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 22, 2011

Rewrite, Sugarcoat, Ignore: 8 Ways Conservatives Misremember American History—for Partisan Gain

The mortgage crisis began in 2006 and it’s all President Obama’s fault—at least according to Fox News host Sean Hannity. Hannity recently blamed Obama—“his policies, his economic plan, his fault”—for the mortgage crisis, ignoring who was actually president (that would be George W. Bush) as the housing market slipped.

Hannity’s is just one example of the selective memory and historical revision frequently on display in the conservative movement. Right-wing pundits, politicians and pseudo-historians are nibbling away at objective historical truths to rewrite history for present-day purposes, and hardly any topic is off-limits: glorifying the “Reagan Revolution” to children, sugarcoating the Jim Crow South and revising textbooks to offer a favorable view on Phyllis Schlafly—among many others.

Taking the Justice Out of the Justice System

As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaches, the unexpected extent of the damage Americans have done to themselves and their institutions is coming into better focus. The event that “changed everything” did turn out to change Washington in ways more startling than most people realize. On terrorism and national security, to take an obvious (if seldom commented upon) example, the confidence of the US government seems to have been severely, perhaps irreparably, shaken when it comes to that basic and essential American institution: the courts.

If, in fact, we are a “nation of laws,” you wouldn’t know it from Washington’s actions over the past few years. Nothing spoke more strikingly to that loss of faith, to our country’s increasing incapacity for meeting violence with the law, than the widely hailed decision to kill rather than capture Osama bin Laden.

Rick Perry Wrestles With Health Care Stance, Opposition To Obama Health Reform Law

WASHINGTON — With the highest percentage of uninsured residents, Texas would be one of the biggest beneficiaries of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.

But Gov. Rick Perry blocked moves to lay the groundwork for expanded coverage. And among the alternatives he's supported is an untested regional solution that could put states in charge of Medicare, an approach potentially as controversial as Obama's.

With Perry running for the Republican presidential nomination, health care in Texas and his own ideas as governor will get fly-speck scrutiny on the national stage.

His state is a study in contrasts, boasting world-renowned facilities like the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, along with 6.8 million uninsured residents, or 26 percent of the population.

Questions Over Nato's Role As Libyan Rebels Advance On Tripoli

Nato has said it will continue to strike targets in Libya in order to protect civilians, but with rebels battling for control of Tripoli questions have been raised over how much longer the military alliance is needed in the north African nation.

Aircraft have been enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya since March following the passage of UN resolution 1973.

The resolution, passed by the Security Council, permitted Nato to take “all necessary measures to protect civilians under threat of attack” in Libya but forbid any “foreign occupation” of the country.

According to Nato the alliance has conducted 126 sorties over Libya in the last 24 hours, 46 of which were “strike sorties” in which specific targets were identified or engaged.

Department Of Justice Investigates BP For Faulty Oil Spill Estimates

On April 25, 2010, BP assured the Gulf Coast that a disaster wasn't unfolding.

Five days earlier, the Deepwater Horizon, a BP-leased rig in the Gulf of Mexico, had suffered a massive blowout, killing 11 men and seriously injuring 17 others. The floating platform burned for two days, then sank in 5,000 feet of water. Less than 48 hours later, BP discovered a leak from its deep-sea well.

BP knew that the well, tapping a reservoir of at least 50 million barrels, could release vast amounts of crude oil, dwarfing tanker-sized spills. But the company's experts quickly calculated that the well was releasing just 1,000 barrels a day, an estimate it provided to the Coast Guard shortly after the leak was found. The Coast Guard made BP's figure public on April 24.

Building a National Vision

Canada needs infrastructure built and maintained to the highest, most-advanced standards.

This is Part 2 of a four-part series that outlines the crisis of confidence in national governance and the urgent need for Canada to develop clear long-term national goals for which our federal government is directly accountable. Part 1 outlined why such a project is needed in Canada. Part 2 focuses on a first case study: the building and maintenance of our national infrastructure.

In Part 1, I wrote about the need for long-term and transparent commitments in areas of public policy where Canada has stagnated, and where the national government has fallen into a pattern of reaction rather than action. I highlighted how our national leadership has failed to offer a coherent narrative that transcends regional interests and divisions, losing the confidence of Canadians in turn. Here, I will address one of these areas in greater detail: our crumbling infrastructure.

