originate from one cause: the deterioration in governance over the 10 years of the previous administration of President Hu Jintao that led to grave problems for the economy, politics and society and threatens the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) regime.

Russian Journalist: 'Convincing Evidence' Moscow Sent Fighters To Ukraine

Finally good news out of Ukraine. After five months of fighting between government troops and pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country, representatives of both parties reached an agreement on Friday to end hostilities and negotiate a permanent settlement.
Looming large over the negotiations was the question of Russian involvement in the conflict and western leaders' accusations that Moscow had systematically worked to deepen the Ukrainian crisis.
The extent of Russia's involvement in separatist violence in past months has been fiercely contested. Russia denies it has had any hand at all in the violence, while Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Moscow of having sent thousands of troops and military equipment across the border.
To better understand reports of a Russian presence in east Ukraine, The WorldPost turned to Elena Racheva, a special correspondent for Russia's Novaya Gazetaopposition newspaper. Racheva says that she has found "convincing" evidence that Russian troops have been sent to fight in Ukraine.
Who are the main groups fighting the government in east Ukraine?
I had the chance to talk to some of the rebels in the Russian town of Donetsk [not to be confused with the Ukrainian town of Donetsk]. About three-quarters of them were originally from Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk regions and a quarter of them were Russian citizens. Many of the rebels from both of these groups had fought in the Russian wars in Chechnya or Afghanistan. They wanted to fight again. They had blindly trusted Russian media and repeated Russian TV stories about Ukrainian forces using phosphorus bombs and children being crucified.
Relatives of Russian soldiers told me that while soldiers were occasionally sent on short-term missions inside Ukraine in July, the situation started to change at the beginning of August, when the Ukrainian army was able to push back the separatist rebels. Russia then started sending in larger regiments and military equipment, although without any identifying markings or license plates. I have no idea what the current proportion of Ukrainian separatist volunteers to Russian troops is. No journalist does.
Does this mean that Russia is actually sending forces to Ukraine?
Some soldiers were going voluntarily in June and July. Their relatives told me that army chiefs offered them big salaries to retire from the military and go to Ukraine as "volunteers" without official documents, although only a small number of soldiers agreed to do this.
The situation changed later on, and soldiers are now forced to go. Usually it works like this -- the regiment is sent to the Russian-Ukrainian border for "training" and after a while they get the order to go into Ukraine. I know of at least one case when soldiers who refused were threatened with prosecution.
Sometimes the soldiers aren't even told where are they going. For example, the uncle of one seriously wounded paratrooper told me that on Aug. 3, his nephew was told they were being deployed from Ulyanovsk in central Russia to Chebarkul in the east. After a few hours they realized they weren't going east at all, but west towards Ukraine. He didn’t jump out of the car and didn’t refuse to go into Ukraine, but I doubt he could be considered a volunteer.
What evidence is there that Russian troops are fighting in Ukraine?
The evidence is simple but convincing -- soldiers who have been killed, wounded or captured. I personally talked to the relatives of paratroopers from the 331st regiment of Russia's 98th Guards Airborne Division, who were killed and captured about 20 km [about 12 miles] inside Ukraine. I also spoke to the family of a soldier from the 31st Air Assault Brigade from Ulyanovsk who lost his leg in a fight in Ukraine, and the mother of a soldier from Division 2777 based in Chechnya, who died near the Ukrainian town of Snizhne. Russian officials admitted that troops had been captured, but President Vladimir Putin said they got lost while patrolling the border.
How is this being covered in the Russian media?
Quite poorly. There are not many free media outlets that dare to write about such things. State media only publishes the official version of the events. They tell their audience that Russia is not fighting in Ukraine, that soldiers captured there got lost on the border and that those who were killed have not died because they won't admit these men ever existed.
The independent media do try to present all the evidence they can find. For example, one small regional newspaper called Pskovskaya Guberniya reported on the secret funeral of two paratroopers from the town of Pskov who had been killed in Ukraine. This local newspaper with three staff writers became the first media outlet to prove Russian casualties in this war. The newspaper's website went down within a few hours of publishing the story because of the huge traffic. A few days later the newspaper's publisher Lev Shlosberg was beaten up near his house. He's still in the hospital with a broken nose and serious concussion. He says the attack was revenge for their reporting.
How have Russians reacted to reports of their troops fighting in Ukraine?
Russian society is terribly split. After I reported on the death of a 20-year-old Russian lance sergeant in Ukraine hundreds of people contacted his mother on social media. One-third offered condolences, one-third accused her of lying, and another third, mostly Ukrainians, said he deserved to die for fighting in Ukraine. She was hysterical and I felt terrible -- neither of us expected that level of hatred. Each third reveals something about Russia's reaction. Some people, like myself, feel a mixture of shame, horror, anger, regret and remorse. Some feel pure hatred towards the troops. And others just trust state media and don’t believe its happening at all. I’m afraid the last group is the biggest. But as more and more evidence that Russia is involved in this war comes out, people are beginning the painful process of accepting this. It will not be easy, and it will take us some time to move from denial to understanding, acceptance and regret.
Original Article
Author: The Huffington Post | By Charlotte Alfred

