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, August 02, 2011

Democrats shame themselves with terrorist rhetoric

Nobel Prize economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman took it hard when the Republicans negotiated a better deal than the Democrats in the debt ceiling crisis. He accused Republicans of criminal conduct – “raw extortion” and “blackmail” – and blamed what he called “right-wing extremists” for the 11th-hour pact that prevented the U.S. from defaulting, in one way or another, on its debt. Indeed, he wasn’t sure that American democracy could long survive. “Maybe,” he said, “it can’t.” For his part, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman described the dissident Republicans as “the Hezbollah faction” of the GOP, intent on “a suicide mission.”

Mr. Krugman and Mr. Friedman weren’t alone in violent apocalyptic lamentation. CNN host Fareed Zakaria deplored the “hijacking” of the nation by Tea Party legislators, presumably meaning the 66 Republicans who voted Monday against the bipartisan debt ceiling deal (as opposed to the 95 Democrats who voted against it). Mr. Zakaria denounced the Republicans as “fundamentally anti-democratic.”

“The Tea Party has an agenda,” he said. “It cannot get [its agenda] through the democratic process [so it has said that] ‘we’ll blow up the country if you don’t listen to us.’ ” He compared these Republicans to hostage takers and stridently accused them of treason: “They were not elected dictators of the United States.” And: “It’s a national emergency, almost like a war.”

Trail of hatred leads to anti-Muslim views

Norway is burying its 77 dead after an unprecedented terrorist attack. The Norwegian Police Security Service said that the massacre was “unique,” and would not boost the levels of threat from extremist political groups.

But some experts say the rampage, although appearing to be the work of one unbalanced individual, is far from unlikely in Western countries that are experiencing an anti-Muslim climate of fear and loathing.

For lesson in shared sacrifice, send Congress to boot camp

Editor's note: Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré commanded the military response to Hurricane Katrina. He retired from the U.S. Army in 2008 after 37 years, sits on the board of the Stevenson Disaster Management Institute and is an adjunct professor at Emory and Vanderbilt universities. He is the author of "Survival: How a Culture of Preparedness Can Save America and You from Disasters."

(CNN) -- Like most veterans, the men and women who have worn our nation's uniform to defend this country, I am furious with and disappointed in the state of indecision that plagued Washington these past few weeks. Whether or not to raise the debt ceiling so our country can continue to pay our bills and maintain our global credit rating didn't seem like such a difficult decision.

As a retired, disabled soldier who spent 37 years in the Army, I can only see this debacle -- the weeks of haggling to get to an eleventh-hour deal -- as the definition of "mission failure." At this point, even the last-minute deal that is on its way to President Obama's desk will not repair the damage our elected leadership's amateur-hour, worthless grandstanding has caused.

Super Congress Debt Reduction Has Little Transparency

WASHINGTON -- The proposed so-called "super Congress," created by congressional leaders in the debt deal and required to find $1.5 trillion in debt reduction over the next ten years, could wind up making those decisions behind closed doors, away from the public eye.

The text of the budget deal reached by President Barack Obama and congressional leaders contains few specific public disclosure provisions for the committee. The standing committees of Congress are allowed to send suggestions for ways to reduce the debt to the super committee members, but there is, as yet, no provision for the disclosure of those reports. The final report is required to be publicly disclosed upon completion, however there is no requirement that the report be placed online. There are also no official requirements for web-casting of committee meetings.

Government building de facto mega-prisons: critics

KINGSTON, Ont. — The Correctional Service of Canada will build maximum-security cellblocks inside medium-security prisons in Ontario and Manitoba, a move some observers say is a government scheme to create super-prisons while avoiding public scrutiny and controversy.

“They tell you they’re not going to build a super regional complex, but it’s already here; it’s going to happen,” said Jason Godin, Ontario president of the union that represents correctional officers. “They wanted to appease the critics and say, ‘We’re not building a super jail.’”

A 2007 report for the Harper government, led by former Ontario Conservative corrections minister Rob Sampson, established a blueprint to overhaul the federal system, including the proposal to build mega-prisons, which would house more than 2,000 inmates at all security levels at one site.

