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, October 01, 2014

David Cameron promises to cut taxes and scrap Human Rights Act

David Cameron launched an audacious bid to woo voters in next year’s general election by pledging to raise the personal income tax threshold by £2,000 a year as well as lifting the 40% tax band to £50,000.

Casting the Conservatives as the “trade union for hardworking” people, the prime minister reached out to aspirational voters in Middle Britain by unveiling a £7.2bn double tax cutting promise, which prompted a rapturous reception at the Tory conference.

Ukraine Rebels Close In On Donetsk Airport

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — Rebels in eastern Ukraine appeared to be successfully closing in on the government-held airport in Donetsk Wednesday, a strategic victory for the pro-Russian separatists.

At least 10 people were killed as residential areas near the airport were caught in the crossfire, further undermining a shaky truce that was imposed last month and has been riddled by violations since.

ISIS Beheads 3 Women In Syria, School Bombed

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Twin car bombings near a school in Syria killed 22 people on Wednesday, including at least 10 children, with the second exploding as parents frantically searched for their sons and daughters in a street littered with school bags and body parts.

Syria's children are frequently among the victims of attacks in the country's civil war, but on Wednesday they appear to have been the target. The first vehicle exploded as children were leaving school, and the second struck as adults carried away bodies, sending a new wave of panic through the crowd.

Frequently Bought Together?: Paul Ryan’s Book and Amazon’s Excuse for Screwing Authors

We already knew that Amazon has been putting the screws to book publisher Hachette and its authors with hardball business tactics. But now we learn from The New York Times that Amazon may also be playing political hardball, giving special favors to one very special Republican.

Amazon, which controls more than a third of the US book business, and the giant Hachette Book Group have been in a bitter dispute since last spring over the pricing of e-books. Saying it wants to save its customers money, Amazon has demanded that Hachette lower the price of its e-books to $9.99; Hachette has refused, saying it wants to retain the ability to set prices for its own books. So, in a heavy-handed display of power, Amazon has been delaying deliveries and withholding discounts for all books from Hachette—and damaging writers’ careers in the process.

Did Federal Budget Cuts Make Ebola Worse?

On Tuesday, the CDC confirmed the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the United States—the infected patient was a man who traveled from Liberia to visit family in Texas. It's the latest development in the ever-worsening outbreak of the virus, which so far has sickened more than 6,500 people and killed more than 3,000. The United States government has pledged to send help to West Africa to help stop Ebola from spreading—but the main agencies tasked with this aid work say they're hamstrung by budget cuts from the 2013 sequester.

Cost Of Bombing ISIS Closing In On $1 Billion

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. military operations targeting Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria have already cost taxpayers between $780 and $930 million, according to an analysis by an independent think tank.

The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments issued a new report Monday assessing how much the military campaign has already cost (through Sept. 24) and how much more will likely be spent in the coming months.

Sun Media -- not its squalid commentator Ezra Levant -- is the problem

Ezra Levant is a squalid nuisance, barely worth contemplating.

Sun Media is the problem.

On Monday, Sun Media apologized for Levant's repellent and sexually obsessive hysterics about Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's parents, one dead and the other an elderly grandmother and thus neither in a position to defend themselves.

This only happened, of course, because Trudeau threatened no longer to talk to legitimate Sun Media journalists, of which we have been repeatedly assured there are a few, after Levant’s Sept. 23 rant, and because former Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney intervened in his current role as a member of the board of Quebecor, which owns Sun Media.

Two Speeches and a Tragedy

In his first year in office, President Obama gave two speeches—one in Cairo, the other in Oslo—that bear directly on the crisis in the Middle East today. The Cairo speech, in June, 2009, offered a message of peace and coöperation between America, the West, and the Muslim world. It sketched an optimistic vision of the future based on principles of mutual respect, tolerance, human development, and democracy. It quoted verses of the Koran to claim Islam as a religion devoted to these principles. The Cairo speech, coming just five months into his Presidency, depended heavily on Obama’s rhetorical power—and on the very fact of his Presidency as a world-changing event. Not only was he not George W. Bush, he was a black President with the middle name Hussein, who had opposed the Iraq War and spent time in places like Indonesia and Pakistan. It was like a campaign speech directed at Muslims. There was very little follow-up in the way of policies and programs. Today, from Tripoli to Raqqa, from Mosul to Ghazni, from Karachi back to Cairo, that speech is in tatters.

BC Jobs Growing Half as Fast Since Clark's Plan Launched

In the three years since Premier Christy Clark announced the B.C. Jobs Plan in September 2011, the number of jobs has grown half as fast as it did over the previous decade.

