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.]

Monday, August 01, 2011

Beyond A Fair And Balanced Deal

WASHINGTON -- By the traditional standards of Washington, the debt ceiling deal is a serviceable one. It ended a series of long nights and anguished speeches in the Capitol, the kind of theatrics legislators think makes them look hardworking and serious. The deal contains impressive numbers in the multiple trillions. And it has been framed by politicians and media alike in the standard, comforting left-right trope, which says that any deal attacked by the "wings" of each party must therefore be sensible. Consensus has been achieved, so the Beltway thinking goes. The messy process of American democracy has been reaffirmed once again, just when we thought we were drowning in an acid bath of acrimony.

But there is a problem: Washington's standards don't apply in the real world.

People who live in real-life America -- who live the daily grind of work (or the absence thereof), of fragile family finances, of Main Street storefronts and internet startups -- won't benefit much, if at all, from the deal and might well be hurt by it, according to an ideological range of economics experts surveyed by The Huffington Post. And that doesn't even count the unemployed who will stop getting federal benefits in 2012.

Debt Ceiling Deal: Almost No Spending Cuts Before 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) — The first phase of a deal to raise the government's borrowing limit would pose little threat to the economy in the short term because almost none of the spending cuts would occur before 2014.

Discretionary spending, which excludes Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, would be cut by $21 billion in 2012 and $42 billion in 2013, according to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office. That's a small fraction of the nation's $14 trillion economy.

Israel Willing To Negotiate On Borders In Dramatic Policy Change

JERUSALEM — In a dramatic policy shift, Israel's prime minister has agreed to negotiate the borders of a Palestinian state based on the cease-fire line that marks off the West Bank, a TV station reported Monday.

Up to now, Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to spell out his plan for negotiating the border. A senior Israeli official would not confirm outright that the prime minister was now willing to adopt the cease-fire line as a starting point, but said Israel was willing to try new formulas to restart peace talks based on a proposal made by President Barack Obama.

Copwatch Conference: Seeking alternatives to the police

Despite only occasionally surfacing in the news -- with more than 1,000 G20 arrests, tasering deaths, lethal shootings and abuse in holding cells -- police misconduct is not only widespread and historic it is also deeply entrenched, said presenters at a major conference on policing last week in Winnipeg.

The International Copwatching Conference was hosted by Winnipeg Copwatch, an anti police-brutality group founded in 2007. The July 22-24 event attracted participants from every major Canadian city, as well as the U.S.

It's been just over a year since the gates of "Torontonamo Bay", the nickname for the makeshift prison which caged 1,105 demonstrators during last June's G20 mass protests in Toronto, finally closed. During that weekend, the largest police deployment in Canada's history of 20,000 officers led to gunpoint raids, dozens of activists facing years of legal battles, and emerging stories of threats, homophobia, and sexual harassment.

Shrinking government, not deficit, drives Ford

For Mayor Rob Ford, no matter what he says, this painful budget exercise is not about slaying Toronto’s annual deficit.

Ford’s actions and words, to the public and those around him, are not those of a bean counter trying to solve a financial puzzle. While real, the hefty “structural deficit” is his ammunition, not his target.

The colourful gut-led ideologue is on a mission to radically reduce the size and cost of city government — amputating services, grants and agencies. In doing so, he wants to erase most or all the 5,000 mostly unionized jobs added under his predecessor, David Miller.

The Ringleader - How Grover Norquist keeps the conservative movement together.

For much of the twentieth century, Washington was a Democratic town. Presidents came and went, but on Capitol Hill, which is where the tax dollars get spent, liberals and moderates dominated the key committees and set the legislative agenda. Washington’s permanent establishment—the law firms, the lobbyists, the research institutes, the media—was also heavily Democratic. Even when Republicans took over, they tended to be consensus builders, like Howard Baker and Bob Dole, who rarely challenged the ruling ethos. Especially after Senator Barry Goldwater, of Arizona, made his disastrous bid for the Presidency, in 1964, conservative Republicans were regarded as oddballs. In 1974, when the American Conservative Union organized its first annual Conservative Political Action Conference, or cpac, it was able to muster just three co-sponsors: an organization called Young Americans for Freedom and the magazines National Review and Human Events. “The movement was so small that I liken it to when Marx and Lenin were in exile,” David Keene, the president of the American Conservative Union, said to me recently.