In the face of criticism of the idea, the Harper government has consistently denied it has any plans to build mega-prisons.

Woman held in jail over TB worries

WINNIPEG — A Winnipeg woman who has been in jail since April will spend another three months behind bars despite not having committed any crime.

The 30-year-old is being detained under a rare section of the Public Health Act because she has infectious tuberculosis and has repeatedly stopped treatment. Health officials obtained a rare order from the courts to keep her locked up in a provincial jail. They say she is putting others at risk, especially since she has previously worked in the sex trade. An original 90-day order was granted in April and then extended this week.

“I am concerned that without proper treatment, [she] may eventually develop drugresistant tuberculosis that is difficult or impossible to treat,” Dr. William Libich of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority wrote in an affidavit filed with the courts.

The woman was first diagnosed with TB in December and put on a treatment plan that takes between six and nine months to complete, provided there are no interruptions. The WRHA says in its affidavit the woman has stopped treatment on five occasions, which forced it to conduct extensive searches in the community to find her and bring her back to start the process over.

The WRHA says she has been “belligerent” with public health staff trying to treat her when she is in a medical unit at the provincial facility.

The new detention order expires in late September.

Source: National Post 

Halifax Access-To-Information Officer Dulcie McCallum Says She Is Being Stonewalled By Police

HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's access-to-information review officer is accusing the Halifax police of "stonewalling" her and undermining her oversight role after the force refused to send her records about whether any officers ran a lie-detector company.

In a scathing report, Dulcie McCallum says the police force refused to provide any records about whether officers operated a private lie-detector business in contravention of internal rules.

The refusal came after police initially indicated to her they would send the records, she said.

Bubble-wrapping nature against corporate greed

As an environmental justice campaigner in North America, sometimes I feels like I am operating in a bubble.

I am in San Francisco in the midst of a national "debate" on the U.S. debt, in a bubble at the Global Exchange headquarters where environmental activists have gathered from across the country to discuss the need for a paradigm shift with regards to our relationship with the environment.

Three months after the launch of the book The Rights of Nature: The Case for a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, by the Council of Canadians, Global Exchange and Fundacion Pachamama, a meeting took place in San Francisco this weekend to discuss next steps including joint strategies for the climate talks in Durban and the Rio + 20 Earth Summit in 2012.

Is the Fourth Estate Really Facing a Crisis?

The News of the World scandal simply reveals the dangers of nepotism in large, publicly held corporations.

The British media have been complicit in attempts to spin a broader moral or theme from the hacking debacle, and this has, worryingly, been focused on the state of journalism. The implicit – and often explicit – message is that the fourth estate is faced with a crisis: Its reputation is under assault, its freedom is being questioned, and its methods and practitioners are being tacitly impugned. But this narrative, which is increasing in currency and traction to the point of becoming axiomatic, misrepresents the nature of this scandal entirely – particularly with regard to the light it sheds on the British media.

Police Tactics are to Blame for Gang Violence

Police claim they have recently linked 13 separate violent incidents, including seven firebombings and a rash of shootings, to gang-on-gang violence in Winnipeg. “It's about money, it’s about drugs,” says Const. Jason Michalyshen. “They are doing everything in their power to intimidate one another.” Winnipeg’s ordeal is the entirely predictable outcome of pretending that the iron laws of supply and demand can be ignored. As the authors of last year’s “Effect of Drug Law Enforcement on Drug-Related Violence: Evidence from a Scientific Review” wrote, “from an evidence-based public-policy perspective, gun violence and the enrichment of organized-crime networks appear to be natural consequences of drug prohibition.”

It’s also predictable because the whole thrust of police action around gangs and drugs – as required by the logic of prohibition – focuses on the supply side, and, as such, is doomed to fail, and to encourage violence as groups try to gain control over market share. Demand cannot exist without supply, and no amount of police action – at least not that which is tolerable to a democratic society – can alter these fundamental laws.

