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, November 28, 2014

Most Canadians support our troops being in Iraq, poll finds

About two-thirds of Canadians support the mission in Iraq and consider the Islamic State a threat to Canada that must be confronted overseas, a new poll says.

Days after Canada’s third bombing mission destroyed a warehouse and training ground in northern Iraq Tuesday, a Forum Research poll found 66 per cent of voters agree with the Canadian effort to combat the Islamic State, also known as ISIL. Our contribution to this war effort includes bombing missions by six CF-18 fighter jets.

Jeb Bush’s Reverse Midas Touch

In 1986, John Ellis Bush joined the five-person board of directors of a new Swiss-owned bank with the fitting name of The Private Bank and Trust. The institution, which was described that year by the Miami Herald as a place “where the money of wealthy foreigners is managed — very discreetly,” served as a fee-based investment bank for wealthy, mostly-Latino investors. The newspaper detailed the firm’s extreme secrecy, noting that upon arriving at the bank, “the general manager or one of his aides will lead you to one of three sparsely furnished conference rooms and will close the door. Under the bank’s rules, officers must meet with clients in secluded offices, not at their desks, where outsiders could see confidential papers.”

Alberta Premier Jim Prentice says the province has forgotten some key points about the sustainability of the energy industry and is vowing to work towards building as many pipelines as possible.

In a speech to the Economic Club's Canadian Energy Summit in Calgary on Friday, Prentice said the province needs to remember that hydrocarbons are only valuable when there are competing customers — and if there are multiple ways to ship the resource.

Millions of Immigrants Are Asked To Pay Taxes, But Won't Receive Federal Benefits

On Thursday, President Barack Obama granted millions of undocumented immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens or permanent residents and have lived in the U.S. for at least five years the right to work and pay taxes. They don't, however, have the right to receive federal benefits, including subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid coverage and food stamps.

The decision raises the question of why Congress and the White House won't go near benefits with a 10-foot pole.

Esther Sanchez, an undocumented immigrant who is living in Queens and involved with Faith in New York, which does community organizing, came to the U.S. from Mexico in 1997. She has three children under the age of 13 who are all U.S. citizens. She lives in constant fear that her husband, who is also undocumented and works as a chef at a pizza shop, won't come home. Speaking through a translator, she recalled a time when he was assaulted and the police responded to the incident, and she feared his status would be discovered.

Obama Quietly Broadens Mission In Afghanistan

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. troops in Afghanistan may once again engage Taliban fighters, not just al-Qaida terrorists, under new guidelines quietly approved by President Barack Obama, administration officials say.

The armed forces were to limit their operations in Afghanistan to counterterrorism missions against al-Qaida after this year, until Obama broadened the guidelines in recent weeks. The plan comes as the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan draws to a close, thousands of troops return home and the military prepares for a narrower counterterrorism and training mission for the next two years.

On Burnaby Mountain, Confronting the Gorilla

Kinder Morgan has been on my mind a lot lately and, when I woke up at four o'clock Friday morning, it was there, waiting: an 800-pound gorilla with greasy hair that lumbered across the border from Texas and is squatting now on Burnaby Mountain -- close enough to crowd me out of bed. Gorillas are lousy sleeping companions at the best of times, and this one doesn't sleep. Who has time when one's stated goal is to ''continually leverage our large footprint of assets and actively pursue expansions, joint ventures and acquisitions so that we can further increase... distributions and... dividends.''

BC Oil and Gas Tax Breaks Top $1 Billion. How Much Profit Flows Back? Unknown

British Columbia Auditor General Carol Bellringer raised eyebrows earlier this month when she pointed out that the province has extended more than $1 billion in tax credits to natural gas companies over the past two years.

But amid all the discussion of liquefied natural gas tax rates, industry tax credits and potential gas revenues, one figure is conspicuously absent. "Government take" is a key consideration for industry in any investment decision. How much of the profit from the sale of natural gas does a government take?

BOOTY CALL-OUT -- How did sexuality become the single most crucial way for women in pop culture to demonstrate their power?

This has indisputably been the year of the big, naked ass.

Kim Kardashian, curvaceous reality TV star and wife of Kanye West, upped the ante last week when she “broke the internet” by posing nude for Paper magazine. One particularly meme-worthy image features the 34-year-old’s bare, greased-up backside and tiny waist, contrasted with a prim, doe-eyed Kardashian vacantly gazing back at you, dear viewer, over a perfectly tanned shoulder.

As eye-opening as the images are,  (who knew such a big arse could be so flawless?), Kardashian was just following a trend established by other bubble-butted pop stars. Nicki Minaj’s art for the single Anaconda had the rapper squatting in a pink thong, also staring back at the camera over her shoulder. “I wanna see all the big fat-ass bitches in the motherfucking club. Fuck you if you skinny bitches,” Minaj declares at the end of the song.