Released yesterday, a glossy three-year update on the plan says on page 3, "Since 2001, total employment in the province has increased by 20.2 per cent, adding more than 388,000 new jobs." It adds, "Since the B.C. Jobs Plan launch, the province has added more than 50,000 jobs."

ISIS Threat: Let's Refuse to be Scared

Yesterday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper warned of a "terrorist caliphate" threatening Iraqi minorities with genocide, and said that a Canadian response to this threat would be "noble."

The nature of our noble response is still uncertain, but it seems clear that we're going into yet another round of wars justified by our adversaries being terrorists. It's all getting a bit tired.

Terrorism has been around since the 19th century, when it was mostly a domestic problem: Russians blowing up tsars, Serb nationalists shooting Austrian archdukes, and so on. It's never really gone away, but it wasn't until the 9/11 attacks that terrorism supposedly changed from a tactic to a full-blown way of life.

The A.I.G. Trial Is A Comedy

Say what you like about Maurice (Hank) Greenberg, the financier is a dogged old coot. For almost ten years now, since an accounting scandal forced him to resign from American International Group, the big insurance company he ran for decades, Greenberg, who is eighty-nine, has been trying to redeem his reputation and exact revenge on those he deems responsible for his downfall.

Greenberg’s initial target was Eliot Spitzer, who, when he was the Attorney General of New York, launched an investigation into A.I.G.’s accounting practices—an investigation that, in 2005, prompted Greenberg to resign with his reputation in tatters. Greenberg hasn’t forgiven Spitzer; just last year, he sued him for defamation. (The case is still pending, though part of it has been dismissed. Spitzer has denied wrongdoing.) But, since 2008, Greenberg’s primary target has been the regulators and Federal Reserve officials who orchestrated a government bailout of A.I.G. that prevented the firm from collapsing, though at a substantial cost to its stockholders, including Greenberg. (After he left A.I.G.’s board, he remained one of the firm’s largest shareholders.)

For-Profit Prison Bankers Prey On Inmates' Families With Exorbitant Fees

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. — Pat Taylor doesn’t believe in going into debt. She keeps her bills in a freezer bag under her bed, next to old photo albums, and believes in paying them on time religiously. For Taylor, living within your means is part of being a good Christian.

Lately, Taylor, 64, has felt torn between that commitment and her desire to be a loving, supportive mother for her son Eddie.

Canadian military intervention in Iraq is 'noble,' Harper says

Stephen Harper has started to lay out the case for going to war in Iraq after cabinet ministers discussed on Tuesday a proposal to deploy Canadian jet fighters against Islamic State militants.

Conservatives are promising a decision before week’s end on whether they will launch a combat mission.

Nova Scotia health-care workers call new legislation a direct attack on unions

Nova Scotia health-care workers call new legislation a direct attack on unions
K'JIPUKTUK, HALIFAX - Nova Scotia health-care workers are angry about new legislation that the liberal government introduced on the evening of September 29. 
Well over 600 health-care workers came to Province House to show just how angry they are. They called for Premier McNeil's resignation, and vowed to continue to fight what they consider this Liberal government's consistent anti-labour stance.

Conservatives kill measure to cut money for violent militias in Africa

There are times when some of the most significant events in Parliament happen far from public view.
This week the chatter about politics is all about Paul Calandra's tears -- were they true remorse or chagrin at being frog-marched into the apologizer's seat?
More substantively, the chatter is about the role the Speaker should play in guiding Question Period, and what the parties in the House might do if and when they get to vote on a combat role for Canada in the Middle East.

White House exempts Syria airstrikes from tight standards on civilian deaths

The White House has acknowledged for the first time that strict standards President Obama imposed last year to prevent civilian deaths from U.S. drone strikes will not apply to U.S. military operations in Syria and Iraq.
A White House statement to Yahoo News confirming the looser policy came in response to questions about reports that as many as a dozen civilians, including women and young children, were killed when a Tomahawk missile struck the village of Kafr Daryan in Syria's Idlib province on the morning of Sept. 23.

On Hobby Lobby, Ginsburg Was Right

The great Oliver Wendell Holmes once observed that important Supreme Court decisions “exercise a kind of hydraulic effect.” Even if the authors of such decisions assert that their rulings will have limited impact, these cases invariably have a profound influence. So it has been with Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., which is less than six months old.

Low-Wage Workers Confront Scott Walker, Accuse Wisconsin Of Breaking The Law

On Wednesday morning, Wisconsin Jobs Now, Wisconsin Working Families, and a group of low-wage workers in the state submitted 100 complaints to Gov. Scott Walker (R) saying that the state’s current $7.25 minimum wage isn’t a living wage and therefore violates a state statute.
That statute says, “Every wage paid or agreed to be paid by any employer to any employee…shall be not less than a living wage,” which must be enough to “permit an employee to maintain herself or himself in minimum comfort, decency, physical and moral well-being.” The state minimum wage can’t be less than that. The governor has the ultimate responsibility to ensure that the wage is in compliance, but any member of the public can file a complaint saying the minimum wage isn’t enough. After that, the governor has 20 days to investigate and take action.

