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, April 14, 2016

Cameron Releases Tax Records In Bid To Contain Panama Papers Fallout

British Prime Minister David Cameron took the unusual step on Sunday of publishing his tax records to try to end days of questions about his personal wealth raised by the mention of his late father’s offshore fund in the Panama Papers.

Cameron’s initial reluctance to admit that he had benefited from the fund caused a furore, compounding his problems when he faces a huge political fight to persuade Britons to vote to stay in the European Union in a June 23 referendum.

Malta’s Opposition Calls For Prime Minister To Resign Over Panama Papers

VALLETTA, April 10 (Reuters) - Several thousand people filled a big square in Malta’s capital on Sunday and demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat after the leaked Panama Papers said two of his political allies had offshore accounts.

“Shame on you, you are shaming Malta, you have lost the moral authority to govern,” opposition leader Simon Busuttil said to the applause of protesters.

How a US president and JP Morgan made Panama: and turned it into a tax haven

This goes back a long way. The Panamanian state was originally created to function on behalf of the rich and self-seeking of this world – or rather their antecedents in America – when the 20th century was barely born.

Panama was created by the United States for purely selfish commercial reasons, right on that historical hinge between the imminent demise of Britain as the great global empire, and the rise of the new American imperium.

What a Waste, the U.S. Military

From spending $150 million on private villas for a handful of personnel in Afghanistan to blowing $2.7 billion on an air surveillance balloon that doesn’t work, the latest revelations of waste at the Pentagon are just the most recent howlers in a long line of similar stories stretching back at least five decades.  Other hot-off-the-presses examples would include the Army’s purchase of helicopter gears worth $500 each for $8,000 each and the accumulation of billions of dollars’ worth of weapons components that will never be used. And then there’s the one that would have to be everyone’s favorite Pentagon waste story: the spending of $50,000 to investigate the bomb-detecting capabilities of African elephants. (And here’s a shock: they didn’t turn out to be that great!) The elephant research, of course, represents chump change in the Pentagon’s wastage sweepstakes and in the context of its $600-billion-plus budget, but think of it as indicative of the absurd lengths the Department of Defense will go to when what’s at stake is throwing away taxpayer dollars.

'I was struck with multiple blows': inside the secret violence of Homan Square

Internal documents from the Chicago police department show that officers used physical force on at least 14 men already in custody at the warehouse known as Homan Square.

Police used punches, knee strikes, elbow strikes, slaps, wrist twists, baton blows and Tasers at Homan Square, according to documents released to the Guardian in the course of its transparency lawsuit about the warehouse. The new information contradicts an official denial about treatment of prisoners at the facility.

NDP's Crushing Rejection Of Mulcair Stunned Supporters, Detractors

EDMONTON — Thomas Mulcair was resoundingly rejected as the future of the NDP at a party convention Sunday.

Fifty-two per cent of the approximately 1,800 delegates in Edmonton voted in favour of having a leadership contest. It was a crushing defeat that surprised Mulcair's advisers, supporters and detractors alike.

The result was likely influenced by the NDP's disastrous election campaign, one that saw it blow a first-place lead in national public opinion polls to land with a third-place finish, by running on a platform that many New Democrats found too centrist.

Senior federal tax enforcer joined KPMG as its offshore 'sham' was under CRA probe

A senior tax enforcer left the Canada Revenue Agency and joined the upper echelons of KPMG at the same time as the government was pursuing the accounting firm in court, alleging it had set up a deceptive offshore "sham" to help wealthy clients avoid tax.

Jeff Sadrian, who until last July was an executive in the CRA's compliance division, began working as a senior adviser for KPMG in "tax litigation and dispute resolution" in October — a move that appears to have violated the agency's post-employment cooling off period, government sources say.

How desperate are Republicans? They’re taking tips from Harper.

One of the most frequently-asked questions in the wake of Election 2015 is: Where is Stephen Harper?

