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.]

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Glenn Beck's Response to Norway Attacks is Crude, Cruel and Ignorant

A self-proclaimed conservative Christian who rants and raves obsessively about immigration, Islam and Marxism goes on a murderous rampage at a summer camp where young social democrats gather to sing, dance and talk about building a more just, sustainable and peaceful world.

So what does Glenn Beck find “disturbing”?

Well, we all know where this is headed.

The U.S. Will Not Default on August 2

The only thing that matters for global markets over the coming days is whether a deal can be struck in Washington over the debt ceiling. That said, there is one major misconception – fostered by politicians – about what the stakes actually are. On August 2, the U.S. government will reach the limit of its statutory borrowing authority as determined by the Treasury Department. It will not, however, default on its debts even if a deal isn’t reached.

You wouldn’t know that listening to the rhetoric out of Washington. I have been highly critical of the Republicans in general and the Tea Party especially for blithely charting a path that risks the financial leadership of the U.S. and our collective ability to function effectively in the future. The U.S. has no near term issue paying the interest on its debts, and this crisis is therefore one of choice rather than necessity.

Margaret Atwood tweets to keep libraries open

Author Margaret Atwood says Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his brother on city council are “swiftly approaching the ‘let them eat cake stage’ ” in their bid to cut costs at city hall.

The world-renowned author has been keeping an eye on the budget-cutting debate now raging in Toronto, passing on to her Twitter followers a link to a petition against the possible closing of library branches – part of a sweeping set of options presented by consultants on the hunt for savings.

As part of that review of core services, the mayor last week said he wants taxpayers to tell him what services to cut and what to spare, offering every citizen five minutes to speak at a special meeting of his executive that will begin this Thursday and is shaping up to be a multi-day marathon.

AFN demands clarity from Ottawa on land claims negotiations

The Assembly of First Nations wants an immediate clarification from the federal government about reports that Ottawa is moving to cut off specific land claims negotiations.

The AFN is drafting a letter to Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan asking him to come clean about his intentions for the hundreds of land claim negotiations that deal with the wherewithal of many bands across the country.

APTN National News is reporting that Ottawa is leaving Indian bands with a take-it-or-leave-it option on the government's final offer.

“We need immediate clarification on this. Is this actually going to be case?” said Don Kelly, spokesman for the AFN.

Doug Ford says he’d close a library, and tells Atwood to get elected

Toronto city councillor Doug Ford says he would close a library in his ward “in a heartbeat,” characterizing a growing movement to save branches that has the backing of literary icon Margaret Atwood as an "over-reaction” led by “library groups.”

“I don’t want to be closing every single library in the city. They go to the extreme,” Mr. Ford said Tuesday when asked about the reaction to the consulting report that suggests the city consider “closing some branches.”

Doug Ford blasts Margaret Atwood over libraries, says ‘I don’t even know her’

Councillor Doug Ford has taken aim at celebrated writer Margaret Atwood over her campaign to defend Toronto public library branches.

Atwood earned Ford’s ire when she urged people to sign an online petition, started by the library workers’ union, telling city hall to ignore a consultant’s suggestion to close some of the 99 branches in the city.

Atwood took issue with Ford’s comments on talk radio that he has more library branches in his Etobicoke ward than there are Tim Hortons outlets.

Asked about her efforts, Ford said: “Well good luck to Margaret Atwood. I don’t even know her. If she walked by me, I wouldn’t have a clue who she is.”

Fired Army Whistleblower Receives $970K for Exposing Halliburton No-Bid Contract in Iraq

Bunnatine "Bunny" Greenhouse, the former chief oversight official of contracts at the Army Corps of Engineers, has reached a $970,000 settlement six years after she was demoted for publicly criticizing a multi-billion-dollar, no-bid contract to Halliburton—the company formerly headed by then-Vice President Dick Cheney. Greenhouse had accused the Pentagon of unfairly awarding the contract to Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root. Testifying before Congress in June 2005, she called the contract the worst case of government abuse she had ever witnessed in her 20-year career. Just two months after that testimony, Greenhouse was demoted at the Pentagon, ostensibly for "poor performance." She had overseen government contracts for 20 years and had drawn high praise in her rise to become the senior civilian oversight official at the Army Corps of Engineers. With the help of the National Whistleblowers Center, Greenhouse filed a lawsuit challenging her demotion. In a Democracy Now! broadcast exclusive, Greenhouse announces that a settlement has been reached in what is seen as a major victory for government whistleblowers. We’re also joined by Greenhouse’s attorney, Michael Kohn, and by Stephen Kohn, executive director of the National Whistleblowers Center.
Source: Democracy Now! 

