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, October 13, 2014

Elizabeth Warren on Barack Obama: “They protected Wall Street. Not families who were losing their homes. Not people who lost their jobs. And it happened over and over and over”

Senator Elizabeth Warren scarcely requires an introduction. She is the single most exciting Democrat currently on the national stage.
Her differentness from the rest of the political profession is stark and obvious. It extends from her straightforward clarity on economic issues to the energetic way she talks. I met her several years ago when she was taking time out from her job teaching at Harvard to run the Congressional Oversight Panel, which was charged with supervising how the bank bailout money was spent. I discovered on that occasion not only that we agreed on many points of policy, but that she came originally from Oklahoma, the state immediately south of the one where I grew up, and also that high school debate had been as important for her as it had been for me.

Hong Kong Police Remove Protester Barricades, Occupy Central Says

HONG KONG, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Hong Kong police began on Monday to remove barricades erected by pro-democracy protesters who have occupied several sites around the Chinese-controlled city for two weeks, according to protest group Occupy Central.

At the main protest site, around government offices in the downtown district of Admiralty, scores of student protesters faced off with police who were massing in the area, a Reuters witness said. The Hong Kong government has said the demonstrations are illegal. (Reporting by Donny Kwok and Farah Master)

Original Article
Author: Reuters

Stop building junk on reserves, says Mike Holmes

For Canada's most famous — and outspoken — home renovator, the solution to the First Nations housing crisis is remarkably simple.

"When I heard years ago the problems they were having, to me it was like, 'Oh, OK, this is easy. Why isn't anyone else doing it?'" Mike Holmes, star of HGTV's home renovation show Holmes on Homes, said in an interview.

"We need to stop building crap. It's as simple as that."

'Homeless Bill Of Rights' Wants People On Streets To Be Able To Freely Stand, Sit In Public

Many homeless people in America don’t want much -- often it’s just the ability to sit down in public without fear of getting arrested. But with increasing measures to criminalize homelessness across the U.S., that’s often not a possibility.

Advocates now hope that by pushing through a "Homeless Bill of Rights" in Colorado, California and Oregon, homeless people will feel less like criminals, and more like citizens with the chance to move forward in life. The bills will give people on the streets the freedom to move around, among other basic rights.

Kurds Halt Islamic State Militant Advance In Kobani, Say Activists

MURSITPINAR, Turkey (AP) — Kurdish fighters have been able to halt the advance of the Islamic State extremist group in the Syrian border town of Kobani, where the U.S.-led coalition has been carrying out airstrikes for more than two weeks, activists said Sunday.

The coalition, which is targeting the militants in and around Kobani, conducted at least two airstrikes Sunday on the town, according to an Associated Press journalist. The U.S. Central Command said warplanes from the United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates conducted four airstrikes in Syria on Saturday and Sunday, including three in Kobani that destroyed an Islamic State fighting position and staging area.

'Ferguson October' Brings Hundreds Of Protesters To The Streets

ST LOUIS -- Over a thousand protesters from as far away as Palestine marched in St. Louis on Saturday in support of an 18-year-old killed by a police officer in the nearby suburb of Ferguson and the broader issue of police brutality.

Canada Should Follow Sweden's Lead on the Syrian Refugee Issue

The exact number of Syrian refugees resettled to Canada since the start of the civil war in 2011 is unknown to the public. The target was 1,300 resettled by the government or private sponsors. The word "resettled" is key to the numbers debate because this was a Canadian commitment to physically bring Syrians here, instead of helping Syrians who are already here. Earlier this week in the House of Commons, the government reported 1,645 Syrians have arrived in Canada since 2011. Opposition members revised that to just 285 resettled refugees of the promised 1,300, quoting the government's own figures from July. The other 1,360? The majority would have made their way to Canada on their own and are called inland claimants.

John Tory and the dangerous logic of strategic voting

Heading into the final two weeks of Toronto's municipal election we are faced with the sad reality that it seems that two right wing candidates are the front-runners for Mayor.
Olivia Chow's campaign, which started with such great promise and was well ahead in the polls initially, has fizzled out terribly and its own logic of presenting itself as the only "winnable" alternative to Ford, as it did for many months, has come back to haunt it.

Racist vandalism defaces Ward 2 election signs

Racism and vandalism struck the run for city council in Ward 2 on Saturday, when election signs for candidate Munira Abukar were found defaced with profanities.

The words "Go back home" were also painted on signs. It is the latest incident of racism and intolerance in the run-up to the Oct. 27 election.

Abukar said it left her disheartened and angry — at first.

