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, October 03, 2014

How Obama Cut the Deficit in Half -- And Made Us Pay the Price

Remember when everybody was talking about the budget deficit?

It wasn't that long ago. In fact, it was one of the biggest factors in the 2012 presidential election. After all, it was over $1 trillion at the time.

Today, it's $500 billion. And falling.

A Tale of One City by David Brooks

It is the best of times; it is the best of times.

Deploying life in New York City today as a symbol of what he takes to be the improvement of almost everything everywhere, New York Times columnist David Brooks explains: “There has never been a time when there were so many interesting places to visit, shop and eat, when the rivers and the parks were so beautiful, when there were so many vibrant neighborhoods across all boroughs, with immigrants and hipsters and new businesses and experimental schools.”

Canada Swings To $610-Million Trade Deficit, From $2.2-Billion Surplus

OTTAWA - Statistics Canada says the country's merchandise trade balance with the world went from a surplus of $2.2 billion in July to a deficit of $610 million in August.

The federal agency says Canada's merchandise imports rose 3.9 per cent in August while exports fell 2.5 per cent.

Harper Government To Stop Funding Metis Nation-Saskatchewan Group

SASKATOON - The federal government says it is going to stop funding Metis Nation-Saskatchewan.

A letter dated Wednesday from Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt said the group failed to hold an assembly by the end of September "due to ongoing internal governance issues."

If Everyone Lived Like Canadians, We'd Need 3.7 Planets

WWF's new Living Planet Report is issuing a wake-up call: our unsustainable demands on the planet are contributing to a dramatic decline -- 52 per cent -- in wildlife populations in the last 40 years. This is the cost of our way of life.

As Canadians, we are incredibly lucky to live in a country with so much natural wealth, but we're taking that for granted. We're placing huge demands on the planets' resources, ranked 11th per capita in the world. If everybody in the world lived like Canadians, we would require 3.7 planets to meet our needs -- clearly, this is not sustainable.

Aeroflot Cancels Flights To Canada

Russian flagship carrier Aeroflot has cancelled regular flights to Canada, saying its flight to Toronto has become unprofitable.

There was no indication from the airline that the move was political, but Canada’s limited sanctions on doing business with Russia, enacted in the wake of the Ukrainian conflict, likely impacted travel between the two countries.

The Ebola Epidemic Is Stoppable

“This case is serious,” Rick Perry, the Governor of Texas, said on Wednesday at a press conference at Texas Health Presbyterian hospital in Dallas, where the first patient diagnosed with the Ebola virus disease in the United States was being treated. “Rest assured that our system is working as it should. Professionals on every level of the chain of command know what to do to minimize this potential risk to the people of Texas and this country.”

Then, a few minutes later, hospital leaders confessed that, in fact, the professionals hadn’t done what they had to do. The hospital had prepared for the possibility that Ebola would arrive in its emergency room. It had adopted a Centers for Disease Control screening checklist to identify patients with fever who had travelled from the region of West Africa beset by Ebola. (Full disclosure: my research center and I advised the C.D.C. on the design of its checklists.) The staff had rehearsed the event. And, on September 24th, when just such a traveller arrived, the triage nurse who saw him actually asked the proper questions and flagged in the medical chart that he was a potential concern for Ebola.

EU: Israel's New Settlement Plans Threaten Ties

BRUSSELS, Oct 3 (Reuters) - Plans for new settlements in East Jerusalem pose a threat to peace and Israel's relations with the European Union, the 28-member bloc said on Friday, joining the United States in its criticism of the decision.

The strong language from the European Union, the biggest aid donor to the Palestinians who seek statehood in territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, echoes criticism from Germany, France and Washington.

Sweden To Recognize State Of Palestine

STOCKHOLM, Oct 3 (Reuters) - Sweden's new center-left government will recognize the state of Palestine in a move that will make it the first major European country to take the step, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said on Friday.

The U.N. General Assembly approved the de facto recognition of the sovereign state of Palestine in 2012 but the European Union and most EU countries, have yet to give official recognition.

The Return of the Corporate Court

Jesse Busk has almost no chance of winning his lawsuit when it comes before the Supreme Court for oral argument Wednesday during the opening week of the new 2014-15 term. His dismal prospects stem not from any legal weaknesses in his case but from one overriding fatal flaw—he’s an ordinary working person challenging the prerogatives of corporate power. Cases like his seldom succeed before the panel led by Chief Justice John Roberts, rated by many observers and scholars as the most pro-business iteration of the high tribunal since the early 1930s.

Harper needs to make the case for going back to war

Canada’s Generalissimo is at it again.

Stephen Harper has put Canada into the fear gear once more – just as his political toes are hitting bottom in the latest polls. According to the wizardly Frank Graves, hula-hoops are more hip than Harper.

After a perfunctory “consultation” with his caucus – (please remember this man doesn’t give a fiddler’s fornication about anyone else’s ideas or opinion) the prime minister will tell us today what Canada’s new Mission Implausible will be — this time in Iraq.