Ted Cruz: Confused About Cicero

For better than two millennia, politicians have invoked classical Greek and Roman literature to construct, defend, and challenge ideologies of power. On Thursday, November 20, Senator Ted Cruz channeled his inner Cicero and delivered his own rendition of “In Catilinam (Against Catiline)” to denounce President Obama’s planned executive actions on immigration reform. “The words of Cicero—powerfully relevant 2,077 years later,” said Cruz, who adapted Cicero’s text to fit his 21st-century American context. In quoting Cicero, Cruz reached back to Harry Truman and Thomas Jefferson, who also were avid readers of the Roman philosopher, statesman, and orator.

Fundraiser paid ex-MP's legal tab

OTTAWA -- Winnipeg NDP MP Pat Martin wants the Conservatives to demand former MP Dean Del Mastro repay money raised by his riding association to pay for his legal bills.

Del Mastro, the former Conservative MP for Peterborough, was convicted last month of charges under the Elections Act, including spending more than he was allowed during the 2008 election and falsifying a document to cover it up. He resigned his seat Nov. 5.

Last year, Del Mastro's riding association raised nearly $40,000 for his legal-defence fund at a $600-a-plate dinner featuring former prime minister Brian Mulroney. More than two-thirds of the ticket price was eligible for a tax credit for federal political donations, netting each ticket buyer as much as $357.50 back on their taxes.

Harper’s on thin ice snubbing the premier of Ontario

In December 2013, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne had a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Parliament Hill to discuss plans to build infrastructure to allow miners to exploit the Ring of Fire mineral fields north of Thunder Bay.

Both sides said that the meeting went well, but the next day, Wynne complained to reporters that Harper wouldn’t agree to her plan to expand the Canada Pension Plan.

Woman dies after airport scanner interferes with her pacemaker

A woman fitted with a pacemaker has died after passing through an airport scanner in the southern Russian town of Ulan-Ude.
Diana Tolstova, 30, died in the airport minutes after passing through the scanner. Her husband Maxim, 33, said that they had provided papers proving that Mrs Tolstova was fitted with the heart device – which is adversely affected by airport scanners.
"I don’t know what happened but she went through it anyway," he told Central European News agency.
"When we got to the departure gate she began to feel dizzy and suddenly collapsed.

Finally, you can hold buy-to-let in your pension. Here's how

Buy-to-let landlords may be about to have their biggest dream come true: being able to hold their properties in a personal pension.
This would make any future capital gains tax-free. Holding residential property in a pension has previously been impossible.
The change, which comes about as a result of a new fund that invests in rental properties, could even see investors receive a windfall from the taxman if the value of their buy-to-let portfolios is boosted by tax relief when it is put into the pension.

The Absolute Worst Reactions To Obama’s Immigration Action

In announcing a plan for executive action on immigration Thursday, President Barack Obama did something similar to every president since Dwight Eisenhower — including Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. In fact, presidents have deferred the deportations of immigrants at least 39 times over the past 60 years, in orders that have affected as much as 40 percent of the undocumented immigrant population.

But to watch Republican commentary surrounding Obama’s announcement, one would have thought there was a constitutional apocalypse. Sen. Jeff Session (R-AL) warned that “the president is endangering our entire constitutional order.” House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) said Obama’s “rogue” action “threatens to unravel our government’s system of checks.” And Rep. Steve King (R-IA) was ready to move forward with a three-step plan for all-out government obstruction and political retribution.

President Obama Acted Unilaterally on Immigration and the Right Is Predictably Outraged

President Barack Obama, who has issued fewer executive orders than any president since Grover Cleveland, issued a set of directives this week to protect 5 million undocumented residents from deportation. The new executive actions will allow undocumented parents of US citizens to stay in the country, and allow children who were brought to the United States by their parents to apply for employment visas. It also, according to various Republican critics, cements Obama's status as a dictator, a king, an emperor, and maybe even a maniac bent on ethnic cleansing:
Obama is a king. "The president acts like he's a king," Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said. "He ignores the Constitution. He arrogantly says, 'If Congress will not act, then I must.' These are not the words of a great leader. These are the words that sound more like the exclamations of an autocrat."
This will lead to anarchy. "The country's going to go nuts, because they're going to see it as a move outside the authority of the president, and it's going to be a very serious situation," retiring Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) told USA Today. "You're going to see—hopefully not—but you could see instances of anarchy. ... You could see violence."
He could go to jail. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) told Slate that the president might be committing a felony: "At some point, you have to evaluate whether the president's conduct aids or abets, encourages, or entices foreigners to unlawfully cross into the United States of America. That has a five-year in-jail penalty associated with it."
Is ethnic cleansing next? When asked by a talk-radio called on Thursday if the new executive actions would lead to "ethnic cleansing," Kansas Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach said it just might:
What protects us in America from any kind of ethnic cleansing is the rule of law, of course. And the rule of law used to be unassailable, used to be taken for granted in America. And now, of course, we have a President who disregards the law when it suits his interests. And, so, you know, while I normally would answer that by saying, 'Steve, of course we have the rule of law, that could never happen in America,' I wonder what could happen. I still don't think it’s going to happen in America, but I have to admit, that things are, things are strange and they're happening.
Kobach is hardly a fringe figure. He was the architect of the self-deportation strategy at the core some of the nation's harshest immigration laws.
Original Article
Author: Tim Murphy

