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.]

Thursday, January 21, 2016

These Maps Show Where Rents Are Going Up and Incomes Are Going Down

Today, the Census Bureau released its latest update to the American Community Survey, publishing a trove of recent data on everything from education levels to economic indicators for the United States' 3,142 counties. The new numbers offer evidence of the lasting effects of the Great Recession and the ongoing financial stagnation faced by most Americans: In counties across the country, poverty rates are up and incomes are down, while rents are rising and home ownership is dropping.

The Senate Just Voted to Defund Planned Parenthood

Less than a week after three people were killed and nine others injured at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, the Senate on Thursday came one step closer to blocking all federal funding to the nation's largest women's health care organization.

The move is part of the GOP's latest attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Following the series of widely debunked videos showing Planned Parenthood staff talk about fetal tissue donation, Congress included language to defund the organization in their bill to repeal President Barack Obama's signature health law.

Horror Beyond Description: Noam Chomsky on the Latest Phase of the War on Terror

The "war on terror" has now taken the form of a full-on global war campaign. Meanwhile, the actual causes of the rise and spread of murderous organizations such as ISIS remain conveniently ignored.

Following the Paris massacre in November, major Western countries like France and Germany are joining the United States in the fight against Islamic fundamentalist terrorism. Russia has also hastened to join the club, as it has its own fears about the spread of Islamic fundamentalism. In fact, Russia has been waging its own "war on terror" since the collapse of the Soviet state. At the same time, close allies of the US, like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, are providing either direct or indirect support to ISIS, but this reality is also conveniently ignored by the Western forces fighting international terrorism. Only Russia dared recently to label Turkey as "accomplices of terrorists," after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane for having allegedly violated Turkish airspace. (For the record, Turkish fighter jets have been violating Greek airspace with great frequency for years, violating it 2,244 times in 2014 alone.)

Canadian Banks' Profits In Fiscal 2015 Work Out To $4 Million An Hour

TORONTO — Canada's six biggest banks saw their profits climb higher over the past year, despite concerns that the sluggish economy, a slowdown in consumer borrowing and rock-bottom interest rates would take a bite out of their books.

Combined, the six largest lenders — Royal Bank, TD Bank, Scotiabank, the Bank of Montreal, CIBC and National Bank — earned $34.88 billion in net income during fiscal 2015, up almost five per cent from $33.27 billion last year.

Quebec Long-Gun Registry: Liberals Want Every Firearm Numbered

QUEBEC — Quebec will create its own registry for non-restricted firearms, Public Security Minister Pierre Moreau announced Thursday, more than three years after the Conservative government passed a law abolishing the federal long-gun database.

Moreau said every non-registered gun in Quebec will receive a number that will be entered into a provincial database.

All firearm owners will have 12 months to register their weapon after a bill setting up the registry becomes law.

Canada's border agents armed with new information to screen visitors

Canadian front-line border agents now have access to more information on travellers contained in Canada's law enforcement database, a significant change in the way visitors are checked for potential security risks, CBC News has learned.

Until now, front-line border agents did not have access to information contained in the Canadian Police Information Centre database when checking the backgrounds of the millions of travellers who arrive at Canada's border crossings every month.

Why UNBC Students and Faculty Are Protesting James Moore's Chancellor Appointment

Despite widespread backlash from faculty, students, and the public, former Conservative industry minister James Moore's appointment as chancellor of the University of Northern British Columbia is a done deal.

"The decision has been made and we want to move forward from this and learn from everybody that's contributing their thoughts," said Ryan Matheson, vice-chair of UNBC's board of governors, which made the final decision on Moore's appointment.

Yearning to learn Ojibwe

The gravel road beneath my feet has turned to mud. The rain is starting to come down hard. I’ve been driving for six hours, it’s about to get dark, and this is the first time I’ve been to Manitoulin Island. To my left is nothing but dense brush; to my right, I see the flat top of Lake Huron’s North Channel as the dark blue sky fades to black.

I hear the distant murmur of voices coming from the bush, but I don’t know where they are coming from. I’ve made it from Toronto to the Kenjgewin Teg Educational Institute on M’Chigeeng First Nation, but the Ojibwe immersion class has headed to a campsite for an exercise. I keep walking until I spot a trail, manoeuvre through the bushes and the feisty burrs, to find the group around a large fire with a teapot sitting on a metal rack near the edge of the flames. The school has hacked a clearing in the bush big enough for the fire and three small, white, army-style tents. Although the immersion students go overnight camping, these are for other classes, and the city boy in me is relieved we will not be sleeping on the spartan cots inside.

What Worries the World's Most Famous Climate Scientist?

James Hansen is fretting about the Paris climate talks, and for good reason.

