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 30, 2011

Doug Ford’s dream waterfront? Ferris wheel, monorail and a boat-in hotel

Councillor Doug Ford has laid out his most detailed vision for Toronto’s eastern waterfront, with a monorail skimming along the shore, a 1.6-million-square-foot “megamall” and island airport users boating right into their hotel lobby.

Ford, the brother and closest adviser of Mayor Rob Ford, laid out his vision in an interview Tuesday morning on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning.

The interview came on the heels of the Ford administration revealing it wants to seize control of port lands redevelopment from Waterfront Toronto, a tripartite agency to which Ottawa, Queen’s Park and the city have each contributed $500 million.

In the interview, Doug Ford laid out a much grander vision than Waterfront Toronto’s existing plan — lauded by planners and developers, but criticized by the Ford administration as moving too slowly—for a vibrant residential community that would incorporate stores and parks.

Army Ranger Widow Confronts Rumsfeld over His Lies that Convinced Her Husband to Join the Military

We speak with the widow of a U.S. Army Ranger who confronted former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld about her husband’s suicide on Saturday. Ashley Joppa-Hagemann introduced herself to Rumsfeld during a book signing by handing him a copy of her husband’s funeral program at a base south of Tacoma, Washington. She says Rumsfeld inspired her husband to join the Army after 9/11, but he later became disillusioned with the reasons for the war. Her husband, 25-year-old Staff Sergeant Jared Hagemann, killed himself ahead of what his wife says was his eighth deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan. His body was found on June 28, 2011, at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State. More than 18,000 soldiers returned to the Joint Base Lewis-McChord from combat tours last year. And while the Army says it is trying to shore up mental health services there, Joppa-Hagemann questions its success. "I want to confront the man whose lies led my husband to join the military, and so many other soldiers," says Joppa-Hagemann. "That’s what I wanted to do, and that’s what I did."

Source: Democracy Now 

Ex-Bush Official Col. Lawrence Wilkerson: "I am Willing to Testify" If Dick Cheney is Put on Trial

As former Vice President Dick Cheney publishes his long-awaited memoir, we speak to Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell. "This is a book written out of fear, fear that one day someone will 'Pinochet' Dick Cheney," says Wilkerson, alluding to the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, who was arrested for war crimes. Wilkerson also calls for George W. Bush and Cheney to be held accountable for their crimes in office. "I’d be willing to testify, and I’d be willing to take any punishment I’m due," Wilkerson said. We also speak to political and legal blogger Glenn Greenwald about his recent article on Cheney, "The Fruits of Elite Immunity." "Dick Cheney goes around the country profiting off of this sleazy, sensationalistic, self-serving book, basically profiting from his crimes, and at the same time normalizing the idea that these kind of policies…are perfectly legitimate choices to make. And I think that’s the really damaging legacy from all of this," says Greenwald.

Source: Democracy Now! 

Obama's New Economic Adviser Warned of 'Disturbing Problem'

Back in March, when he still enjoyed remove from the policy fray as an academic at Princeton, Alan Krueger used unusually blunt language to sound the alarm that the American economy was staring at the sort of crisis that seemed unlikely to be fixed absent sustained and aggressive action.

At the end of a largely wonky, data-driven piece of analysis written for Bloomberg News, Krueger discounted the incessant focus on the unemployment rate -- which does not count jobless people who have grown so discouraged that they have given up looking for work -- arguing that the real action is found in the so-called employment-to-population ratio, which measures what slice of working age Americans are employed. The ratio then sat at a dismal 58.4 percent, just off the low reached the previous December, meaning that the supposed resumption of economic growth was not putting large numbers of jobless people back to work.

Even back when the economy was still technically expanding between 2002 and 2007, Krueger noted, the percentage of working age people then employed never got back to where it had been before the previous recession in 2001, at a peak of 64.7 percent.

BART Protests: Police Make Arrests During San Francisco's Third Week Of Demonstrations (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

SAN FRANCISCO -- The San Francisco transit commute went smoothly for the first Monday in two weeks as demonstrators - acknowledging that disruptive protests of the two previous Monday nights have angered commuters - stayed away from train platforms, where protests have been barred for safety reasons.

