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.]

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Road toll ‘reality check’ stirs up Toronto council

An exclusive report by the Star that new road tolls and congestion charges will be needed to deliver the $4 billion Sheppard subway has caused a stir among city councillors and business groups.

Claims that the private sector will step in and build the line on its own are not realistic, Gordon Chong, head of Toronto Transit Infrastructure Ltd., told the Star’s Royson James in an interview.

Chong is a former TTC commissioner who was hand-picked by Mayor Rob Ford to hammer out the details of his transportation plan. His comments fly in the face of promises by the mayor that taxpayers will not foot the bill for new subway lines.

“This could be the wake up call for Torontonians to realize how foolish from a business perspective the mayor’s Sheppard subway proposal really is,” said Councillor Joe Mihevc (Ward 21, St. Paul’s), a former vice-chair of the Toronto Transit Commission.

Full Article

Vaccine Prices Disclosed By UNICEF For First Time

UNICEF is for the first time publicizing what drugmakers charge it for vaccines, as the world's biggest buyer of lifesaving immunizations aims to spark price competition in the face of rising costs.

On Friday, UNICEF posted on its website the actual prices that it has paid individual drugmakers for 16 vaccines purchased over the last decade. It's a move that a few Western pharmaceutical companies don't support. Novartis AG and Merck & Co., which only sells one of its many children's vaccines to UNICEF, both declined to have their prices published.

UNICEF said it will continue to disclose pricing of future vaccine deals, with the hope that the transparency will push drugmakers to cut prices and thus allow the organization to vaccinate more children and save more lives.

Full Article

Cyber Security

Cyberspace has become an all-immersive domain, and the global communications environment in which all of society, economics, and politics are now embedded. Its constituent parts are widely conceived of as critical national infrastructure.

But the domain of cyberspace is entering a potentially chaotic and very dangerous phase of its evolution, which is why it has become a key issue for consideration at today's G8 summit in Deauville, France.

Full Article

PM Denies Netanyahu Sought Help Before G8

Report claims Israeli prime minister asked Harper for assistance in defeating Obama proposal.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's spokesman is denying a report that says Harper and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a discussion two days before the G8 meeting in France to stop support for a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders. The report, published by Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Sunday, quoted an Israeli official who said Netanyahu had contacted Harper over growing concern that the border proposal was being supported by at least seven of the eight G8 countries. Netanyahu allegedly argued that mentioning the border crisis would only benefit the Palestinians, not the Israelis. The G8's final declaration on Friday did not mention the new border proposal, and European diplomats said it was not discussed due to Canada's objections. At the time, Harper did not confirm or deny that report.


Will Rendition Always Remain a State Secret?

On President Obama's first day in office, he stated unequivocally that his administration was "committed to operating with an unprecedented level of openness in government," leaving behind the culture of secrecy surrounding the executive branch during the previous administration. One key brick in the government's wall of secrecy has been the state secrets privilege, which the executive has invoked to dismiss lawsuits alleging abuses committed under its national security policies, such as extraordinary rendition to torture. After the U.S. Supreme Court declined on Monday to hear a case challenging the government's use of the state secrets privilege in a rendition case, it is time for the president to live up to his promise.

In Mohamed et al. v. Jeppesen DataPlan, Inc., five men alleged that Jeppesen, a subsidiary of the Boeing Company, helped the CIA transfer them to other countries for detention, interrogation and torture. The government successfully argued that the very subject matter of its extraordinary rendition program is a state secret and therefore entirely off limits to the courts. When the lower courts dismissed their case on this basis, the plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court to reverse that decision -- an appeal that fell on deaf ears.

Full Article

Obama Dragging His Heels on Appointing Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren’s problem is not with the Republicans—though they have worked hard to demonize her.  Her real problem is with the “boys” at the Treasury Department and Timothy Geithner, the head “boy” in charge of the president’s banking policies.  Maybe she also has a problem with the “boys” at the White House. We are soon to find out. In the next month or so, Barack Obama must decide whether or not he will appoint Warren to chair the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

This ought to be a slam-dunk for him.  After all, Elizabeth Warren invented the idea of a new regulatory agency to protect hapless consumers from predatory bankers. Obama embraced the concept as his own and it is one of his few distinctively original accomplishments.  Warren knows consumer fraud. For many years, as a savvy reform critic, she courageously called out the banking industry on its most notorious practices. Her dynamic and plainspoken advocacy was essential in getting Congress to include the proposal in the financial reform legislation enacted last summer.

Yet Obama hesitated. For nearly a year, he has played coy and held off naming her to the job. We presumed that was because Republicans vowed to block her nomination unless the law is altered to weaken the CFPB and appease angry bankers. But that explanation doesn’t add up. Obama could always put her in the office through a recess appointment that gets around Senate confirmation. Yet he didn’t do so. What’s up with that?

Full Article