You might recall that Hansen was the NASA scientist that boldly warned the United States Congress about the perils of rising global temperatures as early as 1988.

And you might remember that officials with the U.S. administration of George W. Bush instructed the world's most famous climate change scientist not to talk about how fossil fuel burning could have a dangerous effect on climate in 2004.

Trudeau's nannies are trivial compared to scandal of corporate tax cuts

It was bound to happen. Political honeymoons inevitably hit rough patches.
For Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that rough patch has come in the form of nannies on the federal payroll.
It is not a real scandal.
The federal government pays for all kinds of goods and services public officials might need. 

If The Anti-Abortion Movement Doesn't Condone Violence, How Do Republicans Explain These Remarks?

After Robert Lewis Dear was arrested for opening fire inside a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic on Friday, he reportedly made a remark about "no more baby parts," according to a law enforcement official. The revelation prompted a heated debate about what motivated Dear to allegedly target a reproductive health provider that has been under near-constant assault from Republicans in recent months.

Some GOP presidential candidates rushed to argue that the killings have nothing to do with the anti-abortion movement or with the political campaign against Planned Parenthood, which has hinged upon a series of heavily edited sting videos that purport to show staff members discussing the donation of fetal tissue.

Cruz Excoriates Rubio on Foreign Policy, Links Him to Clinton

Ted Cruz on Monday offered his strongest denunciation so far of Marco Rubio's foreign policy views, assailing his Republican presidential rival as a proponent of “military adventurism” that he said has benefited Islamic militant groups. He even tied the Floridian to Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

The Age of the Demagogues

The increase in nihilistic violence such as school shootings and Friday’s lethal assault on a Planned Parenthood clinic, the frequent executions of poor people of color by police, and the rise of thuggish demagogues such as Donald Trump are symptoms of the collapse of our political and cultural institutions.

These institutions, which once made possible piecemeal and incremental reform, which sought to protect the weak from the tyranny of the majority and give them a voice, acted as a safety valve to ameliorate the excesses of capitalism and address the grievances of the underclass. They did not defy the system of capitalism. They colluded with the structures of privilege and white supremacy. But they provided some restraints on the worst abuse and exploitation. The capturing of major institutions by corporate power and the moral bankruptcy of our elites, especially members of our self-identified liberal class, have shattered this equilibrium.

The Refugee Dilemma What do we owe those we take in?

Nelson Kargbo was eleven years old when rebel soldiers attacked his village, Kamalo, in northern Sierra Leone. He was playing soccer on a dirt field at the edge of the village. When he saw houses on fire, he and his best friend, Foday, ran toward the jungle, following Foday’s mother and dozens of other people. They walked until late at night, when they came across a cluster of abandoned mud houses. Foday’s mother, who used to cook for the boys after their soccer games, told them to sleep under a grove of mango trees. “Tomorrow, we’ll keep walking,” she said. “We’ll make it to the city.”

The country’s civil war, which had begun five years earlier, in 1991, had seemed remote to Kargbo. He’d considered it only when he overheard his adoptive father, Lennard, a pastor who had assumed custody of him when his parents died, talking about it with members of his congregation. Kargbo was the youngest child in the family—he had seven brothers and sisters, who were all the biological children of the pastor—and he was accustomed to being ignored. He was reserved and nearly invisible, except when he played soccer. He hoped to play for the national team.

Expert reports ordered by Tamir Rice family attorneys call shooting 'objectively unreasonable'

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Attorneys for the family of Tamir Rice released reports Saturday from two use-of-force experts who determined the shooting of the 12-year-old boy by a Cleveland police officer was "objectively unreasonable."

The reviews stand in direct contrast to three expert reports commissioned and released by Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty, who Tamir's family, activists and religious leaders have repeatedly called to remove himself from the case.

The New, Ugly Surge in Violence and Threats Against Abortion Providers

Three people were shot dead and nine others were injured Friday at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, the first time since 2009 that anyone has been killed in an incident linked to activity at an abortion clinic. The attack comes amid an exponential increase in threats and violence against abortion providers since the release of a series of viral—and widely debunked—videos.

While police have not discussed the alleged motives of the suspect, who has been arrested, the attack began at the clinic. According to authorities, the gunman entered the facility Friday afternoon and began shooting. During an hours-long standoff, he exchanged fire with police, killing one officer.

Another TPP Loser? Canadian Trades Workers

Canada is not an economic giant. Former Australian PM Kevin Rudd told a policy crowd in Ottawa last week that Canada (like Australia) best occupies the ''creative middle power space'' in world affairs.

Canada's GDP is less than half the size of Germany's. By any stretch of the imagination, our economy is small when compared to the giants we're playing with in the global sandbox. Strategic involvement in selective trade deals can benefit us; our products need markets, and our people need products at reasonable costs. But signing trade deals where the benefits for Canada are opaque -- or, at best, unconvincing to ordinary citizens -- is not a good idea.