Conservative Senators expected to oppose Liberal motion calling on AG to audit MPs’ expenses

PARLIAMENT HILL—The Conservative majority in the Senate has signalled it will oppose a Liberal motion urging the House of Commons to invite Auditor General Michael Ferguson to conduct a sweeping audit of Commons spending, including MPs’ expenses, in the same way the Senate called in Mr. Ferguson for an audit of its own expenses.

Newfoundland and Labrador Conservative Senator Elizabeth Marshall, chair of a special committee that has kept lines open to Mr. Ferguson since his office began its investigation of Senator expenses last year, told the Senate she will oppose the motion from Prince Edward Island Liberal Senator Percy Downe and argued it is up to the Commons to decide whether it wants its books under an audit inquiry.

There's more we need to know before going to war

Stephen Harper's heritage minister, Shelly Glover, says the Islamic State "are people who are violent and brutal and they have decapitated journalists, they have raped and brutalized women. That is all we need to know…" in order to start bombing. With respect, let me suggest what else we might need to know.

Jeremy Scahill on Obama’s Orwellian War in Iraq: We Created the Very Threat We Claim to be Fighting

As Vice President Joe Biden warns it will take a "hell of a long fight" for the United States to stop militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, we speak to Jeremy Scahill, author of the book, "Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield." We talk about how the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 that helped create the threat now posed by the Islamic State. We also discuss the role of Baathist forces in ISIS, Obama’s targeting of journalists, and the trial of four former Blackwater operatives involved in the 2007 massacre at Baghdad’s Nisoor Square.

Author: --

Antonin Scalia Says Constitution Permits Court To 'Favor Religion Over Non-Religion'

The separation of church and state doesn't mean “the government cannot favor religion over non-religion,” Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia argued during a speech at Colorado Christian University on Wednesday, according to The Washington Times.

Defending his strict adherence to the plain text of the Constitution, Scalia knocked secular qualms over the role of religion in the public sphere as “utterly absurd,” arguing that the Constitution is only obligated to protect freedom of religion -- not freedom from it.

“I think the main fight is to dissuade Americans from what the secularists are trying to persuade them to be true: that the separation of church and state means that the government cannot favor religion over non-religion,” the Reagan-appointed jurist told the crowd of about 400 people.

Why our brains aren't built for democracy

While electing a mayor or prime minister can often be a head-scratching process, a provocative new thesis from the University of British Columbia suggests our brains may not be cut out for the political system we’ve created.

We may, in fact, be too dumb for democracy.

David Moscrop, a Ph.D political science candidate at UBC, points out that modern democracy was built on the idea that citizens are rational and autonomous.

Judge Denies DOJ's 'Deeply Troubling' Request To Close Gitmo Force-Feeding Hearing

WASHINGTON -- A federal judge in Washington, D.C., on Thursday denied the federal government's request to seal the courtroom for a hearing on the force-feeding of a detainee on hunger strike at the U.S. military detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler ruled Thursday that the public should be allowed to witness arguments in the case, specifically pointing out that Justice Department attorneys waited "less than two weeks prior to the start of the long-scheduled hearing" to make their request.

Australia Authorizes Air Strikes On ISIS In Iraq

SYDNEY, Oct 3 (Reuters) - Australian fighter jets have been authorized to begin striking Islamic State insurgents in Iraq, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Friday, joining a U.S.-led coalition that aims to roll back gains by the insurgent group in the Middle East.

Abbott said that Australian special forces troops would also be deployed on the ground in Iraq in an "advise and assist" capacity to support the Iraqi army in their battle against the militant Islamist group.

The United States has been bombing Islamic State and other groups in Syria for almost two weeks with the help of Arab allies, and hitting targets in neighboring Iraq since August. European countries have joined the campaign in Iraq but not in Syria.

Original Article
Author: Reuters

The Typical White Family Is 20 Times Wealthier Than the Typical Black Family

We're still posting a new chart on the current state of income inequality every day over the next week. Yesterday's looked at how top tax rates dropped as top incomes rose.

Conservatives pledge powers to ignore European court of human rights rulings

Rulings by the European court of human rights (ECHR) would no longer be enforceable in the UK under radical plans by the Conservatives.

Under proposals to be included in the party’s general election manifesto, the Tories would reverse more than half a century’s tradition of human rights authority residing in Europe by giving parliament the right to veto judgments. The authority of the court in Strasbourg would be severely curtailed, with parliament given the final say in deciding whether or not to adopt ECHR decisions.

Islamic State In Iraq Carried Out Mass Executions, Abductions: UN Report

GENEVA, Oct 2 (Reuters) - Islamic State insurgents in Iraq have carried out mass executions, abducted women and girls as sex slaves, and used child soldiers in what may amount to systematic war crimes that demand prosecution, the United Nations said on Thursday.

In a report based on 500 interviews with witnesses, also said Iraqi government air strikes on the Sunni Muslim militants had caused "significant civilian deaths" by hitting villages, a school and hospitals in violation of international law.

Warren Buffett Defends Burger King's Plan To Flee To Canada

Warren Buffett defended Burger King's plan to expatriate to Canada in an appearance on CNBC's Squawk Box Thursday morning, saying that the deal isn't a move to skirt taxes.