Asset seizures fuel police spending

Police agencies have used hundreds of millions of dollars taken from Americans under federal civil forfeiture law in recent years to buy guns, armored cars and electronic surveillance gear. They have also spent money on luxury vehicles, travel and a clown named Sparkles.

The details are contained in thousands of annual reports submitted by local and state agencies to the Justice Department’s Equitable Sharing Program, an initiative that allows local and state police to keep up to 80 percent of the assets they seize. The Washington Post obtained 43,000 of the reports dating from 2008 through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Campaigners Call for “One Fair Wage” to Help End Sexual Harassment for Tipped Restaurant Workers

A new report finds up to 90 percent of women working restaurant jobs that depend on tips have experienced workplace sexual harassment. More than 70 percent of tipped workers are women, and female restaurant workers are especially vulnerable to harassment in states where tipped workers earn a federal minimum wage of $2.13 per hour. Today, just seven states require employers pay a regular minimum wage before tips. We speak with Saru Jayaraman, co-director and co-founder of Restaurant Opportunities Center United, which has released a new report, "The Glass Floor: Sexual Harassment in the Restaurant Industry." Jayaraman is director of the Food Labor Research Center at University of California, Berkeley, and is the author of "Behind the Kitchen Door." We also speak with restaurant worker, Ashley Ogogor, and with former waitress, Eve Ensler, the award-winning playwright and author of The Vagina Monologues. She helped create V-Day, a global movement to stop violence against women and girls, and the One Billion Rising campaign, which is now in its third year.

Author: --

Winter Forecast Has Energy Industry Bracing For The Worst

OTTAWA - Hang on to your wallet and put on an extra sweater.

Energy industry players say they've learned from last year's so-called polar vortex and are bracing for what the Farmer's Almanac says will be another bitterly cold season — one that's already being dubbed the "T-Rex" of winters.

But a number of factors, including unpredictable winter temperatures and the strength of the Canadian dollar, could create a perfect storm and trigger a spike in energy prices, much like the one that occurred last year.

Just how seriously is Canada’s voice taken now?

It was a moment made-to-order for Stephen Harper’s dark way of talking about the world. Going back to the 2011 election, the Prime Minister has often portrayed Canada as an island of safety in a global sea of dangers. Sometimes that imagery comes off as alarmist, but the rhetoric works when the topic at hand is the rise of Islamic State extremism in Syria and Iraq. So, when Harper rose in the House of Commons last week to make his case for joining U.S. President Barack Obama’s air campaign against the terrorists, he sounded very much himself in framing the disturbing new threat. He also said that deploying CF-18 fighter jets was necessary to maintain Canada’s international standing. “If Canada wants to keep its voice in the world—and we should, since so many of our challenges are global—being a free rider means you are not taken seriously,” Harper said.

Harper, Prentice Meet In Calgary To Discuss Wide Range Of Issues

CALGARY - Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Alberta's new premier are both describing their first meeting since Jim Prentice was sworn in last month as productive.

Prentice said the topics discussed during Friday's meeting included the economy, energy prices, the environment, aboriginal matters.

RCMP Video Of Violent Arrest In B.C. Investigated

The B.C. police watchdog is investigating a video that appears to show an RCMP officer repeatedly punching a handcuffed teen in the head.

The video, obtained by the Terrace Standard newspaper and posted to its YouTube account on Thursday, shows the unidentified officer hitting the young man, who is handcuffed and lying face down on the ground.

12 Ways Corporations Are Secretly Manipulating Your Emotions

You might not realize it, but all sorts of companies have developed all sorts of tactics meant to encourage you to take out that credit card.

What do they know that we don't? The corporate powers that be have long recognized that human beings are not rational creatures, but rather emotional beings that can be easily manipulated without notice. And unfortunately, that's especially true when you're shopping.

It’s war. Stop treating it like a game.

Like a lot of Canadians, I watched Tuesday evening as Parliament voted to endorse the government’s plans to contribute CF-18s and personnel to the fight against Islamic State in Iraq. And like a lot of those Canadians, I was appalled by the tub-thumping tone of the closing debate — the way the government bench seemed determined to treat this as a ‘win’, rather than the most solemn and serious step a government can take.

Over the past several weeks the debate in the Commons over the appropriate role for Canada to play in this widening conflict hasn’t always reflected the fact that sending troops into harm’s way carries enormous consequences — for those doing the fighting and for the governments doing the sending. But once the ridiculous phase of the debate was safely past, Question Period started to resemble a serious exchange of ideas — which is what it’s supposed to look like. This was welcome, as was the government’s acknowledgement that it ought to seek Parliament’s support before ordering any combat mission.