Take It to the Limit

There is the current crop of Ohio Republicans, and then there are those who art in Heaven. A specimen of the former, ultimate destination unknown, is Speaker of the House John Boehner, a perpetrator (and, arguably, a victim) of the terrifying debt-limit arson that his party, on fire with ideological fanaticism, political ruthlessness, and economic heedlessness, decided to spend the summer fanning. Aloft, the Buckeye State’s celestial choir of the G.O.P. departed includes Presidents Grant, Hayes, Garfield, McKinley, Taft, and (assuming he’s been sprung from Purgatory) Harding. Its original member, less famous than the rest but as distinguished as any of them, is Benjamin Franklin Wade.

Debt Ceiling Deal That Cuts Trillions, Creates 'Super Congress' Announced By Party Leaders

WASHINGTON -- Congressional leaders and President Obama on Sunday night announced they've cut a deal to avert a historic U.S. default, saying they have assembled a framework that cuts some spending immediately and uses a "super Congress" to slash more in the future.

The deal calls for a first round of cuts that would total $917 billion over 10 years and allows the president to hike the debt cap -- now at $14.3 trillion -- by $900 billion, according to a presentation that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) made to his members. Democrats reported those first cuts at a figure closer to $1 trillion. It was unclear Sunday night why those two estimates varied.

The President Surrenders

A deal to raise the federal debt ceiling is in the works. If it goes through, many commentators will declare that disaster was avoided. But they will be wrong.       

For the deal itself, given the available information, is a disaster, and not just for President Obama and his party. It will damage an already depressed economy; it will probably make America’s long-run deficit problem worse, not better; and most important, by demonstrating that raw extortion works and carries no political cost, it will take America a long way down the road to banana-republic status.

Start with the economics. We currently have a deeply depressed economy. We will almost certainly continue to have a depressed economy all through next year. And we will probably have a depressed economy through 2013 as well, if not beyond.

The worst thing you can do in these circumstances is slash government spending, since that will depress the economy even further. Pay no attention to those who invoke the confidence fairy, claiming that tough action on the budget will reassure businesses and consumers, leading them to spend more. It doesn’t work that way, a fact confirmed by many studies of the historical record.

What we wish Obama had said

Does anyone else have a sick sense of déjà vu this morning?

After months of slow-motion capitulation, President Obama has cut an eleventh-hour deal with Republican leaders to raise the debt ceiling. After vowing to heed the public outcry for a balanced approach, he has instead consented to a plan that manages to run rough-shod over the poor and middle-class, coddles those who caused the recession, imperils the government’s two most popular entitlement programs, and virtually guarantees that our economy will continue to falter.

In other words, just another day at the office for our 44th president.

I have no doubt that Barack Obama wants to do right by the country, and that he genuinely believes giving in to every Republican demand (and then some) is his only play. But to me, the debt deal proves once and for all that Obama lacks the courage to lead effectively. The evidence resides not just in his policies, but in his words.

Seeking Arrangement: College Students Using 'Sugar Daddies' To Pay Off Loan Debt

NEW YORK -- On a Sunday morning in late May, Taylor left her Harlem apartment and boarded a train for Greenwich, Conn. She planned on spending the day with a man she had met online, but not in person.

Taylor, a 22-year-old student at Hunter College, had confided in her roommate about the trip and they agreed to swap text messages during the day to make sure she was safe.

Once in Greenwich, a man who appeared significantly older than his advertised age of 42 greeted Taylor at the train station and then drove her to the largest house she had ever seen. He changed into his swimming trunks, she put on a skimpy bathing suit, and then, by the side of his pool, she rubbed sunscreen into the folds of his sagging back -- bracing herself to endure an afternoon of sex with someone she suspected was actually about 30 years her senior.