After Months of Partisan Wrangling, Wall Street & Pentagon Emerge Victorious on Debt Deal

After months of a bitterly partisan stalemate, the U.S. House of Representatives has voted 269 to 161 in favor of raising the federal borrowing limit and avoiding a default on the national debt. The final count showed 174 Republican ayes, with Democrats split evenly—95 on each side. The vote came just hours before a Department of Treasury deadline that potentially would have seen the United States run out of cash and default for the first time in its history. The bill is expected to be approved by the Senate and signed into law by President Obama today. The deal includes no new tax revenue from wealthy Americans, provides no additional stimulus for the lagging economy, and will cut more than $2.1 trillion in government spending over 10 years, while extending the borrowing authority of the Treasury Department. The debt deal was a victory of sorts for the Pentagon. Rather than cutting $400 billion in defense spending through 2023, as President Barack Obama had proposed in April, it trims just $350 billion through 2024, effectively giving the Pentagon $50 billion more than it had been expecting over the next decade. We speak with William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, and Michael Hudson, professor of economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City.

Source: Democracy Now! 

Students to feel pinch in debt deal

WASHINGTON (CNNMoney) -- Some students will start owing more on their loans while they're in school under a last-minute debt ceiling deal to keep the country out of default and reduce deficits by at least $2.1 trillion over a decade.

As part of the savings to trim the deficits, Congress would scrap a special kind of federal loan for graduate students. So-called subsidized student loans don't charge students any interest on the principal of student loans until six months after students graduated.

Congress would also nix a special credit for all students who make 12 months of on-time loan payments.

Doug Lamborn, Colorado Congressman, Refers To Obama Dealings As Being Stuck To A ‘Tar Baby'

Congressman Doug Lamborn, U.S. Representative for Colorado, was recently on the 630 KHOW Capils and Silverman radio show discussing President Obama, the President’s economic policies, and the debt ceiling deals being debated. Lamborn used a controversial phrase to describe working with the President:

Even if some people say, ‘Well the Republicans should have done this or they should have done that,’ they will hold the President responsible. Now, I don’t even want to have to be associated with him. It’s like touching a tar baby and you get it, you’re stuck, and you’re a part of the problem now and you can’t get away. I don’t want that to happen to us, but if it does or not, he’ll still get, properly so, the blame because his policies for four years will have failed the American people.

Debt Ceiling Deal Paves Way For Medicare, Medicaid Budget Fight

WASHINGTON -- When it comes to Medicare and Medicaid, the debt deal raises more questions than it answers.

The giant health care programs serving some 100 million elderly, low-income and disabled Americans were spared from the first round of cuts in the agreement between President Barack Obama and congressional leaders. But everything's on the chopping block for a powerful new congressional committee that will be created under the deal to scour the budget for savings.

And if that hunt leads to a dead end, the agreement decrees an automatic 2 percent cut to Medicare providers such as hospitals. That's on top of a 6 percent cut already enacted to finance Obama's health care law, which is just being phased in.

National People's Action Protesters Jeer Boehner, Debt Ceiling Deal, Get Arrested In House

WASHINGTON -- Twenty-two protesters were arrested Monday after disrupting the opening of the House debate on a bill to resolve the debt limit crisis, Capitol Police said.

Police quickly removed the protesters from the House spectators' gallery after they interrupted the floor debate by unfurling a banner and chanting. They could be heard shouting "Boehner, get off it. It's time to tax corporate profits."

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, was not on the House floor at the time. He has opposed any tax increases to help balance the federal budget.

The group National People's Action later issued a statement saying the protesters had come to Washington to demand that Boehner and Republicans stop protecting the wealthy and Wall Street and look for solutions that create jobs and raise revenue to help Americans in need.

Source: Huffington 

Liberty And Justice For Some: State Budget Cuts Imperil Americans' Access To Courts

WASHINGTON -- Brian and Patty Baxter's daughter wasn't even two years old yet when they moved into their place in New Hampshire in 1996. The landlord had recently sanded and repainted the apartment, making it seem fresh and new.

That good deed would punish the Baxers. The old paint was contaminated with lead and by sanding it off, the landlord had turned the entire place into a waste pit for lead paint dust -- an especially toxic environment for a baby.