Arkansas Tossed Ballot Of 79-Year-Old Woman Who Has Been Voting Since Jim Crow

LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS—In a small one-story house filled with knickknacks and stuffed animals, Joy Dunn sat at her dining room table going over her absentee ballot. Turning the pages with long fingernails painted fire engine red, she said she wanted to make sure she had everything in order, as the vote she cast in March’s special election was never counted.
“I got a letter saying my vote wasn’t counted because I didn’t have ID. But I’ve been voting in this state since 1954 and I never had to have ID,” she told ThinkProgress. “I didn’t know I was supposed to send in an ID this time. Nobody told me.”

GOP Candidate: Single Moms Are 'Automatically Democratic Because Of The Benefits'

New Jersey Republican Senate candidate Jeff Bell said Monday that he is unpopular among women voters because of a rise in single mothers who "need benefits to survive," the Asbury Park Press reported.

Bell, who is lagging 20 points behind incumbent Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) among women voters, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll, told APP that his socially conservative views are not to blame for the gender gap.

Kurds Struggle To Defend Kobani

SURUC, Turkey (AP) — Kurdish militiamen are putting up a fierce fight to defend a Syrian town near the border with Turkey but are struggling to repel the Islamic State group, which is advancing and pushing in from two sides, Syrian activists and Kurdish officials said Saturday.

The battle for Kobani is still raging despite more than two weeks of airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition targeting the militants in and around the town. The strikes, which are aimed at rolling back the militants' gains, appear to have done little to blunt their onslaught on Kobani, which began in mid-September.

Former Governor-General Clarkson says Canada has redefined citizenship

Adrienne Clarkson is a former governor-general and is co-chair of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship. She came to Canada in 1942 as a young child with her family, who left Hong Kong as refugees. Ms. Clarkson is delivering this year’s Massey Lectures, broadcast on CBC Radio and published by House of Anansi Press.

The title of your lecture series is Belonging: The Paradox of Citizenship. What does that mean?

In other countries, citizenship in the traditional sense is a label of expectations imposed on the person who becomes a citizen. We allow people to become what they are. We don’t say you’re going to fit in to an idea of “the citizen.” In effect we have redefined what citizenship is. We are a country of people who have come from all sorts of places with different experiences, what I call, borrowing from [Canadian literary critic] Malcolm Ross, ‘the impossible sum of our traditions,’ and that is what makes us different and special.

This Illustration Of Ebola Coverage Shows How Problematic Media Reports Can Be

The first Ebola patient to be diagnosed in the U.S. died Wednesday. Three days earlier, government health officials in Sierra Leone reported 121 Ebola deaths in a single day. But Western media made little mention of the latter.

A new illustration from frequent Vanity Fair contributor André Carrilho puts that into perspective.

Until American doctors treating patients with Ebola in West Africa were diagnosed with the disease, the current Ebola outbreak has been largely faceless, mainly about statistics and if and when the virus would spread to American soil.

Islamic State Has Taken a Third of Strategic Kobani in Syria but Lost Tuz Khurmato in Iraq

al-Khalij [The Gulf] (Sharjah, UAE) reports that the Syrian Human Rights Observatory says ISIL fighters are now in one third of the Syrian Kurdish city of Kobane (`Ayn al-`Arab).  The radical fundamentalists have advanced into the besieged city despite a new round of US and other bombings on its outskirts.  In contrast to reports that ISIL more or less has taken control of the town of (in good days) 50,000, the US maintains that Kurdish fighters are still in control of the bulk of the city.

In Iraq, the Kurdish Peshmerga militia coordinated with the Iraqi army to retake the largely Turkmen district of Tuz Khurmato, including dozens of villages.

The Peshmerga and the Iraqi army now have their sights on Tikrit, a Sunni Arab city north of Baghdad.  That would be the fourth major campaign against ISIL there; all have so far failed.

Rumors are flying in Iraq that ISIL may make a play for Kirkuk, a disputed oil city in the province of the same name, now in the hands of the Kurdish Peashmerga.
Related Video:
Original Article
Author: Juan Cole

BC's Sinister Drive to Recruit More Gamblers

I shouldn't have been surprised when the credit card machine at the liquor store asked if I wanted to buy some lottery tickets with my cheap white wine.

The provincial government has annual targets for recruiting new gamblers and increasing people's losses.