Glenn Greenwald: Norway Attacks Expose U.S. Media’s Double Standard on "Terrorism"

Numerous news outlets and commentators initially blamed the attacks in Norway on Islamic militants. Rupert Murdoch’s British newspaper, The Sun, ran a front-page headline that read, "'Al-Qaeda' Massacre: Norway’s 9/11." In the United States, Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal also initially blamed "jihadists," reporting that "Norway is targeted for being true to Western norms." Meanwhile, on the Washington Post’s website, Jennifer Rubin wrote, "This is a sobering reminder for those who think it’s too expensive to wage a war against jihadists." To discuss the media coverage of the attacks, we’re joined by Glenn Greenwald, constitutional law attorney and political and legal blogger who has written about the media coverage of the attacks in Norway for “When it became apparent that Muslims were not involved and that, in reality, it was a right-wing nationalist with extremely anti-Muslim, strident anti-Muslim bigotry as part of his worldview, the word 'terrorism' almost completely disappeared from establishment media discourse. Instead, he began to be referred to as a 'madman' or an 'extremist,'" says Greenwald. “It really underscores, for me, the fact that this word 'terrorism,' that plays such a central role in our political discourse and our law, really has no objective meaning. It’s come to mean nothing more than Muslims who engage in violence."

Source: Democracy Now! 

Chris Selley: For Ford, different rules the day

I tuned into Wednesday’s community development and recreation committee near the tail end of its marathon session, and immediately heard a most interesting speech from chair Giorgio Mammoliti. Against the wishes of other committee members, he wanted to shunt KPMG’s core service review report straight upstairs to executive committee. He saw no point in further hearings and discussions on city-run daycares, merging the fire and EMS departments, the costs of recreational programs and the like.

“It’s the same people who seem to be coming out to these meetings, the same interests … the same people who want us to do the same things,” he complained of those annoying people who, you know, engage in municipal politics.

The KPMG report: Close libraries, sell the zoo, cut back on police

Sell off the Toronto Zoo and the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts. Go for single police officer patrols, cancel public health funding for AIDS prevention, and student nutrition. Close libraries.

That is just a taste of a long list of possible cuts for Mayor Rob Ford’s powerful executive committee to chew on next week, when it delves into suggestions by KPMG consultants on how to trim the budgets of the city’s various agencies, boards and commissions. The highly anticipated, and savings rich, report was released Thursday morning.

Firms with B.C. Liberal ties awarded secret contracts in pro-HST campaign

The B.C. government office running the province’s pro-HST campaign secretly doled out contracts to two Liberal-connected companies and a former aide to the minister who introduced the tax, records show.

The contracts, according to documents obtained by The Globe and Mail via a freedom-of-information request, had paid out more than $250,000 as of June 1. That included compensating the ex-aide, Marc Andrew, to do what he called “purely logistical” work for the government panel that provided an independent analysis of the harmonized sales tax.

Internal government guidelines would normally have required those contracts to be awarded via a competitive process because they’re valued at $25,000 or more. But the guidelines allow that process to be circumvented – and contracts awarded without public notice – if it would “compromise government confidentiality.”

Norway Attacks Reveal Growing Violent, Anti-Muslim Sentiment in Europe

Anders Behring Breivik, who has admitted to the mass shooting and bombing in Norway, has been described as an anti-Islamic, right-wing extremist who claimed to be acting in order to save Norway and Europe from "Marxist and Muslim colonization." To discuss the prevalence and legitimacy of these views, we speak with Kari Helene Partapuoli, the director of the Norwegian Center Against Racism. She says Breivik’s ideology was shaped in part by the Norwegian Defence League and the group Stop the Islamisation of Norway. “He didn’t just go on a shooting spree. He was also shaped by this political environment on the right wing,” says Partapuoli.

Source: Democracy Now! 

Census: U.S. Racial Wealth Gap Widest in Quarter Century

A new analysis of U.S. Census data shows the wealth gaps between whites and people of color have grown to their widest levels in a quarter-century. White Americans now have on average 20 times the net worth of African-Americans and 18 times that of Latinos. The Pew Research Center has found the median wealth of white U.S. households in 2009 was about $113,000 compared with just over $6,300 for Hispanics and just under $5,700 for blacks. The white-black wealth gap is the widest since the census began tracking such data in 1984. Roderick Harrison, former chief of racial statistics at the Census Bureau, said, "I am afraid that this pushes us back to what the Kerner Commission characterized as 'two societies, separate and unequal.'" Latinos have been hit particularly hard by the recession. The median wealth of Latino households fell by 66 percent between 2005 and 2009. During that same period the median household wealth of whites dipped 16 percent.