Somalia's Al Shabab Confirms Ahmed Godane Dead, Names New Leader

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Somalia's Islamic extremist rebels, al-Shabab, named a new leader Saturday after confirming the killing of their previous leader by a U.S. airstrike, a commander of the group said.

The Somali militants unanimously selected Ahmad Umar, also known as Abu Ubaidah, at a meeting in an undisclosed location in Somalia, said rebel commander Abu Mohammed.

Zephyr Teachout Tried To Say Hello To Andrew Cuomo. It Did Not Go Well

New York Democratic gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout spotted incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) at Saturday's Labor Day parade, put on a smile and made her way through the crowd to say hello. It did not go well.

In a video recorded by NYTrue, Teachout is seen approaching Cuomo and his staff amid a packed parade route. "Hey, how are you doing?" she says to Cuomo aide Joe Percoco.

The progressive Fordham Law professor then attempts to approach the governor, but the aide quickly blocks her way. When Teachout moved around the aide to try again, he blocks her once more. At one point in the video, Teachout extends her arm and said "Hi," before Cuomo turned his head to greet New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

A reporter asked Cuomo about the awkward encounter at an afternoon press conference.

"I know she was at the parade, but I didn't get a chance to talk to her," he responded.

Original Article
Author: Igor Bobic

Reckless Policies, Dire Consequences

The Netanyahu-led government's announcement of its decision to annex nearly 1,000 acres of Palestinian land in the West Bank between the Etzion settlement block and Jerusalem amounts to nothing less than a reckless and offensive act that only further undermines Israel's moral international standing and has dire future consequences.

Netanyahu's hypocrisy was put on full display when he blamed Hamas for the abduction and gruesome murder of three Israeli teenagers, which subsequently led to the Gaza war, only to expropriate land in the West Bank to punish the Palestinian Authority.

Stop and seize

After the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the government called on police to become the eyes and ears of homeland security on America’s highways.

Local officers, county deputies and state troopers were encouraged to act more aggressively in searching for suspicious people, drugs and other contraband. The departments of Homeland Security and Justice spent millions on police training.

Foreign Powers Buy Influence at Think Tanks

WASHINGTON — The agreement signed last year by the Norway Ministry of Foreign Affairs was explicit: For $5 million, Norway’s partner in Washington would push top officials at the White House, at the Treasury Department and in Congress to double spending on a United States foreign aid program.

But the recipient of the cash was not one of the many Beltway lobbying firms that work every year on behalf of foreign governments.

It was the Center for Global Development, a nonprofit research organization, or think tank, one of many such groups in Washington that lawmakers, government officials and the news media have long relied on to provide independent policy analysis and scholarship.

More than a dozen prominent Washington research groups have received tens of millions of dollars from foreign governments in recent years while pushing United States government officials to adopt policies that often reflect the donors’ priorities, an investigation by The New York Times has found.

The money is increasingly transforming the once-staid think-tank world into a muscular arm of foreign governments’ lobbying in Washington. And it has set off troubling questions about intellectual freedom: Some scholars say they have been pressured to reach conclusions friendly to the government financing the research.

Original Article

B.C. Teachers' Strike: Province Rejects Binding Arbitration

VANCOUVER - British Columbia's government has turned down a proposal to try to end the province's teachers strike, rejecting a suggestion to enter into binding arbitration.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender said government negotiator Peter Cameron advised against such a move.