Sex Sells Sex, Not Women's Sports

“The newest kid on the women’s sports block is finding that the old formula for attention-getting is as robust as ever. ‘Sex sells,’ says Atlanta Beat defender Nancy Augustyniak, who was astonished to learn she finished third in a poll of the sexiest female soccer players.”   —Wendy Parker, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Last winter, champion alpine skier Lindsey Vonn won the downhill gold medal at the Vancouver Winter Olympics, the first American woman to achieve gold in this prestigious event. From 2008 to 2010, Vonn also won three consecutive World Cup championships, the first US woman and second woman ever to accomplish such a feat. For her unprecedented achievements, Vonn was named Sportswoman of the Year by the US Olympic Committee.

From the Debt Debate to a Hostage Revolt

In the melodrama that is consuming Washington this hot summer, featuring the spectacle of how much Tea Party Republicans will be able to extort for agreeing not to blow up the economy, the values and priorities of most Americans were early casualties. That reality will drive — no matter what the resolution this week — new, independent citizen mobilizations challenging both Republican zealotry and Democratic cravenness.

The debt-ceiling debate has lasted long enough for most Americans to start paying attention and to realize just how divorced both parties are from basic common sense. With the economy faltering and 25 million people in need of full-time work, most Americans want Washington focused on how to create jobs and get the economy going, not on slashing spending for the rising number of poor children while sheltering tax havens for millionaires.

Congressional Progressives Slam Obama's Debt Deal

Both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate will by voting over the next 36 hours on proposals to make radical cuts in federal programs -- cuts that some fear will ultimately threaten Medicare and other Democratic "legacy" programs -- in return for raising the nation's debt ceiling.

The Senate is likely, although not certain, to back the deal that was cut between the Obama White House and Republican leaders; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, is already on board, as are key Republicans. The real test will come in the House, where Republican leaders are scrambling to keep Tea Party conservatives on board, and Democrats face the threat of a revolt by progressives (and perhaps more moderate members).

So far, barely a dozen House members -- most of them Republican leaders -- have endorsed the deal. Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Florida, is one of the few Democrats who is on record backing it,

The Texas Congressman and the Israeli Fascist

I was reading David Wilder's report in The Jerusalem Post about his time at the Christians United for Israel (CUFI) convention in Washington (Wilder is the spokesman for the Hebron Jewish community) and I was struck by this photo he posted, with the caption: "Left to right - Mike Isley, David Halvri, Pastor Roman Asbill, Congressman Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, myself, Jeremy Gimpel, Ari Abramowitz."

I would only note that the person Rep. Gohmert is standing next to, David Halvri, is someone I met in the 90s when he still called himself David Axelrod (no relation, as far as I can tell, to the other David Azelrod), and when he was a leader of the Kach movement, founded by the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, and of Kahane Chai, the successor organization to Kach. Kach men, of course, are fascist fundamentalists. HaIvri was arrested in Israel for celebrating the death of Yitzhak Rabin; he was also jailed for six months for desecrating a mosque. He has also been associated with groups that have been included on the State Department list of terrorist organizations. Just noting this for the record.

Source: the Atlantic 

Inside the Debt Deal: Who Won, Who Lost

It started clean and ended messy.

When the debt-ceiling crisis began to capture the public's and Wall Street's bemused imagination in June, President Obama's Gallup approval rating was 50 percent, the highest of the year.

(PDF: GOP House's Summary of Debt Deal)

It's now at 40 percent, the lowest of his presidency, and a disturbing sign that dismay with America's "dysfunctional" government is taking a toll on more than Congress - mired since early spring with approval ratings in the mid-teens.

A 96-Year-Old's Mortgage Fraud Nightmare

There is a term of art that was often used during the mortgage boom: "I'll be gone, you'll be gone," or "IBGYBG." In the mortgage business, it meant that however bad or risky or outright fraudulent a mortgage was, the person who originated it didn't have to worry—he'd have sold it and moved on long before the borrower was the wiser. The people to whom broker sold the mortgage wouldn’t be held responsible, either—after all, they weren't responsible for the fraud.