Source: Democracy Now! 

Baird kissing Beijing’s behind

On his first official visit to China as Canada’s foreign minister, John Baird called China an “important ally ... a strategic partner” and talked of a “new era of trust,” saying that China’s abominable human rights record were best dealt with behind closed doors.

In short, it was a sorry display of pandering and ignorance.

Not everyone is interested in China. It’s a regime that will literally do anything to advance its own interests.

If that means blackmailing, lying, intimidating, subversion, espionage, cheating, so be it. China will do it.

Ford’s hardball on traffic light has centrist seeing red

Mayor Rob Ford may need to woo council’s six centrist swing voters if he is going to win the looming budget battle. So he puzzled many councillors two weeks ago when he made a calculated decision to alienate one of the centrists — over, of all things, a traffic light.

Traffic light projects usually sail through council without a discussion or a vote. The mayor almost never tries to stop them. But at council’s July meeting, Ford placed an unusual “hold” on a proposed new Dufferin St. light near an elementary school in the Davenport ward of centrist Councillor Ana Bailão.

Then, according to another centrist, Councillor Josh Colle, his allies lobbied other councillors to vote to kill the project.

“I think a lot of councillors were surprised that a local issue was being so heavily lobbied on,” Colle said.

The Subliminal Message of Tonight's Speeches: We're Doomed

When I heard that the president was making a speech this evening, naturally I made plans to watch it.  After all, our nation is at a crossroads--either we will figure out a way to work together and pass a debt ceiling increase, or we'll be forced into default or government shutdown.  I wanted to know what the president had to say at this critical juncture. Now, having listened to his speech, and John Boehner's response, I am left with the same question that is on the lips of every American: why on earth did I bother?

The speech contained no new information.  It didn't even include new verbiage.  We got the complaints about accelerated depreciation for corporate jets, which could close as much as $2 billion of the $8 trillion or so worth of deficit spending we'll be doing between now and 2021.  The puzzling assertion was repeated that we need "millionaires and billionaires" to do their part; apparently, the "millionaire" category now begins at a household income of $250,000 a year for a married couple filing jointly.  Once again, we were treated to Obama's selfless willingness to pay more taxes to fund the government that is going to make him a rich, rich man after he leaves office.  And the touchingly stated faith that these "patriotic Americans" will do their duty and chip in for a "balanced approach", as they have before.  The only new item, as far as I know, was a pretty decent Reagan quote that led off the speech.

Rep. Allen West's (Very, Very) Stealth Jihad

On Monday afternoon, as markets fretted over the possibility of the United States government running out of money to pay its creditors, Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) held a briefing on a crisis that could bring the nation to its knees. "This is about the protection of each and every American citizen who ever resides within our borders," West told the audience in the basement of Rayburn House Office Building.

West wasn't there to talk about Congress' apparent inability to raise the debt ceiling, though. He was there to introduce Peter Leitner of Citizens for National Security, an organization based in Boca Raton, Florida, that is dedicated to raising awareness of the threat of Islamic extremism in American communities. The group, which previously tried to ferret out perceived Islamic bias in Florida public-school textbooks, had been invited by West to present the findings of its latest report: "Homegrown Jihad in the USA: Muslim Brotherhood's Deliberate, Premediated Plan Now Reaching Maturity." CFNS claims to have a list of 6,000 members of the Muslim Brotherhood who are living in America and determined to "penetrate the United States and eventually erode its institutions, policies, and sense of self through the creation of a multifaceted Fifth Column movement within our borders."

Michele Bachmann's $4,700 Hair and Makeup Bill

Considering Rep. Michele Bachmann's crusade against government spending and her demand that America live within its means, you wouldn't figure her for a conspicuous spender. But after launching her bid for the White House, Bachmann has broken with her usual frugality and shelled out some serious cash on a stylist in what could be seen as her own John-Edwards'-$400-haircut moment.

According to Bachmann's latest campaign finance filings, her campaign spent nearly $4,700 on hair and makeup in the weeks after she entered the presidential race on June 13. Records show her campaign made three payments of $1,715, $250, and $2,704 to a Maryland-based stylist named Tamara Robertson. Robertson's LinkedIn profile says she works as a makeup artist at Fox News in the DC area. She's also listed in the "Make-up" section of the credits for the Citizens United-produced film A City Upon a Hill, hosted by Newt and Callista Gingrich—a pair who've raised eyebrows with their own spending.

The Value of a Human Life

What's your life worth, in dollars? That question routinely bedevils federal bean counters. Though calculating the "value of a statistical life" (VSL) may sound callous or morbid, it can lead to stronger safety and environmental regulations. For example, auto safety rules that would cost $100 million to implement but might protect $500 million worth of lives (say, 100 people at $5 million a pop) are seen as a good deal, cost-benefit-wise.