Since getting crushed last October 19 by Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, there have been more wolverines spotted in Ottawa than confirmed Harper sightings. The odd vote in the House of Commons, a few leisurely afternoons in movie theatres with Ray the Popcorn Holder, and that’s about it for his public profile.

Commissioner's Role in Clark's Conflict Review Questioned

A conflict of interest review of Christy Clark's private meetings with people in return for big donations to the BC Liberals has run into potential problems before it has even started.

Conflict of Interest Commissioner Paul Fraser agreed Thursday to investigate Clark's practice of holding private dinners or meetings with people in return for donations of up to $20,000 to the party.

But in 2012, Fraser stepped aside from a review of allegations against Clark, acknowledging that his son's senior role in the Liberal government and ties to the Premier could create the ''perception'' of a conflict of interest.

‘High-risk’ taxpayers, offshore tax havens part of Ottawa crackdown

OTTAWA—Ottawa is stepping up its fight against offshore tax dodgers by putting “high-risk” taxpayers in the crosshairs, cracking down on the promotion of tax shelters and launching targeted probes of foreign tax havens, the Star has learned.

National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier will unveil the new initiatives at a news conference Monday morning.

The announcement comes after the Star has published a week of daily revelations from the Panama Papers detailing the extensive — and complex — moves by the wealthy to shelter wealth offshore.

Challenges to high legal bills delayed by short-staffed office

There was a time, not that long ago, when George Argyropoulos was happy in his work. He’d turn up at the office before sunrise with a steaming cup of coffee to plug away in his obscure corner of the legal system.

Along with eight other provincial employees, Argyropoulos adjudicated disputes over legal bills between lawyers and their clients. They handled hundreds of cases per year in Toronto alone, some of them worth millions in contested fees. And he loved it.

Pro-TPP Op-Eds Remarkably Similar to Drafts by Foreign Government Lobbyists

OPINION COLUMNS PUBLISHED in California newspapers over the last year in support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership use language nearly identical to drafts written and distributed by public relations professionals who were retained by the Japanese government to build U.S. support for the controversial trade agreement.

Bernie Sanders Calls Israel’s Response To 2014 Gaza War ‘Disproportionate’

Vermont Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders spoke out on Sunday against Israel’s military response during the 2014 war with Gaza, calling the country’s actions “disproportionate.”

Sanders, who is the first Jewish candidate in U.S. history to win a major presidential primary, discussed the seven-week armed conflict between Israeli and Gazan forces during a taped interview with Jake Tapper on CNN's "State of the Union."

FBI’s “Shared Responsibility Committees” to Identify “Radicalized” Muslims Raise Alarms

The FBI’s plan to enlist community leaders in “Shared Responsibility Committees” all across the country with the goal of identifying “radicalized” individuals is raising alarm among civil rights activists.

The Shared Responsibility Committees, known as SRCs, “are expanding the informant program under the guise of an intervention program, which it is not,” said Abed Ayoub, legal director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC).

Bernie Sanders Did Confuse Numbers of Dead and Wounded in Gaza War, but Israel’s Mass Killing of Civilians Is a Fact

Israeli politicians continued to rail against Bernie Sanders on Friday, even after the candidate admitted that, in an interview with the Daily News editorial board, he did momentarily confuse the estimated number of Palestinians wounded in Israel’s bombardment of Gaza in 2014, over 10,000, with the number of civilians killed, at least 1,473, according to a United Nations count.

Puerto Rico Governor Declares Emergency At Government Development Bank

Puerto Rico’s Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla addresses the audience at the capitol building in San Juan, in this February 29, 2016.

Puerto Rico’s Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla declared an emergency at the island’s Government Development Bank (GDB) on Saturday, suspending its lending power and freezing most withdrawals as the bank struggles to avoid default on a crucial May 1 debt payment.

David Cameron Resignation Protest Sees Hundreds Demonstrate In London

Hundreds of demonstrators besieged the hotel where David Cameron gave a speech to the Conservative Party’s Spring Conference on Saturday.

In a bid to pressure the Prime Minister to either resign or close tax loopholes, protestors marched from Downing Street to the entrance of The Grand Connaught Rooms in London.