Here’s What Happened The One Time When The U.S. Had Universal Childcare

Nothing before or since has been like the Lanham Act, though you probably haven’t heard of it. It wasn’t even legislation that was supposed to have anything to do with child care. It was a bill to fund infrastructure projects that were needed for the war effort in 1940. But without so much as a Congressional debate or vote, the language was reinterpreted so that funding for child care centers could be funneled through it. And thus between 1943 and 1946, the country had its first, and only, universal child care program.

Who Profits From Plans to Lock Up More Immigrant Families? Private Prison Companies

Last week, the federal government announced that it will detain as many as 2,400 women and children on property in Dilley, Texas, that is currently used as a “man camp” for oilfield workers. The new facility will be the largest family detention center in the country, and the third to open since the number of children and families crossing the US-Mexico border shot up early in the summer. Since then, the number of minors caught at the border has fallen back below last year’s levels.

The 9 Biggest Myths About ISIS Debunked

When it comes to the Islamic State, the extremist group that has seized large swaths of Iraq and Syria using horrifying tactics, there is no shortage of speculation about its history and ambitions. But not all the claims about the organization now targeted by the U.S. hold up. Here's a look at some of the biggest and most troubling misunderstandings about the Islamic State.

Olivia Chow's New Ad Impresses, But Polls Suggest She's Way Behind

Three recent polls suggest Olivia Chow's chances of becoming the next mayor of Toronto are getting slimmer and slimmer.

Yet, a new ad released by her campaign is reminding voters why the former NDP MP was once the clear frontrunner.

Late Monday, Forum Research released the results of a phone survey of 1,167 randomly selected voters showing former Ontario PC leader John Tory stretched his lead to 43 per cent. Coun. Doug Ford, who jumped into the race late to replace his ailing brother, sat in second at 33 per cent. The poll —considered accurate plus or minus three percentage points, 19 times out of 20 — had Chow well back at 20 per cent support.

Real Estate, Finance, Oil And Gas Earnings Soar In Canada: StatsCan

Given the slump in Canada’s job market this year, wages are holding up reasonably well, StatsCan’s latest survey of payroll hours and earnings shows.

But some parts of the economy are much stronger than others, and that’s coming through in the wage gains seen in various industries.

Real estate professionals are seeing Canada’s biggest gains, with average weekly earnings soaring 12.8 per cent over the past year, Stats Can found.

Nova Scotia Fracking Ban To Be Indefinite

HALIFAX - The Nova Scotia government introduced legislation today that would place an indefinite moratorium on high-volume hydraulic fracturing for onshore oil and gas from shale deposits.

But the legislation would provide an exemption for fracking used for testing and research purposes.

Energy Minister Andrew Younger says the amendments to the Petroleum Resources Act will not provide a loophole for the shale gas industry.

Younger, who first announced the government's plans to implement a fracking moratorium nearly a month ago, says the legislation makes it clear that commercial fracking will not be allowed without a public debate in the legislature.

He says the government plans to draft regulations to define what high-volume fracking is and describe the process the government will follow before reconsidering the moratorium.

The minister says the government won't consider lifting the ban until the it is convinced fracking can be done safely under a set of stringent new rules and regulations.

Original Article
Author: CP

Russia Fumes After Canada Denies Visas For Space Officials

Canada's refusal to allow Russian delegates to attend a prestigious international astronautical symposium has angered Moscow, which said the decision flies in the face of international space co-operation and amounts to politicizing space exploration over the conflict in Ukraine.

A spokesman for the Russian embassy on Tuesday called Ottawa's decision to deny visas for the delegates — including one of the country's most renowned astronauts — unfortunate.

Texas Ebola Case Confirmed By CDC

DALLAS - A patient at a Dallas hospital has tested positive for Ebola, the first case of the disease to be diagnosed in the United States, federal health officials announced Tuesday.

The patient was in isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, which had announced a day earlier that the person's symptoms and recent travel indicated a possible case of Ebola, the virus that has killed more than 3,000 people across West Africa and infected a handful of Americans who have travelled to that region.

Earth to Tories: Just answer the question

Two things were remarkable about Sun News’s apology to Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, over its airing of a particularly vile video comment by one of its marquee personalities, Ezra Levant.

The first was the apology’s patent insincerity. The second was how little notice this drew — as though a meaningless apology, that is to say one that comes without real contrition or any prospect of changed behaviour, is now utterly normal, expected, and acceptable. And really, that’s true. The evidence is everywhere. Or is it?