About 75 protesters gathered above the Bay Area Rapid Transit system's Civic Center station shortly after 5 p.m. and marched on the sidewalks down San Francisco's Market Street. The busy downtown corridor runs over the BART tracks and the protesters briefly gathered in front of three other BART stations to chant slogans and yell at police.

Two protesters were arrested in BART's Embarcadero station, outside the fare gates and a floor above the platform.

As demonstrators were taunting police and chanting slogans, one of the organizers went through the turnstiles with a megaphone and chanted an anti-police slogan. The scene turned chaotic as the dozens of police in riot gear pulled out their night sticks and pushed protesters, reporters and commuters away from the two arrestees.

Alabama Immigration Law Blocked By Federal Judge

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- A federal judge temporarily blocked enforcement of Alabama's new law cracking down on illegal immigration, ruling Monday that she needed more time to decide whether the law opposed by the Obama administration, church leaders and immigrant-rights groups is constitutional.

The brief order by U.S. District Judge Sharon L. Blackburn means the law – which opponents and supporters alike have called the toughest in the nation – won't take effect as scheduled on Thursday. The ruling was cheered both by Republican leaders who were pleased the judge didn't gut the law and by opponents who compare it to old Jim Crow-era statutes against racial integration.

Blackburn didn't address whether the law is constitutional, and she could still let all or parts of the law take effect later. Instead, she said she needed more time to consider lawsuits filed by the Justice Department, private groups and individuals that claim the state is overstepping its bounds.

FDIC Objects To Bank Of America's $8.5 Billion Mortgage Settlement

In June, a director at Bank of America described the company's 2008 acquisition of Countrywide Financial -- the mortgage lender whose holdings included thousands of toxic assets -- as "the worst deal we ever made."

On Monday, Bank of America hit the latest in a long series of roadblocks in trying to put that deal behind itself. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the government agency responsible for taking over failed banks, filed an objection with the State Supreme Court of New York regarding an $8.5 billion settlement BofA agreed to pay earlier this summer as a partial result of its Countrywide portfolio collapsing, Bloomberg Businessweek reports.

Bank of America announced in June that it would pay the settlement to a group of investors who claim they lost money when BofA mortgages fell through. But a number of parties have come forward to object to the terms of that settlement, according to Forbes -- including states and investors involved in the claim -- saying they lack sufficient information to tell if the settlement is appropriate

Guatemala Experiments: Syphilis Infections, Other Shocking Details Revealed About U.S. Medical Experiments

ATLANTA -- A presidential panel on Monday disclosed shocking new details of U.S. medical experiments done in Guatemala in the 1940s, including a decision to re-infect a dying woman in a syphilis study.

The Guatemala experiments are already considered one of the darker episodes of medical research in U.S. history, but panel members say the new information indicates that the researchers were unusually unethical, even when placed into the historical context of a different era.

"The researchers put their own medical advancement first and human decency a far second," said Anita Allen, a member of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.

From 1946-48, the U.S. Public Health Service and the Pan American Sanitary Bureau worked with several Guatemalan government agencies to do medical research – paid for by the U.S. government – that involved deliberately exposing people to sexually transmitted diseases.

Fear, Inc.: America's Islamophobia Network

At this time last year, as the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks approached, the country was gripped by a pernicious debate over a “mosque” (really, an Islamic cultural center) near Ground Zero in New York City.

Pushback against the project actually began months earlier and was led by a group called Stop Islamization of America, which launched “Campaign Offensive: Stop the 911 Mosque!” in May 2010. The group’s founder, Pamela Geller, charged that “this is Islamic domination and expansionism. The location is no accident. Just as Al-Aqsa was built on top of the Temple in Jerusalem.” The group’s co-director, Robert Spencer, helped Geller organize rallies and protest campaigns aimed at a lower Manhattan community board, which reported getting “hundreds and hundreds” of calls and e-mails from around the world as a result of the well-funded and highly coordinated campaign.

Geller and Spencer’s cause was loudly trumpeted by large right-wing media outlets, notably the New York Post and Fox News Channel, both News Corp. properties. The religious right quickly joined; Dr. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention called the project “unacceptable” because “the people who perpetrated the 9/11 attack were Muslims and proclaimed they were doing what they were doing in the name of Islam.” Soon, politicians were also on board: Newt Gingrich denounced the proposal and argued that although the cultural center was seemingly benign, “some radical Islamists use terrorism as a tactic to impose sharia, but others use nonviolent methods—a cultural, political, and legal jihad that seeks the same totalitarian goal even while claiming to repudiate violence.”