West Memphis Three Freed From Jail 18 Years After Being Convicted Amid “Wave of Satanic Hysteria”

A trio of men convicted of brutally murdering three young boys in Arkansas in 1993 were released from prison Friday. Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, Jr. — otherwise known as the West Memphis Three — entered a rare plea deal in which they maintained their innocence, but plead guilty to murder, with the state of Arkansas recognizing them as child-killers safe enough to be set free. The men were convicted of the killings after an investigation largely fueled by unsubstantiated rumors of a Satanic ritual. In 2007, new forensic tests of evidence at the crime scene turned up no genetic material belonging to any of the men. We speak to filmmaker Joe Berlinger, co-director of the documentary covering the case, "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills." The film sparked an international movement to “Free the West Memphis Three.”

Source: Democracy Now! 

Royal addition to military wedge politics

This week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper demonstrated how well he understands this. The decision to rename the forces and return the royal designation was a stellar example of targeting wedge audiences to win converts and solidify political bases.

In this case, the announcement did not necessarily attract new support. Chances are those Canadians who embraced the decision were already voting Conservative.

But the opportunity to drive a stake through the heart of those hated Liberals was an opportunity not to be missed.

It is not lost on the Prime Minister that he is still competing with the late Liberal prime minister Pierre Trudeau for his place in history. Just last week, an online poll placed Harper as number two behind Trudeau as Canada's best prime minister. In Harper's case, his numbers for best prime minister actually equalled his numbers for worst prime minister, a fact that garnered scant public mention.

Government institutions don't respect access to information laws

The Federal Court's decision that the government should release the information it has on former NDP leader Tommy Douglas is an important ruling that shows federal institutions have a lack of respect for access laws, say experts.

"If we treated many of the laws the way we treat access we'd have some significant problems, and in this case it's not ordinary citizens that are not respecting the letter of the law of access, it's government institutions," said Michel Drapeau, a lawyer who specializes in access to information.

Canadian Press reporter Jim Bronskill began his fight against Library and Archives Canada over the release of files on the late Tommy Douglas, the first leader of the federal NDP and the politician credited as the father of Canadian medicare in the fall of 2005. He made an access to information request to Library and Archives Canada, a few months ahead of the 20th anniversary of Mr. Douglas' death—a date which, due to privacy provisions, would mark an easing up on the strict closed-door policy on Mr. Douglas' files.

Labour’s new reality under majority rule

Only days after convening Parliament as a majority prime minister, Stephen Harper chose unionized workers as the first to face his newfound muscle.

He moved with lightning-quick speed to threaten back-to-work legislation for striking Air Canada ground agents and force workers to settle.

Then he legislated postal workers back to their rounds.

His use of the big club has worked.

Barely two months later, another Air Canada union, this one representing flight attendants, has reached a tentative agreement with the airline.

In recommending acceptance to his 6,800 members, the union president, Jeff Taylor, uses uncompromising language that will echo well beyond the Canadian Union of Public Employees workers now voting on the pact.

PM brings soft power and firepower to bear in the North

Stephen Harper has been pounding the drum of Arctic sovereignty even before he became Prime Minister. And in 2007, he rattled his sabre and said the Conservative government would buy as many as eight ships to allow the military to conduct regular patrols of northern waters.

His plan, however, to open his sixth annual visit to the Far North with a display of Canada’s military capabilities has been turned on its heels by the horrific plane crash on Saturday that killed 12 people.

Experts say that despite the usual military posturing, the Prime Minister has come to understand that Canada’s claim to the North will be pressed by means other than guns and warships.

And the search-and-rescue operation designed to make a statement about Canadian sovereignty is actually an essential capability critical for northern economic development. This country is, after all, unlikely ever to be forced to defend her northern borders.

Harper’s muted reaction spurs call to do ‘better job’ on Libya

As Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s grip on power is rapidly weakening, Canada’s opposition is urging the Harper government support a transition to true democracy – and critical it did not step up on this front earlier.

The Prime Minister’s Office issued a short statement Sunday evening, noting that Stephen Harper is closely monitoring the situation and is hopeful “the end is near for the Gadhafi regime and that authority will soon transition to the National Transitional Council of Libya, the recognized governing body of Libya.”

But there was nothing beyond that, provoking the NDP and the Liberals to call on the government to ensure that Canada is fully involved in a transition.

NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar told The Globe Monday that “we will be happy to see Gadhafi and his sons brought to justice through the [International Criminal Court].”