Fassbender issued a statement on Saturday saying he agreed, calling the teachers' union proposal a "another empty effort" to give parents and teachers "false hope."

Most university undergrads now taught by poorly paid part-timers

Kimberley Ellis Hale has been an instructor at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., for 16 years. This summer, while teaching an introductory course in sociology, she presented her students with a role-playing game to help them understand how precarious economic security is for millions of Canadian workers.

In her scenario, students were told they had lost their jobs, their marriage had broken up, and they needed to find someplace to live.  And they had to figure out a way to live on just $1,000 a month.

James Moore Calls Provincial Trade Barriers 'Perfect Storm Of Dumb'

VANCOUVER - Federal Industry Minister James Moore says trade barriers between provinces are "the perfect storm of dumb."

In a speech to business leaders at the Vancouver Board of Trade, Moore says its easier to sell goods internationally than interprovincially.

Moore says it doesn't make sense for businesses to complain about competition between provinces, because they're already competing with companies abroad through international trade agreements.

Moore is pushing for an agreement between all premiers by the end of the year that would break down internal trade barriers across Canada.

In July, the premiers of Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. issued a joint letter supporting freer trade.

Critics have called Canada's Agreement on Internal Trade that governs trade between provinces ineffective and say it hasn't increased business.

Original Article
Author: CP

Canada sending special ops personnel to Iraq

Several dozen Canadian special ops forces will deploy to Iraq as part of a military adviser mission that the federal government announced on Friday, CTV News has learned.

More than 100 members of the Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR) will take part in the new mission. The regiment regularly trains and advises foreign militaries on counter-terrorism efforts.

Cop Charged With Sexually Assaulting 7 Black Women Released From Jail

Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Ken Holtzclaw was released from jail Friday as he faces charges for allegedly sexually assaulting 7 different African American women while he was on duty. Among the claims against him are forcible rape, burglary, and felonious stalking.
The judge who initially set his bond at $5 million said he researched his target victims and tracked them down before assaulting them, according to Michigan Live. The 27-year-old former college football player’s bond was later reduced and he paid $500,000 to be released from jail and placed on home arrest. Holtzclaw was removed from duty in June after a women reported a sexual assault during a traffic stop. Many other women subsequently came forward.

Why are we hesitant to name white male violence as a root cause of #MMIW?

Over the past few weeks, we have seen a rise in media coverage of violence against Indigenous girls and women following the murder of 15 year old Tina Fontaine. Discussion reached its peak last week during the annual meeting of premiers, which was seen as a venue to push for action to address the root causes of this ongoing atrocity. Yet as the meeting fades out of memory and Tina becomes the latest in the seemingly endless string of murdered young women, I fear that this flurry of dialogue and public outrage has yet again failed to bring about real change.

Black Women Are The Only Demographic Not Gaining Jobs

African-American women are the only demographic in the United States whose unemployment rate has not improved over the past year, according to a National Women's Law Center analysis of the latest jobs data.

The overall unemployment rate dropped from 7.2 percent to 6.1 percent between August 2013 and August 2014, and women's unemployment rate dropped from 6.2 percent to 5.7 percent, the NWLC noted. During that same time, however, the unemployment rate for black women remained stagnant at 10.6 percent.

Legal memos released on Bush-era justification for warrantless wiretapping

The Justice Department released two decade-old memos Friday night, offering the fullest public airing to date of the Bush administration’s legal justification for the warrantless wiretapping of Americans’ phone calls and e-mails — a program that began in secret after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The broad outlines of the argument — that the president has inherent constitutional power to monitor Americans’ communications without a warrant in a time of war — were known, but the sweep of the reasoning becomes even clearer in the memos written by then-Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith, who was head of President George W. Bush’s Office of Legal Counsel.

The Bankruptcy of Detroit and the Division of America

Detroit is the largest city ever to seek bankruptcy protection, so its bankruptcy is seen as a potential model for other American cities now teetering on the edge.

But Detroit is really a model for how wealthier and whiter Americans escape the costs of public goods they’d otherwise share with poorer and darker Americans.

Judge Steven W. Rhodes of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Michigan is now weighing Detroit’s plan to shed $7 billion of its debts and restore some $1.5 billion of city services by requiring various groups of creditors to make sacrifices.

