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.]

Saturday, May 21, 2011

America's 10 Biggest Constitutional Myths

Constitutional argumentation is a means Americans employ to keep from killing each other. Ridiculous claims about the Constitution, then, may often be a sign of political health rather than sickness.

So it's not surprising that, as we lurch toward summer, the national air is filled with claims about the "plain meaning" and "clear intent" of the Constitution; it's also not surprising that the "plain meaning" asserted isn't usually to be found in the actual text, and the "clear intent" supported often has no foundation in the actual history. 

Full Article

The hush-hush deal that made Arnold Schwarzenegger governor

a careful examination of Schwarzenegger's life—in this case more than 40 interviews with current and former colleagues, friends, and opponents—demonstrates that his path to the governor's mansion has been anything but accidental. "I was always dreaming about powerful people, dictators, and things like that," Schwarzenegger mused in the 1977 documentary Pumping Iron. "I was always impressed by people who could be remembered ... like Jesus for thousands of years."

Schwarzenegger's unlikely ascension owes almost all to his boundless ambition and wily calculation, which culminated in an exquisitely engineered business deal. It would be a deal that neutralized his most formidable enemies and deprived his detractors of their most potent weapon. It enabled him to prevail in the recall election, and it allowed him to pursue the star turn he so long ago dreamed for himself: to be the Conan of American politics.

Full Article

Tens Of Thousands Fill The Cities Over Joblessness in Spain

MADRID - Tens of thousands of Spaniards angry over joblessness protested for a sixth day on Friday in cities all over the country, and the government looked unlikely to enforce a ban on the demonstrations, fearing clashes.

Dubbed "los indignados" (the indignant), tens of thousands of protesters have filled the main squares of Spain's cities for six days, in a wave of outrage over economic stagnation and government austerity marking a shift after years of patience.

Full Article

Taxing the Rich

Republicans argue — and there’s some evidence to back them up — that the rich are more sensitive to tax rates than the middle class or the poor....It’s why they worry much less about extending unemployment benefits than about protecting the rich from tax increases. Both policies make people poorer. But future economic growth doesn’t depend on the poor. It depends on the rich.

The problem is that there’s not much evidence backing this view.

Full Article

Harper's renewed attack on the Canadian Wheat Board

Since first forming government in 2006, the Harper government has made no secret of its distaste for the single-desk selling power of the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB). However, despite numerous dirty tricks and patently undemocratic maneuvers, the government has been unable to dismantle the CWB, mainly due to its minority position in parliament. Now with a newly minted majority, the Conservatives have designated the destruction of the CWB as one of their first priorities. Indeed, just one day after the May 2nd federal election, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz made it clear the majority Conservative government will soon move to eliminate the Board's single-desk marketing function with legislation as early as this fall.

The gutting of the Winnipeg-based Wheat Board and its sister agency, the Canadian Grain Commission, would be a disaster -- and not only for prairie grain growers. It would be a giant step towards the dismantling of orderly marketing systems in other farm sectors, a further weakening of collective bargaining, a harsh blow to Canadian democracy, and a threat to workers and consumers across Canada and even beyond.

Full Article

Pentagon Blasts Sky-High Cost of F-35s

U.S. wants to review 'unaffordable' fighter jet purchase, while Canada not backing down from multibillion-dollar deal.

As the Conservative government plans to move ahead with the purchase of 65 F-35 fighter jets – estimated to cost as much as $15 billion to $22 billion over 20 years – it seems the Pentagon, a paragon of restraint and understatement, wants a review of a similar acquisition program in the U.S., calling it “unaffordable” and “unacceptable.” Ashton Carter, an under-secretary of defence, said forecasts show that the cost of the 2,443 aircraft, made by Lockheed Martin, “has doubled in real terms” over the program’s lifetime – from US$69 million to about US$103 million per plane. Carter blamed the cost overruns and delays on the plane's complexities and radar-evading equipment, along with the short-takeoff and vertical-takeoff versions. Japan is also having second thoughts about the fighter jet, citing production delays. During the recent federal election, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in response to criticism from the Liberals, insisted the government has a special arrangement with the U.S. that will protect it from the F-35’s increasing costs.