Trump’s Convention Strategy: “The Fix Is In”

More than three months before any ballots have been cast at the Republican convention, Roger Stone, Donald Trump’s on-again, off-again consigliere, has delivered the campaign equivalent of a severed horse head to delegates who might consider denying Trump the nomination. Trump’s supporters will find you in your sleep, he merrily informed them this week. He did not mean it metaphorically.

“We will disclose the hotels and the room numbers of those delegates who are directly involved in the steal,” Stone said Monday, on Freedomain Radio. “If you’re from Pennsylvania, we’ll tell you who the culprits are. We urge you to visit their hotel and find them. You have a right to discuss this, if you voted in the Pennsylvania primary, for example, and your votes are being disallowed,” Stone said.

Sheldon Adelson and top GOP donors retreat to the sidelines

LAS VEGAS — Dispirited over a Republican Party primary that has devolved into an ugly, damaging fight, some of the GOP’s biggest financiers are reevaluating whether to invest in the 2016 presidential contest at all.

Among those on the sidelines: Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino mogul who hosted the Republican Jewish Coalition’s spring meeting at his Venetian hotel this weekend. His apparent ambivalence about 2016 was shared by many RJC members here. With grave doubts about the viability of the few remaining Republican contenders, many of these Republican donors have decided to sit out the rest of the primary entirely. And while some are reluctantly getting behind a remaining candidate, others are shifting their attention to congressional contests.

Lessons on Self-Serving Politics From Hillary Clinton and Nancy Reagan

Last month, when Hillary Clinton credited Nancy and Ronald Reagan with starting "a national conversation" about HIV and AIDS, she was rebuked even by allies such as Chad Griffin, the president of Human Rights Campaign, which has endorsed Clinton. Her staff quickly issued an apology. The reality is that Nancy and Ronald Reagan were silent about the HIV/AIDS crisis going on around them and treated it as a joke. The result: The Reagans were complicit in the deaths of tens of thousands of people.

What Will "Lesser Evilism" Look Like in 2016?

Bernie Sanders' campaign for the Democratic Party presidential nomination has had a huge impact on national politics. With his message about the need for a "political revolution" and his forthright identification as a democratic socialist, he injected a surge of energy into the 2016 election.

Sanders won far more support than most observers, Socialist Worker included, guessed at the start. For a time after the first few primary contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, the Hillary Clinton campaign -- and the ranks of the Democratic Party leadership that stand behind it -- was running scared.

Quebec's Bill 74 Introduces Unprecedented Internet Censorship, Critics Say

MONTREAL — A little-publicized bill that is making its way through Quebec's legislative process has digital-law experts and others worried that the concept of a free and open Internet is being threatened in the province.

Bill 74 includes a provision that seeks to force Internet service providers to block Quebecers' access to online gambling sites that aren't approved by the government.

Inside the Panamanian law firm that helps the super rich hide their money

In June 2013, two Swiss lawyers held a private telephone chat. They were annoyed. In London, David Cameron had just given a speech. The prime minister had promised to sweep away decades of offshore “tax secrecy” by introducing a central register. Anybody who owned an offshore company would have to declare it to the authorities.

The G8 summit, to be hosted by Cameron on the shores of Lough Erne, in Northern Ireland, was looming. Top of the agenda: how to stop aggressive tax avoidance.

Wal-Mart Has $76 Billion in Undisclosed Overseas Tax Havens

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. owns more than $76 billion of assets through a web of units in offshore tax havens around the world, though you wouldn’t know it from reading the giant retailer’s annual report.

A new study has found Wal-Mart has at least 78 offshore subsidiaries and branches, more than 30 created since 2009 and none mentioned in U.S. securities filings. Overseas operations have helped the company cut more than $3.5 billion off its income tax bills in the past six years, its annual reports show.

Boris Johnson says super-rich are ‘put-upon minority’ like homeless people and Irish travellers

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson has told people to stop “bashing” the super-rich, comparing them to hard-pressed minorities like the homeless, Irish travellers or ex-gang members.