$15 and a Union: Fast-Food Workers Take Their Demands Nationwide

As New Yorkers bustled along Eighth Avenue at lunchtime on Thursday, fast-food workers proudly marched off the job. And unlike most days, when workers quietly shuffle burgers over a fluorescent-lit counter, the protesters sat solemnly on the street under the glaring sun, waiting to be rounded up by police.

“What we’ve started and what we’ve become—it’s the same idea, but it’s branched out,” said Shantel Walker, who works as a shift manager at Papa John’s for $8.50 an hour. Standing with the crowd across the street from a McDonald’s, she said it was her sixth strike since joining the movement. “So [our] strength is growth.… We’re so proud of each other.”

Harper/Mulroney relationship appears icy once again after former PM’s slams

OTTAWA - What had been a renewed political friendship between Stephen Harper and Brian Mulroney could be back on the rocks.

The prime minister found himself offering up a defence Friday in the face of an onslaught of criticism from Mulroney over foreign affairs policy, Canada's relationship with the U.S. and Harper's public fight with the Supreme Court.

On the 30th anniversary of his historic majority election win this week, the 75-year-old Mulroney suggested the Tories weren't in step with Canadian traditions and history because of their strained relationship with the United Nations.

Harper/Mulroney relationship appears icy once again after former PM’s slams

Original Article
Author: By Stephanie Levitz 

Now Playing: Meltdown -- The secret history of the global financial crisis

ICYMI:  Here’s a fantastic documentary series produced by CBC's Doc Zone and worth viewing as we mark the sixth anniversary of the 2008 financial crisis that hit global markets in August of that year.
It's also timely to watch this four-part series considering we've just observed another Labour Day in North America.
After all, the economic crash was as much about the trampling of workers' rights as it was about the greed and lawlessness of capitalists on Wall Street and around the world.

Kinder Morgan asks feds to forbid City of Burnaby from halting pipeline work

Kinder Morgan's lawyers have filed a motion with the National Energy Board to force the City of Burnaby to get out of the way of the company's crews that have been trying to do exploratory drill work, for its Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

The Mayor of Burnaby has long opposed the oil sands pipeline project through the city.  And lately, city staff have made appearances wherever Kinder Morgan workers have tried to do their activities on Burnaby Mountain.

Christy Clark's battle with teachers is personal, argues educator

Premier Clark’s fight with BC teachers is a personal battle. Clark has waged an ideological battle with teachers that threatens to bring down one of the top public education systems in the world.

This is not the first time that Clark has attempted to “shift the balance of control back.” As a university student in 1988 Clark became the internal relations officer at SFU and immediately went to battle with the unionized staff of the student society. She won, claiming to want to “shift the balance of control back.” After becoming student body president in 1989 she was disqualified for not following campaign rules.

Education Minister ice cold to teachers' offer of binding arbitration to end strike

Education Minister Peter Fassbender responded cooly to an offer from the teachers' union Friday to end the strike with binding arbitration.  The minister said that fiscal discipline was paramount.

"I struggle with binding arbitration - period."

"It takes the responsibly of the parties away to make the hard decisions, and do the hard bargaining - we need to do that," said Fassbender from the Victoria legislature, in a media briefing that took few questions from reporters.

Hillary Clinton Praises a Guy With Lots of Blood on His Hands

Hillary Clinton often plays the hawk card: She voted for the Iraq war, dissedPresident Barack Obama for not being tough enough on Syria, and comparedVladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler. This is to be expected from a politician who has angled for a certain title: the first female president of the United States. Whether her muscular views are sincerely held or not, a conventional political calculation would lead her to assume it may be difficult for many voters to elect as commander-in-chief a woman who did not project an aggressive and assertive stance on foreign policy. So her tough talk might be charitably evaluated in such a (somewhat) forgiving context. Yet what remains more puzzling and alarming is the big wet kiss she planted (rhetorically) on former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger this week, with a fawning review of his latest book, World Order.

Canada Largest Contributor To Deforestation Worldwide: Study

Add another black mark to Canada’s environmental image around the world: The country now leads the planet in the degradation of untouched forests, according to a study from Forest Watch.

Some 8 per cent of the world’s virgin forests were degraded between 2000 and 2013, according to the study. That’s 104 million acres, or an area about three times the size of Germany, Forest Watch said.

“That means human activities disturbed 20,000 hectares of pristine forest every day for the past 13 years,” the group said.