The power to appoint judges

On Insite, the cruellest blow against the feds’ case came from one of the PM’s own appointees

On May 13, Mr. Justice Ian Binnie and Mme. Justice Louise Charron announced they’ll retire from the Supreme Court of Canada this summer. Their replacements will be Stephen Harper’s third and fourth appointments to the top court, but the first two he’ll make as head of a majority government. By the next election, Harper will have named at least five of the court’s nine justices, maybe more.

The day before Binnie and Charron announced their retirements, quite by coincidence I spent half a day attending the top court’s hearings. The Supremes were hearing arguments about Insite, the Vancouver clinic where drug addicts use their street-bought heroin and other substances under medical supervision.

The case illustrated why a prime minister takes a keen interest in his power to appoint judges to the Supreme Court. But it also showed that the power to put a judge on the court isn’t a magic wand. When the final Insite decision comes down, don’t expect much of a rift between Harper’s appointees and the majority who were there before he came along.

Full Article

CSIS fails to meet Supreme Court’s accountability standards

A watchdog report says Canada's spy service has failed to meet strict new accountability standards set by the Supreme Court.

The latest annual report of the inspector general of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service says the spy agency hasn't lived up to a high-court ruling that requires the spy service to retain all operational notes, electronic intercepts and other investigative material.

Full Article

Stephen Harper, Jon Stewart and exporting death

Canada is back on the world stage, Stephen Harper triumphantly proclaimed way back in the unstable days of minority government. In those ancient times, the Prime Minister saw foreign policy, as he saw everything that lived and breathed, as an opportunity to divide Canadians. Play exclusively to the base, expand that base by exquisitely calculated fractions, and let the majority of the country go hang.

Politically, it worked like a dream. You parade your yawning indifference to climate change with gratifying results: Canada gets singled out for ridicule by international environmental groups, proving to deniers and unthinking business types alike that Harper is indeed their main man.

You make yourself the servile handmaiden of the ultra-right, ultra-nationalist government of Israel. You're the last man standing to demand that Egyptian president Mubarak resign. It's perfect for picking up maybe another two or three seats from the Liberals, and never mind that Canada loses all currency with progressive forces in the Arab and Muslim worlds and those who cheer them on.


Harper government moving to end party subsidies

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government will move quickly to cut the financial legs out from under its political opponents by moving to end the per-vote party subsidy in its June budget, Postmedia News has learned.

"We want political parties to raise funds directly from their supporters and not the taxpayers. So as soon as we can get that passed, that process will begin," Democratic Reform Minister Tim Uppal told Postmedia news.

Uppal said he couldn't discuss whether the government plans a weaning-off process for political parties. He said ministers were "still finalizing all these things."


Unions rattled by Clement's tough-guy stance on public service cuts

OTTAWA — Two unions representing federal government workers say tough talk on cutting costs from Treasury Board President Tony Clement strikes a sour note as he takes over responsibility for the public service.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada says it is troubled by Clement's remarks in an interview with the Citizen on Thursday, the day after he was named to his new job in cabinet. Clement said "failure is not an option" as he moves to reduce costs and help the Conservatives balance their books a year earlier than projected, in keeping with a campaign promise.


Appointments will fuel backlash against Senate, parties say

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper's decision to appoint to the Senate three failed Conservative candidates — including two senators who quit to run in the election — is reaping growing calls to abolish the upper house since, critics say, it now appears the Tories can't be trusted to reform the chamber.

Members of all political parties, including a sitting Conservative senator, told Postmedia News they feel the credibility of the Senate is now in disrepute after Harper announced he would re-appoint: a senator, Fabian Manning, who has twice f

failed to be elected as a member of Parliament in Newfoundland and Labrador; and another senator, Larry Smith, who resigned to run for Parliament in Montreal; and appoint defeated cabinet minister Josee Verner, who was unable to hang on to her seat in Quebec City.


British human rights activist denied entry to Canada

A well-travelled British human rights activist and former Guantanamo Bay detainee said he was barred from boarding a direct flight from London to Toronto Friday because of concerns the aircraft could be diverted to the U.S.

Moazzam Begg was to speak at a Saturday conference on Islamophobia organized by the Canadian lawyer for Omar Khadr, 24, the Toronto-born Guantanamo prisoner convicted last fall of war crimes.

Begg said airline agents told him Canada’s High Commission in London informed them the issue was one of security. “They said to me the reason why they would not board me and take me to Canada is because, in the unlikely event they were rerouted to America, there could be a security concern,” Begg told the Star by telephone.