Luring shoppers into an impulse buy at the government liquor store is just one small part of the strategy to create more, bigger losers. The same week, an ad in the Times Colonist announced the only casino in the capital region had applied for a new liquor licence. The Great Canadian Gaming casino has been allowed to serve alcohol to a maximum 132 people. Now it wants to serve drinks to up to 1,577 people, so gamblers can knock back a few cocktails as they pump money into the casino's 565 VLTs.

Can Boris Johnson really go from self-styled joke to prime minister?

'Why don’t we just write the piece collaboratively?’ Boris Johnson says when we sit down to begin this interview. ‘The Mayor, predictably, was late. He stammered out an unconvincing excuse about the cares of his day job. And then professed not to know much about the subject upon which he’d agreed to be interviewed.’

‘Although,’ I chip in, ‘he refused to say what he’d been doing for that hour.’

‘Secret,’ Boris says, not dictating now. ‘I can’t tell you for security reasons.’

I go on. ‘He did say, however, that his job was going incredibly well…’

‘It is.’

… and that he was ploughing on towards the prime ministership.’

‘Er, no,’ Boris says.

It’s true. He didn’t say that. I knew the collaborative thing wouldn’t work.

The Holder of Secrets

From the garden terrace of a sixth-floor walkup on a quiet Berlin street, there was a clear view to the TV Tower, in Alexanderplatz. The tower, completed by the East Germans in 1969, once served as the biggest symbol of a regime that maintained its power by spying relentlessly on its citizens. It’s now a piece of harmless Cold War kitsch—a soaring concrete column with a shiny top resembling a disco ball. On the front door of the apartment somebody had affixed a sticker that mimicked the visual style of the “Hope” campaign poster for Barack Obama, with the words “Ein Bett für Snowden” (“A Bed for Snowden”) next to the face of the world’s most famous fugitive. The sticker was part of a movement advocating that Edward Snowden, who is living in exile in Russia, be given political asylum in Germany. The apartment’s interior had been turned into a film studio, where Laura Poitras—the maker of documentaries who, last year, helped Snowden leak documents exposing the fact that the National Security Agency collects huge amounts of data on United States citizens—was in the final days of a three-year project about surveillance in America.

The Rise of the New, Liberal Islamophobia

The recent television kerfuffle involving “Real Time” host Bill Maher and guest Sam Harris over whether Muslims are bad people because their religion is, in the words of Harris, “the mother lode of bad ideas,” is symbolic of the new American Islamophobia.

Muslim-bashing has become a popular sport several times over the last decade and a half, most notably in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks; after the election of Barack Obama; over the proposal for the so-called Ground Zero mosque; and now with the rise of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. But this time, it’s not just members of the extreme right, such as Rep. Michele Bachmann and presidential wannabe Herman Cain, equating Islam with terrorism.

Why France's Former Enviro Minister Said 'No' To Canada’s Oil Lobby

Corinne Lepage is used to standing up to big oil companies. In 1978, an oil tanker operated by the U.S. company Amoco spilled 69 million gallons of oil off the coast of Brittany, France. Over six times bigger than the Exxon Valdez disaster, it was one of the largest oil spills in human history. Lepage was a young lawyer at the time, and for the next 12 years she battled Amoco in court, eventually winning $85.2 million in damages, and setting a legal precedent for victims of pollution.

So when Lepage -- who's since served two years as France's Environment Minister, attended five international climate talks, and just ended one term as a member of the European Parliament -- was recently lobbied by Canadian ambassador Ross Hornby on behalf of Alberta's oil sands, she stood her ground. Hornby tried to persuade Lepage that the oil sands were no worse for the climate than other fuel sources. "My position was 'no,'" Lepage told The Tyee in an interview from France.

Why Does China Get To Renege on Its Promise of Democracy in Hong Kong?

I was in Hong Kong in July 1997 when Britain transferred its sovereignty to China in return for promises to slowly democratize the former colony. There was excitement in the air, and gigantic fireworks displays for two evenings. But the anxiety was palpable the day after celebrations when we all woke up to Chinese tanks and troops positioned along several main thoroughfares.

The show of force sent a message and launched speculation as to whether China would keep its grand promises.

Now we know.

U.S.-led air war in Syria is off to a difficult start

REYHANLI, Turkey — The U.S.-led air war in Syria has gotten off to a rocky start, with even the Syrian rebel groups closest to the United States turning against it, U.S. ally Turkey refusing to contribute and the plight of a beleaguered Kurdish town exposing the limitations of the strategy.

U.S. officials caution that the strikes are just the beginning of a broader strategy that could take years to carry out. But the anger that the attacks have stirred risks undermining the effort, analysts and rebels say.