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, August 07, 2011

Afghanistan: Billions In Aid Failed To Create Progress

KABUL (Reuters) - The global community has failed to create a politically stable and economically viable Afghanistan despite pouring billions of dollars into the South Asian nation during a decade-long war against the Taliban, says the International Crisis Group.

The Brussels-based think tank said the United States and its allies still lacked a coherent policy to strengthen Afghanistan ahead of a planned withdrawal of foreign combat troops from the unpopular war by the end of 2014.

"Despite billions of dollars in aid, state institutions remain fragile and unable to provide good governance, deliver basic services to the majority of the population or guarantee human security," it said in a report released this week.

Violence is at its worst in Afghanistan since U.S.-backed Afghan forces toppled the Taliban government in late 2001, with high levels of foreign troop deaths, and record civilian casualties during the first six months of 2011.

Saskatchewan Government Running Sacred First Nations Burial Ground

REGINA - Somewhere along the South Saskatchewan River, lying beneath whispering prairie grass, is a secret aboriginal burial ground owned and operated by the provincial government.

The historic remains of nearly 200 unidentified aboriginals have been reunited with Mother Earth here over the last 14 years.

Not many people know about the remote spot and the province isn't putting it on any tourist maps, says Carlos Germann, director of Saskatchewan's heritage conservation branch.

"There's a certain level of confidentiality that has to be maintained here," he says. "This is considered a very sacred burial ground to First Nations, unique in that it accommodates all different tribal affiliations."

Germann says it's the only one like it in the country.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper In Latin America For Six Days To Talk Trade

OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper leaves Sunday for a six-day swing through Latin America.

His first stop is Brazil, which is now the world's seventh-largest economy.

Harper's main goal is to help boost trade between Canada and Brazil, but he will also talk about security in the region.

Then the prime minister heads to Colombia, a country that Canada signed a free-trade deal with a few years ago.

That agreement comes into force days after Harper's visit.

From there, it's off to Costa Rica and Honduras before returning to Canada.

Under Harper, the Conservative government has tried to cement trade ties with Latin America and the Caribbean.

Downgrading Democracy

The decision of Standard & Poor’s to remove the United States from its list of risk-free borrowers—by shifting the country’s rating from AAA to AA-plus—was a predictable enough play out of the absurd debt-ceiling debate. The job-killing agreement reached by the Obama administration and Republican Congressional leaders reads as if was written with the goal of stalling out whatever fragile recovery might have been taking place, and that has effectively been recognized by both the markets and the S&P report, which explicitly refused to endorse the GOP strategy of addressing debt and deficit challenges merely with cuts.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, noted as much when he said: “The action by S&P reaffirms the need for a balanced approach to deficit reduction that combines spending cuts with revenue-raising measures like closing taxpayer-funded giveaways to billionaires, oil companies and corporate jet owners.”

Why S&P Is Wrong

In what sounded at first like something from the Onion, Standard & Poor's postponed its planned downgrade of US debt for a few hours today after the White House pointed out that it had made a $2 trillion arithmetic error in its calculation of future deficits. Seriously. These guys are supposed to have the most sophisticated stable of financial analysts on the planet, but apparently they can't come within $2 trillion of figuring out something that's a simple matter of looking through OMB tables and CBO reports.

But set that aside for the moment. What's $2 trillion between friends? We all agree on the rough size of America's fiscal woes and $2 trillion one way or the other isn't all that decisive. So the question of the day is: Should S&P have downgraded our debt? Felix Salmon says emphatically yes:

The US does not deserve a triple-A rating, and the reason has nothing whatsoever to do with its debt ratios. America's ability to pay is neither here nor there: the problem is its willingness to pay. And there’s a serious constituency of powerful people in Congress who are perfectly willing and even eager to drive the US into default. The Tea Party is fully cognizant that it has been given a bazooka, and it's just itching to pull the trigger. There's no good reason to believe that won’t happen at some point.

America's own Taliban

Prior to 9/11, the Taliban government in Afghanistan did not register very much on American radar screens, with one notable exception: when it blew up two colossal images of the Buddha in Bamiyan province in early 2001. But destruction of treasured artifacts isn't just limited to the Taliban.

There's a right-wing politico-religious presence centred in the US, but with a global reach, engaging in similar practises, destroying religious and cultural artifacts as a key aspect of its ideology of "strategic level spiritual warfare" (SLSW).

Until recently a fringe evangelical movement, warned against as deviant, "spiritual warfare" is rapidly positioning itself within America's mainstream political right. It's well past time for political journalists to start covering what this movement is up to.