Mr Johnson accused “everyone from the Archbishop of Canterbury to Nick Clegg” of bullying the group he defined as “zillionaires” – and said the most rich of all should receive “automatic knighthoods”.

Lewandowski Saga Gives Terrifying Glimpse Into Trump White House -- Are we going to hand over the nuclear codes to this petty, thin-skinned liar?

For a man who built his celebrity on the catchphrase "You're fired," Donald Trump, it turns out, is terrible at firing people. It seems impossible to imagine a campaign for president that wouldn't fire a campaign manager arrested and charged with simple battery for grabbing a woman. Especially if that woman was a reporter covering the campaign. Especially if the incident was caught on video.

Bill Clinton's Black Lives Matter Comments Were Revealingly Honest

When I was 9 years old, my sister and I snuck downstairs to watch TV after my parents fell asleep and, unbeknownst to us, witnessed an event that fundamentally changed American culture: Bill Clinton playing the saxophone on Arsenio Hall.

To the I-don't-remember-a-time-before-wifi generation, this event means little. But for those of us who are a bit older, we understand the significance of that night: It was the moment the black community fell in love with William Jefferson Clinton — a love that's lasted almost 25 years, despite the excessive harm he's inflicted on our community.

Why the Banks Should Be Broken Up

Paul Krugman wrote an op-ed in the New York Times today called "Sanders Over the Edge." He's been doing a lot of shovel work for the Hillary Clinton campaign lately, which is his right of course. The piece eventually devolves into a criticism of the character of Bernie Sanders, but it's his take on the causes of the '08 crash that really raises an eyebrow.

By way of making a criticism of the oft-repeated Sanders charge that the big banks need to be broken up, Krugman argues that banks were not "at the heart of the crisis."

How Christy Clark Talks to Kids about Taxes

By her own account, Premier Christy Clark tells children that if it weren't for logging British Columbia's forests, their parents would face higher taxes and require government handouts.

But an observer says Clark does a disservice to children when she oversimplifies the choices governments make.

"There's always one child, no matter where I talk to kids from in the province, who when I ask them what they'd like to do, what their wish would be if they could be Premier, is they say, 'We should stop cutting down trees,'" Clark said in an April 8 speech to the Council of Forest Industries convention in Kelowna.

The Panama Papers Revelations Hit The World's Poor Hardest

This week the Panama Papers leak blew the lid on the murky world of industrial scale tax abuse. For over 40 years a single law firm, Mossack Fonseca, set up more than 200,000 shell companies for the rich and powerful, in places where their financial affairs could be cloaked in secrecy, out of reach from tax authorities and regulators. At the peak of its activity in 2005, Mossack Fonseca incorporated more than 13,000 companies -- that's one company every 10 minutes.

Who Has Two Thumbs And Is Wrong About The Financial Crisis?

Somebody is wrong on the Internet, and his name is Paul Krugman.

It is hard for liberal America when Krugman is wrong, because he is liberal America’s best — and most important — economic columnist.

In a column on Friday devoted to hitting Bernie Sanders for a long list of transgressions, Krugman said the financial “crisis itself was centered not on big banks but on ‘shadow banks’ like Lehman Brothers that weren’t necessarily that big.”

It’s Not Just The Supreme Court. Republicans Are Screwing Lots Of Other Courts Too.

WASHINGTON — It sucks to be Merrick Garland right now. He was nominated to the job of his life — Supreme Court justice — and Republicans won’t even give him a vote. It’s not that they have bad things to say about him; they just don’t want President Barack Obama to fill the empty court seat.

It’s worth noting there are 46 other Merrick Garlands. That is, 46 other judicial nominees are in the same boat. They’re not in line for the Supreme Court, but like Garland, they’re nominees to federal courts who aren’t getting votes (except one, who just got scheduled for a Monday vote). That’s because GOP leaders don’t want to confirm judges until 2017. By then, they hope, a Republican will be in the White House and will put forward nominees they like better.