Paris climate activists put under house arrest using emergency laws

At least 24 climate activists have been put under house arrest by French police, accused of flouting a ban on organising protests during next week’s Paris climate summit, the Guardian has learned.

One legal adviser to the activists said many officers raided his Paris apartment and occupied three floors and a staircase in his block.

French authorities did not respond to requests for comment but lawyers said that the warrants were issued under state of emergency laws, imposed after the terror attacks that killed 130 people earlier this month.

Fraser Institute co-founder confirms 'years and years' of U.S. oil billionaires' funding

Amidst revelations that the Fraser Institute accepted at least $500,000 from the Koch family between 2007 and 2010, the institute's co-founder acknowledged that the US oil billionaires have a long history of donating to the think tank.

Two foundations under the Koch family's auspices – the Charles G. Koch and the Claude R. Lambe Foundations – gave the Fraser Institute large grants to conduct “international work,” its former executive director Michael Walker told the Vancouver Observer.

Racism and Mass Incarceration in the US Heartland: Historical Roots of the New Jim Crow

If asked what state has the highest incarceration rate of Black people, most people would likely cite Mississippi, Alabama or perhaps Louisiana. They would be about 1,000 miles too far south.

According to labor analysts John Pawasarat and Lois M. Quinn, the answer is Wisconsin. Moreover, neighboring Iowa has the country's highest ratio of Black-to-white incarceration. Illinois, from available statistics, has the greatest disparity between Black people in the general population (15 percent) and Black people in the state prison population (58 percent). In fact, according to Sentencing Project calculations, all of the key Midwestern states - Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin - show a higher ratio of Black-to-white incarceration than Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana or Mississippi. Across the region, Black people are incarcerated up to 13 times the rate of white people and three to five times the rate of those identified as Hispanic.

Paul Godfrey, Postmedia CEO, Made More Cash As Company Bled Hundreds Of Millions

Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey continues to pocket more money as his company loses hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Globe and Mail reported Friday that Godfrey, head of a company that owns some of Canada's biggest newspapers, saw his income boosted from $1.4 million to $1.7 million this year, even as the company had a net loss of $263.4 million.

The RCMP wants more online surveillance power. We should say no.

The Mounties may always get their man, but they shouldn’t always get what they ask for.

That includes warrantless Internet snooping.

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson wants warrantless access to online subscriber information. That, in itself, is not remarkable. Police always want fewer obstacles between their work and the people they pursue — more John Wayne, less Perry Mason. It’s the old argument: It’s plenty hard enough to catch the bad guys, we’re told, without bureaucrats putting roadblocks in the way of the good guys.

Premier Clark's climate advisors to urge a carbon tax hike

B.C. Premier Christy Clark’s own climate change advisors will recommend a hike in the province’s carbon tax to avoid a complete blowout of a year 2020 climate. The trouble with achieving the target, say the advisors, is due to an aggressive push to build a highly polluting liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry, National Observer has learned.

The government is expected to make the premier’s Climate Leadership Team’s report public Friday at 1 p.m. in Victoria, ahead of Clark’s trip to Paris for the UN climate summit next week.

Harper's poisoned gift puts Trudeau government in a bind

Stephen Harper left a politically poisoned gift for the new Liberal government.

With the 2015 election approaching in October, Harper packed boards, agencies and courts in June with a flurry of patronage appointments— in many instances, extending years into the future.

Harper made more than 70 appointments in the latter weeks of his tenure as PM. He particularly loaded up the courts and the National Energy Board (NEB) with extensions to four board members’ terms in the latter instance.

Kochs Embedded In Major Rift On Bipartisan Criminal Justice Reform

WASHINGTON -- A major rift is opening among criminal justice reform advocates over how to deal with conservative efforts that could write off white-collar crimes ranging from environmental pollution to food safety.

Most of the discussion surrounding criminal justice reform has dealt with mass incarceration and policies surrounding mandatory minimum sentences for low-level, nonviolent drug offenders. But right-wing players including the Koch brothers, the Heritage Foundation and the Manhattan Institute have been advocating for another provision that would make it much more difficult for prosecutors to pursue white-collar crime. A measure approved by the House Judiciary Committee last week would eliminate a host of criminal penalties for negligence, gross negligence and reckless behavior.

Despite petition with a quarter-million names, Shell drilling set to begin

A handful of protesters from Sum of Us, Greenpeace, the Ecology Action Centre and the Clean Ocean Action Committee delivered a massive, 233,000-signature petition to the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB) on Wednesday, opposing what they say are extremely lax safety standards around Shell's drilling program. Currently, if a subsea oil well blowout were to occur, the company would be allowed to take 12 to 13 days to contain it. Shell's original proposal suggested it could take 21 days to get a capping stack to the site.