"I would tell you that overwhelmingly most inversion deals have had a huge tax motivation in doing them. I can tell you this one didn't," the billionaire Berkshire Hathaway CEO responded when host Andrew Ross Sorkin asked if the deal was unpatriotic.

Daniel Ellsberg, the former Defense Department official who leaked the Pentagon Papers exposing the Vietnam War lies, is alarmed at the many parallels between Vietnam and President Obama’s new military campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, as Barbara Koeppel reports.

At a recent talk at the National Press Club in Washington DC, Daniel Ellsberg, who released the Pentagon Papers in 1971, says he believes there’s not one person in the Pentagon who would agree that President Obama can achieve his aim of destroying ISIS in Iraq and Syria with air strikes, along with training and arming local military forces.

Ferguson Police Are Still Locking Up Mike Brown Protesters, Even In Broad Daylight

FERGUSON, Mo. -- Nearly two months after police officer Darren Wilson gunned down unarmed teenager Michael Brown in this St. Louis suburb, protesters calling for Wilson's prosecution are still regularly being locked up by police, even when they are just standing on a public sidewalk in the middle of the day.

Those Budget-Busting, Job-Killing GOP Governors

Even as Republicans boast of their chances to take over the United States Senate come November, their party’s governors across the country are facing dimmer prospects. From Georgia to Alaska, right-wing ideological rule imposed by GOP chief executives has left voters disappointed, disillusioned and angry.

The problem isn’t that these governors failed to implement their promised panaceas of tax cutting, union busting and budget slashing, all in the name of economic recovery; some did all three. The problem is that those policies have failed to deliver the improving jobs and incomes that were supposed to flow from “conservative” governance. In fact, too often the result wasn’t at all truly conservative, at least in the traditional sense—as excessive and imbalanced tax cuts, skewed to benefit the wealthy, led to ruined budgets and damaged credit ratings.

Appeals Court Allows Texas To Enforce Harsh Abortion Restrictions

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A federal appeals court Thursday allowed Texas to immediately begin enforcing tough new abortion restrictions that will effectively close all but seven abortion facilities in America's second most-populous state.

A panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court in New Orleans stayed a lower judge's ruling while it considers the overall constitutionality of key portions of Texas' sweeping 2013 abortion law, which Republican Gov. Rick Perry and other conservatives say is designed to protect women's health.

Why We Shouldn't End Community Legal Clinics in the GTA

The Vision Report, of the GTA Legal Clinic Transformation Project released on August 27, 2014, proposes closing all of the 14 community legal clinics currently providing poverty law services in Toronto and using their resources to create three large clinic law servicing centres for Toronto.

The legal clinic system in Toronto is a known entity with a hard-earned reputation. Hundreds of thousands of clients have been helped by their neighbourhood clinics over the years. As some of the many individuals who were deeply involved in the original development of Ontario's system of community-based legal clinics, we have remained interested observers and supporters of that system. Based on that experience and our work in related fields, we have serious concerns about the Vision Report. We believe that the community clinic system is at a critical juncture, and we want to convey our sense of urgency and concern about the Report's recommendations.

Canada's Agricultural Watchdog Isn't Interested In Your Health

The majority of humans I have met are vastly humane. Comparatively, the majority of Government decisions are seen as exasperatingly profane.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has been slowly going the way of the other federal departments in our post-democratic Canada; they have gone from having the occasional nosebleed of odd policy, to having chronic influenza of misguided rulings, to now having a dead soul.

Risk Of New Financial Crisis Growing, And Canada Is In Crosshairs

The world is facing a “poisonous combination” of low economic growth and low inflation that could cause another financial crisis, according to the latest Geneva Report on the World Economy.

And the nature of this crisis, should it materialize, would likely give Canada front row seats to the economic carnage.

Canadian CEOs Earn 206 Times As Much As The Average Worker

The gap between CEO earnings and workers’ pay is wider in Canada than almost anywhere else in the world, according to data from the AFL-CIO.

The U.S. labour group’s database shows Canadian CEOs on average earn 206 times as much as the average worker. That's the second-largest gap among the 17 countries surveyed.

Canada Is The Only UN Member To Reject Landmark Indigenous Rights Document

Canada singled itself out as the only country to raise objections over a landmark United Nations document re-establishing the protection of the rights of indigenous people last week. It was a gesture one prominent First Nation leader called “saddening, surprising.”

“Canada was viewed always as a country that upheld human rights,” said Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde. “For Canada to be the only nation state to get up to make a caveat on the vote – that’s very telling.”

Austerity 2.0: Kinder and gentler, but a cut is still a cut

Here in Ontario, we have glimpsed the future, and it looks a lot like Austerity 2.0.
That's what Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne's mandate letters set out for her cabinet last week.
On the one hand, the premier is instructing her ministers to invest -- in poverty reduction, transit and transportation improvements, and (hopefully) job creation.
But, with those same letters, ministers are being told to hold the line on spending. Even after two years of her predecessor's austerity cuts, Wynne has instructed her cabinet to find $250 to $500 million in savings every year until 2017-18 -- her target to eliminate the province's fiscal deficit.
So, Austerity 2.0.