Lillie Mae Washington, who is 96 and lives in West Los Angeles, knows all too much about IBGYBG. Since September 2008, when Washington first sued her mortgage servicer, lender, escrow agent, and others for mortgage fraud, she has been trapped in a legal hell. She has represented herself, been represented pro bono, and now pays a lawyer to handle her case. The suit has been handled by at least seven judges, and the docket runs 104 documents long in federal court alone.

Writers Cited in Breivik Manifesto Have Spoken at U.S. Military Colleges as Anti-Terrorism Experts

In February 2009, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) received some very good news. A woman named Brigitte Gabriel had been disinvited from speaking at the United States Air Force Academy, due to MRFF's year-long battle to stop the U.S. military from allowing Islamophobic fear-mongers to speak at our military's colleges and service academies under the guise of anti-terrorism training.

Just about a year earlier, in February 2008, the Air Force Academy had invited a group called the "3 ex-Terrorists" to speak at its 50th Annual Academy Assembly on the topic "Dismantling Terrorism: Developing Actionable Solutions for Today's Plague of Violence." One member of this trio of self-proclaimed ex-terrorists turned evangelical Christians was Walid Shoebat.

Defunding Alternative Voices

The Tories' funding cuts to the SummerWorks Festival reflect a broader agenda to silence critics.

It has been a rough year for indie theatre artists and Toronto’s SummerWorks Festival.

The trouble started last August, when Sun Media’s David Akin broke ranks with the media pool. With the rest of the journalists at Rideau Hall agreeing to ask Prime Minister Stephen Harper a question about the long-form census, Akin used one of two English-language questions available to the press to ask about Catherine Frid’s play Homegrown, which had just played at SummerWorks. Harper replied that he was “concerned” that federal funds had gone to support the play about a lawyer’s relationship with a convicted terrorist, even though he had not seen the play.

No one ever got to ask the PM a question about the census.

Debt Ceiling Deal Reached To Avert Default

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama and Republican congressional leaders reached historic agreement Sunday night on a compromise to permit vital U.S. borrowing by the Treasury in exchange for more than $2 trillion in long-term spending cuts.

Officials said Republican Speaker John Boehner telephoned Obama at mid-evening to say the agreement had been struck.

Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid said that both his party and opposition Republicans gave more ground than they wanted to. He said it'll take members of both political parties to pass the measure.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the pact "will ensure significant cuts in Washington spending" and he assured the markets that a first-ever default on U.S. obligations won't occur.

Both the leaders said they will brief their colleagues tomorrow on the details of the agreement.

Check back here for the latest developments.

Source: Huffington 

Canada First Nations: More Children In Care Now Than During Height Of Residential School System

OTTAWA - John Beaucage has given the heartbreak he sees around him a name: the Millennium Scoop.

The First Nations leader was recently hired by the Ontario government to look into aboriginal child welfare and what he found — not just in Ontario, but across the country — was despair.

After decades of wrestling with the impact of the residential school system — and then with the "Sixties Scoop" that placed so many aboriginal children in non-aboriginal homes — First Nations are now facing another tragedy of lost children in the new millennium.

Obama's Bad Bargain

The most distressing outcome of the deficit hysteria gripping Washington may be what Barack Obama has revealed about himself. It was disconcerting to watch the president slip-slide so easily into voicing the fallacious economic arguments of the right. It was shocking when he betrayed core principles of the Democratic Party, portraying himself as high-minded and brave because he defied his loyal constituents. Supporters may hope this rightward shift was only a matter of political tactics, but I think Obama has at last revealed his sincere convictions. If he wins a second term, he will be free to strike a truly rotten “grand bargain” with Republicans—“pragmatic” compromises that will destroy the crown jewels of democratic reform.

The president has done grievous damage to the most vulnerable by trying to fight the GOP on its ground—accepting the premise that deficits and debt should be a national priority. He made the choice more than a year ago to push aside the real problem—the vast loss and suffering generated by a failing economy.