The Ohlone People Were Forced Out of San Francisco. Now They Want Part of Their Land Back.

"There are only three ways to get land," said Tony Cerda, chairman of the Costanoan Rumsen Carmel Tribe, in 2010. "You can buy it, have it given to you, or steal it." It's clear which one of those applies to his people, the Ohlone, who lived in the central California coastal region for thousands of years prior to the arrival of Spanish missionaries in the 1700s. The Ohlone once numbered as many as 15,000 on lands stretching from the San Francisco Bay to Big Sur. But following years of enslavement under the Spanish mission system and, later, persecution by settlers, they are now largely a people in exile.

Cerda's tribe—about 2,000 people living in the Pomona area east of Los Angeles—are now the largest contemporary Ohlone group in the state. They're leading the push for cultural recognition in the city of San Francisco. Specifically, they're asking the city for land to build a cultural center as part of a proposed shoreline redevelopment project in the Hunters Point Shipyard area. The area was once the location of a historic Ohlone village and burial site—one of over 425 in the San Francisco Bay region.

Ohlone leaders say a cultural center would highlight the oft-overlooked history of California's native people while serving as a permanent place for today's tribes to continue their song, dance, language, and art traditions. And they're also hoping to rebuild their cultural presence through community events like the annual Big Time Gathering, which took place in October in San Francisco's Presidio National Park. This year's gathering was the biggest yet, drawing more than 100 Native Californians from seven different tribes. Their goal is to honor their roots, says Neil Maclean, one of the event's organizers: "Through hearing them sing, seeing them dance, and joining with them in ceremony, the Ohlone will tell their side about what it is like to survive."

Original Article
Author: Prashanth Kamalakanthan

Tories Slam Megan Leslie For Event Listing On Website Calling NATO Allies 'Warmongers'

A Conservative MP says he is "disgusted" by an event listing on the website of the NDP's deputy leader, in which attendees at this weekend's Halifax International Security Forum are called "warmongers."

NDP MP Megan Leslie allows hundreds of different community activities in Halifax to be promoted in the "events" section of her site, from holiday craft workshops to local basketball games. There's a disclaimer at the top of the page making clear "the topic of events listed do not necessarily reflect the views or position of the Member of Parliament or the New Democratic Party of Canada."

National Archives: Ok, So Maybe Letting The CIA Destroy Emails Wasn't A Great Idea

WASHINGTON -- The National Archives told lawmakers Friday that it is reconsidering its tentative approval of a new CIA records-keeping strategy that would have allowed the agency to destroy the emails of non-senior personnel, according to a letter obtained by The Huffington Post on Friday.

The National Archives’ backtrack comes after blowback from the agency’s top Senate overseers on the upper chamber’s Intelligence Committee, who wrote letters to the office this week blasting its green light to the proposal and its reliance on the CIA’s good faith.

The Fed Just Acknowledged Its Too Big To Jail Policy

WASHINGTON -- The federal government until recently shielded big banks from criminal prosecution out of concern that convictions may damage the financial system, a top Federal Reserve official said Friday, explicitly acknowledging a policy long denied by the Obama administration.

The admission came during a tense exchange between William Dudley, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) at a Senate Banking Committee hearing meant to explore the cozy relations between federal regulators and the banks they supervise.

Chief Tax-Dodging Officers

Republican and Democratic leaders don’t often see eye to eye on taxes.

But surprisingly, corporate tax reform looks like one area where there might actually be some potential for bipartisan action in Washington. This should be good news, since our corporate tax system is clearly hopelessly broken.

Here’s a stark indicator of just how broken: Last year, 29 of the 100 highest-paid CEOs made more in personal compensation than their companies paid in federal income taxes. That’s according to a new report by the Institute for Policy Studies and the Center for Effective Government.