Tories overturn RCMP move to toss fur hats

OTTAWA - A move by the Mounties to doff their fur hats in favour of more animal-friendly tuques isn't getting any muskrat love from the federal Conservatives.

Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq told the House of Commons on Tuesday that the public safety minister had directed the Mounties to reverse the decision.

The RCMP wrote to an animal-rights group in early August to say it had tested a tuque that works well in normal winter conditions, and that it would supply the new hat to cadets as early as this fall.

McNeil government sets its sights on organized labour in Nova Scotia

On Thursday, in the warm afterglow of a Throne speech that zeroed in on "unsustainable [public sector] wage increases" and promised a "hiring slow down and steps to achieve a more sustainable wage pattern," Health Minister Leo Glavine was clear as glass.
Premier Stephen McNeil's government had had it up to here with recalcitrant health-care unions. The unions had come up with a proposal for a collective bargaining process for the newly merged, streamlined, one-size-fits-all provincial health authority, and the government had flatly rejected it. The time for talk was past before it began.

Harper prepares Canada for another war

Following a cabinet meeting later this week, Stephen Harper will announce Canada taking an active combat role in the American-led coalition currently bombing the Islamic State (IS) group-held territory in Syria and Iraq. Until now, the Canadian military role has been limited to providing advisory personnel to Iraq Kurdish forces. In addition, Canada has been supplying humanitarian aid.
Harper is expected to announce that CF-18 fighters and refuelling aircraft will join the American bombing team.

Canadian GDP Growth Hits Zero In July: StatsCan

OTTAWA - Economic growth in Canada paused in July following a string of gains over six consecutive months, hurt by a slump in the mining and energy sector, Statistics Canada said Tuesday.

Economists had expected a gain of 0.2 per cent, according to Thomson Reuters.

But the federal agency said the real gross domestic product was essentially unchanged in July following gains of 0.5 per cent in May and 0.3 per cent in June.

The Resource Privilege - How law firms and lobbyists protect and whitewash petroleum dictatorships

How much are we in the West responsible for the oil dictatorship in the West African nation of Equatorial Guinea, as well as for other corrupt, vicious regimes in the Global South that are like it? ExxonMobil is the single largest exporter from Equatorial Guinea, and the oil giant pays the family dictatorship of Teodoro Obiang without any qualms. But the usual reaction from the West is simple: such corruption is indigenous to the Third World, and since there is little or nothing we can do about it, our responsibility is sharply limited.

Frac Sand Rush Threatens American Towns, Advocates Warn

Victoria Trinko hasn't opened the windows of her Wisconsin home in two years -- for fear of the dust clouds billowing from a frac sand mine a half-mile away.

"This blowing of silica sand has not abated since the inception of the mine in 2011," Trinko, a farmer and the town clerk for Cooks Valley, Wisconsin, said during a media call on Thursday highlighting an industry proliferating alongside horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Frac sand is an essential ingredient in the process of natural gas drilling.

Top 5 Differences Between Hamas and Islamic State (Pace Netanyahu)

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu delivered a speech at the UN to a half-empty hall in which he tried to exemplify the most logical fallacies in a short period of time.

Netanyahu’s message is that all political Islam is equivalent.  Thus, if ISIL is a danger to the west, then the Hamas movement in Gaza is as well.  And both of them are equivalent to Iran.

Hamas is a movement of political Islam that has often deployed violence, which it terms resistance to occupation and which Israel and the US see as terrorism.  But the US State Department was quick to put distance between it and Netanyahu’s views, dissenting from his crazy quilt of equivalencies.

The Supreme Court That Made It Easier to Buy Elections Just Made It Harder for People to Vote in Them

In case there was any remaining confusion with regard to the precise political intentions of the US Supreme Court’s activist majority, things were clarified Monday. The same majority that has made it easier for corporations to buy elections (with the Citizens United v. FEC decision) and for billionaires to become the dominant players in elections across the country (with the McCutcheon v. FEC decision) decided to make it harder for people in Ohio to vote.

Julian Assange Fires Back At Eric Schmidt And Google's 'Digital Colonialism'

ECUADORIAN SOIL -- A police officer stands just inside the lobby of 3 Hans Crescent, a nondescript apartment building just around the corner from Harrods of London and a few blocks south of Hyde Park. He's watching the door to apartment 3b, a mini-flat that has for two years been the home of WikiLeaks' Julian Assange.

On the building's stoop stands another cop. Near him is parked a festive, multicolored paddy wagon. Several other officers loiter nearby, all of them charged with making sure Assange doesn't step outside the apartment, the home of the Ecuadorian Embassy, where he has asylum.