VSLs can vary widely, depending on the agency crunching the numbers and the administration in office. As this chart shows, the feds currently think each of us is worth somewhere between $5 million and $9.1 million.

Source: Mother Jones 

Activist Communique: Dene First Nation throws support behind stopping Enbridge pipeline

The Dene First Nation -- whose territory stretches from Northern Alberta to across the entire North West Territories -- passed a resolution supporting British Columbia's Yinka Deneerent in their opposition to Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline and supporting the right for Indigenous decision making power over their territory.

Much of Dene territory is coveted by the Enbridge Corporation (over 50 per cent of the pipeline and tanker routes) for its Northern Gateway pipeline project, a $5.5 billion dollar project. When completed, it will carry an average of 525,000 barrels of petroleum per day.

Murdoch's ties to big tobacco

Rupert Murdoch's phone-hacking problems have been all over the news in recent days, but it wasn't too long ago his media properties were providing a supportive environment for Big Tobacco that went largely unreported.

Murdoch's connection to Philip Morris Co. was revealed through secret industry documents made public as a result of the landmark 1998 U.S. tobacco industry settlement.

The 1981 publication of a Japanese study suggesting that non-smoking wives of smoking husbands were more likely than wives of non-smokers to get lung cancer shocked the industry. Big Tobacco realized that second-hand smoke would be the greatest threat it had encountered, more potentially damaging than earlier studies linking smoking with lung cancer, heart disease and other illnesses.

The Great Food Labelling Debate

After 16 years of bitter negotiations, the world reaches agreement on the labelling of genetically modified foods.

While consumer groups around the world celebrated the July 5 United Nations Codex agreement on labelling genetically modified (GM) foods, the biotechnology industry argued that the final document achieved nothing new. In fact, industry came close to denying there was an agreement at all. After 16 years of negotiations, these two radically different responses to the final document can be explained by the high stakes involved, arguably the future of global markets for GM foods.

It is voluntary and now technically “guidance” rather than “guidelines,” but the new international agreement on labelling GM foods, two decades in the making, was bitterly fought over. The biotechnology industry, with its initial power base in the U.S. and Canada, is adamantly opposed to labelling, afraid that, given the choice, consumers around the world will reject GM foods, as seen in Europe. The stakes were so high that the U.S. government – with varying support from Canada and a handful of food exporting countries, including Argentina and Australia – continually tried to stop the Codex negotiations altogether. After two decades, however, food safety regulators from around the world finally agreed upon a few words that have huge global import.

Phone hacking: MPs 'were misled' by James Murdoch

The former editor of the tabloid and its lawyer said that in 2009 they told Mr Murdoch, the chairman of News International, about evidence suggesting phone hacking was not limited to a single “rogue” reporter.

Appearing before MPs earlier this week, Mr Murdoch said that he had not been aware of the evidence at the time, a statement which has now been called into question by two men who claim they told him personally.

MPs announced that Mr Murdoch would have to explain the alleged discrepancy in his evidence to their committee. Misleading a parliamentary committee is potentially a criminal offence.
It came as it emerged that Matt Nixson, a former news editor at the News of the World, was on Thursday sacked as features editor at The Sun over allegations of misconduct from his time at the Sunday tabloid.

News International is coming under growing pressure as it is claimed that it orchestrated a cover-up, with allegations that executives and lawyers acting for the firm were aware of widespread potential criminality several years ago.

Full Article
Source: the Telegraph 

The Fed Audit

The first top-to-bottom audit of the Federal Reserve uncovered eye-popping new details about how the U.S. provided a whopping $16 trillion in secret loans to bail out American and foreign banks and businesses during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. An amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders to the Wall Street reform law passed one year ago this week directed the Government Accountability Office to conduct the study. "As a result of this audit, we now know that the Federal Reserve provided more than $16 trillion in total financial assistance to some of the largest financial institutions and corporations in the United States and throughout the world," said Sanders. "This is a clear case of socialism for the rich and rugged, you're-on-your-own individualism for everyone else."

Rob Ford accused of giving mother and daughter the finger

Rob Ford is getting a thumbs-down on social media after a Facebook post described an unexpected encounter with the mayor Friday night at the intersection of Dundas St. W. and Spadina Ave.

According to the post, Ottilie Mason and her 6-year-old daughter pulled up next to Ford and spotted him talking on his cellphone while driving. So they did what they always do when they dislike something.

They gave him a thumbs-down, and Mason rolled down her window and said: “Get off your cellphone.”

Mason said Ford responded by giving her the finger.