Lessons From Central Cell Block

I’m a wuss.

I figured that out on August 20, when a guard was leading me down the cellblock in manacles and leg irons, and I looked through the bars of one cage, and there was Dan Choi, the former Army lieutenant turned gay rights activist.

I knew he’d been arrested with us that morning outside the White House, protesting a climate-killing pipeline called Keystone XL, planned to run from the tar sands of Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico. But it was only now, in the DC jail’s Central Cell Block, that it really struck me what his participation meant. He’d been down this road before—arrested three times outside the White House, galvanizing the successful effort to end “don’t ask, don’t tell”—so unlike the rest of us, he had a pretty good sense of how his day would end. He did it anyway.

He did it even though climate change isn’t his issue. I didn’t come forward to do time for gay marriage, or immigration reform or any of the other things I believe in; I’m an environmentalist. So looking at Dan made me understand what solidarity looks like—how those of us on the fringe should be uniting to provide common pressure on an administration and a Congress that rarely feels enough heat to veer from the corporate status quo.

Will Top Obama Economist Fight for Jobs?

The Obama administration’s selection of Alan Krueger to lead the Council of Economic Advisers was greeted with applause from progressive economists, including Paul Krugman and Jared Bernstein. “Alan is a fine choice as chief economic adviser,” wrote Krugman, who has often clashed with the administration over economic policy. “It’s an inspired choice,” added Bernstein.

Krueger served as an adviser in the Treasury Department from 2009–10, where he designed the successful cash-for-clunkers program, and, as a Princeton University professor, is regarded as one of the country’s top labor economists. His nomination comes at a time when the Obama administration is belatedly realizing it needs to do much more to try to boost the lagging economy. The Wall Street Journal reports that, if confirmed, Krueger “is likely to provide a voice inside the administration for more-aggressive government action to bring down unemployment and, particularly, to address long-term joblessness.”

Tea Party Senate Primary Campaigns to Watch

Tea Party activists helped Republicans win a landslide in the 2010 midterm elections, but they are already unhappy. Less than a year into the new Congress, they see a string of broken promises: the debt ceiling raised, insufficient spending cuts and politics being conducted behind closed doors. “The Republican leadership came in with promises that didn’t happen,” says Dawn Wildman, a national coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots. “They are doing backroom deals, not putting up bills online for seventy-two hours before voting on them, and not keeping other promises.”

Wildman is in regular contact with state and local Tea Party activists and she says they are displeased with their local Republican incumbents and open to backing primary challenges against them virtually everywhere. “There’s not one state saying ‘we just love our guys and want to keep them forever,’ ” says Wildman. “People are not willing to hold their nose to vote any more.”

Baird promises Canadian sovereignty ‘will not be compromised’ by border deal

TORONTO — Canadian businesses are pushing for greater security and economic integration with the United States while individual citizens caution against losing privacy and police independence, the government reported Monday.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird presented two reports on the government’s consultations with Canadians, promised in February after Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister, and U.S. President Barack Obama signed a declaration on integrating security and harmonizing trade rules.

“Improving the movement of goods and people across the border was the number one priority for Canada’s business, industry and trade sector,” the reports say.

“When it came to integrated cross-border law enforcement, there was more interest from individual Canadians than from groups and associations. Many of the submissions from individuals expressed concerns regarding joint law enforcement measures between the two countries.”

Nearly half of Canadians oppose greater integration with U.S. law enforcement

Canadians consulted on a controversial border security deal still in the works with the United States aren’t sold on boosting collaboration between the two countries’ law-enforcement officials, a new report suggests.

The report on the potential perimeter security agreement released on Monday shows nearly half of Canadians who weighed in opposed greater integration of law enforcement between Canada and the United States.

Many who took part in a federal consultation on the agreement voiced concerns about information sharing and the impact of joint programs on civil liberties, the report says.

At the same time, others “called for an open border, more enforcement powers for the Canadian Border Services Agency, and joint enforcement and co-operation in support of a common perimeter,” it says.