The Baxters filed suit in 2001, when the effects of the lead poisoning became more apparent in their daughter. Ten years later, their case still hasn't been heard.

"My clients are besides themselves," said attorney Chris Seufert of Seufert Law Offices, who is representing the Baxters. "Their child is ready to graduate from high school. She was poisoned when she was 18 months, and now she's going to be a high school graduate! I mean, come on!"

Unemployed Ignored In Debt Ceiling Deal

WASHINGTON -- The long-term unemployed have been left out of a deal between congressional negotiators and the White House to enact massive spending cuts and raise the nation's debt ceiling before its borrowing limit is reached on Tuesday.

Under the so-called grand bargain President Obama tried to strike with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), federal unemployment benefits would have been extended beyond January 2012, when they are set to expire.

But those negotiations collapsed in July. On Sunday, congressional leaders and the administration crafted a not-so-grand bargain that will cut spending without raising taxes or preserving stimulus programs like federal unemployment insurance.

Labor's Discontent With Obama Surfaces Yet Again

WASHINGTON -- The debt ceiling bill set to be voted upon Monday evening has left labor advocates in yet another precarious -- and deeply frustrated -- position. A president who began his term with the promise to not only stem the tide of job loss but also reconfigure the wealth disparity in the country has been bitten by the austerity bug. Moreover, there seem to be fewer and fewer legislative or political outlets for unions to explore.

In the immediate aftermath of the announcement Sunday evening that a deal had been struck, the nation's major labor unions bit their tongues, choosing to either carefully craft press statements or remain silent altogether. In private, however, the discontent was palpable. And it wasn't just driven by fear that massive spending cuts –- $26 billion in 2012 and $2.4 trillion over ten years –- would adversely affect workers or the unemployed. It was a touch more personal than that.

Welcome to the United States of Austerity

The debt ceiling deal hammered out by President Barack Obama and congressional leaders and passed in the House on Monday afternoon makes deep, painful, and lasting cuts throughout the federal government's budget. What's on the chopping block? The numbers tell the tale.

The Obama-GOP plan cuts $917 billion in government spending over the next decade. Nearly $570 billion of that would come from what's called "non-defense discretionary spending." That's budget-speak for the pile of money the government invests in the nation's safety and future—education and job training, air traffic control, health research, border security, physical infrastructure, environmental and consumer protection, child care, nutrition, law enforcement, and more.

Obama’s Hope-a-Dope Strategy

You may remember the moment when Barack Obama declared war on the Republican game plan—or so it seemed. Five days after negotiating a budget-cutting deal that averted a government shutdown in April, Obama gave a speech at George Washington University, slamming the GOP over the slash-and-burn budget proposal of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Republicans, he declared, were pushing a "deeply pessimistic" vision of America's future: "This is a vision that says even though Americans can't afford to invest in education at current levels or clean energy, even though we can't afford to maintain our commitment on Medicare and Medicaid, we can somehow afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy." Such a vision, Obama vowed, would not prevail "as long as I'm president."

Fighting words—and liberals were elated. Jonathan Chait of The New Republic cheered, "He beat Ryan and the Republicans to a bloody pulp.…He expressed moral outrage in a way I've never heard him do before, and in a way I didn't think he was capable of."

Then came…nothing. Or not much. And this week, Obama cut a controversial deal with hostage-taking tea party Republicans, who insisted on severe spending cuts before they would consent to the previously routine action of raising the debt ceiling.

Boehner's Handicap

Sometime in the '50s, the story goes, a small plane ran into engine trouble over Bethesda, Maryland, and was forced to crash-land near the 18th hole of a bucolic golf club. Employees rushed to the scene, and—upon discovering that the pilot was a woman—had her "very gingerly and gallantly" removed from the grounds.

Three decades later, when a visiting head of state showed up at the same golf club with a complement of Secret Service agents, the lone woman among them couldn't set foot on the property. In 1981, a new Supreme Court appointee with a love of golf and a 12 handicapSandra Day O'Connor—became the first justice not to be offered a membership. That same chivalry has since been extended to Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.