Here's Evidence The Chicago PD Is Worse Than You Thought

The release of a video showing the death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald -- whom Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shot 16 times in October 2014, as the teen was walking away from him -- has made the city's police department an object of national scrutiny, with questions arising about its policies, its practices and its troubled history with the city's communities of color.

The Man Beaten And Choked At A Donald Trump Rally Tells His Story

When activist Mercutio Southall Jr. was curled up on the ground getting kicked, punched, and choked by Donald Trump supporters at a campaign rally in Birmingham, Alabama, he thought, “I can’t die today. I’ve got shit to do. I have little kids. Fuck these people.”

The single father of three, who was raised in the civil rights cradle of Selma, Alabama, told ThinkProgress that he decided to go to Trump’s event with two friends in order to speak out against the frontrunner candidate’s “racist” rhetoric.

From Mizzou to Yale: The Resurgence of Black Student Protest

Over the past few weeks, Black-led student protests have disrupted business as usual on dozens of US college campuses, with tactics ranging from sit-ins and vigils to hunger strikes and mass rallies. Much of this activity occurred under the banner of the hashtag #StudentBlackOut. Triggered by events at the University of Missouri (Mizzou), where students mobilized in response to several racist incidents, including a swastika written in feces on a bathroom wall, Black students and supporters across the country have rallied to demand change.

Doctors Without Borders Calls U.S. Report on Afghan Hospital Bombing ‘Shocking’

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said Wednesday that “human error” was a factor in the Oct. 3 bombing of the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, that killed 30 civilians and left 37 wounded. In a statement, Doctors Without Borders, which had previously called the attack a probable war crime, said the report was “shocking” and left “more questions than answers.”

Gen. John F. Campbell said the strike was “tragic, but avoidable.” Human errors compounded by technical malfunctions onboard the AC-130 attack aircraft caused the strike, he said, speaking to reporters at the Pentagon in a video broadcast from Kabul.

To Trump and His Supporters, Blacks and Muslims Are the Enemy

From Minneapolis to Chicago this week, thousands of Americans are marching to demand justice in the police shootings of two young black men, 24-year-old Jamar Clark and 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. Despite the fact that fatal shootings at the hands of U.S. police far outnumber American deaths at the hands of terrorists, right-wing politicians in the U.S. are focused solely on the specter of Muslim fundamentalism in the wake of the Nov. 13 Paris attacks.

Canada's deluded wars of November

Like most nations, whenever Canada trains for and goes to war, it's all about those nice window-dressing items of values, democracy, selfless honour, women's rights, saving cute puppies, and that old chestnut, tradition. We've always done it, we always will, end of story. Never do you hear a Canadian leader being upfront about why we have a military in the first place: to protect our economic investments abroad, to dole out massive corporate welfare to multinational war profiteers, and to repress the population at home -- especially Indigenous nations -- should we ever become too restless.

Joseph Stiglitz on Canada's Housing Inequality: 'It's Very Disturbing'

Skyrocketing housing prices in Canada's cities, most dramatically in Vancouver, threaten the cohesion of our society, argues Nobel laureate and former World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz.

The Columbia University professor sat down with The Tyee on Friday at the University of British Columbia for a wide-ranging interview, touching on foreign real estate speculation, the changing field of economics, and how the new Liberal government might soon find its promises to the middle class derailed by trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Stephen Harper’s parting act of contempt for the public service

When the definitive history of the Harper era is written, the chapter on its systematic degradation of Canada’s public service will be one of the longest — and one of the more painful to read.

Its repeated attacks on public servants for partisan ends, its muzzling of government scientists, its willful dismissal of bureaucratic evidence and advice — the indictment list should be familiar by now. The Harper government’s defeat was greeted by a collective sigh of relief in the federal public service.

How Big Oil lobbied itself out of its biggest projects

The Harper government became its own worst enemy in the energy world in 2012. That’s when it bent over backward to accommodate the oil and gas lobby— who were complaining that too much red tape was tying up approval of pipelines and other energy infrastructure projects. The red tape was costing the oil industry money and they wanted it removed.

Happy to oblige, Harper's team introduced two omnibus bills— the so-called "budget bills" C-38 and C-45—that incorporated hundreds of pages of legal changes repealing or amending many federal environmental laws.

Chicago Releases 'Chilling' Video Of Cop Shooting Teen 16 Times

CHICAGO -- City officials on Tuesday released police dashcam video showing an officer shooting teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times, continuing to fire well after the youth falls to the ground. The court-ordered release of the video came hours after authorities charged Officer Jason Van Dyke with first-degree murder in the teen's killing.