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.]

Friday, September 09, 2011

City attempts to block Toronto Stop the Cuts Network Public Meeting; Meeting to go ahead despite threats from the city

City attempts to block Mass Meeting to Stop Ford’s Cuts; Meeting to go ahead!

In a blatantly anti-democratic move that smacks of Rob Ford’s authoritarianism, Toronto City is attempting to stop the Mass Meeting to Stop Ford’s Cuts from taking place. The city is shutting down programming at Dufferin Grove Park, where the meeting is scheduled from 12pm to 5pm on Saturday, September 10. Organizers from the Toronto Stop the Cuts Network say they are expecting thousands of residents to attend, to write a Toronto Declaration, ‘a vision for the Toronto people need and deserve’.

The city has cancelled all programming at Dufferin Grove Park for the day. There will be none of the usual services at this busy park on a Saturday – no gardening, no food cart, no water around the playground. Shutting down Dufferin Grove Park is an attempt to drive a wedge between Toronto Stop the Cuts and community members who rely on park services. It is also intended to prevent park staff, unionized with CUPE local 79, from participating in or helping with this meeting.

Toronto Stop the Cuts Network is moving ahead with this meeting and urging more people to come out. Please help us spread the word!

Rob Ford has sent us a clear message: If you do not support the gutting of city services and the privatization of everything that isn’t nailed down, you have no freedoms in Ford Nation.

On September 10, 19, 26 and 27, we are going to show him what Torontonians think about millionaire bullies.

Please join our facebook page at and our email list through (bottom right) to hear about how. 

The current member committees are Parkdale Committee to Stop the Cuts with No One Is Illegal – Toronto; Toronto Stop the Cuts Committee – East End Working Group with Ontario Coalition Against Poverty; Jane Finch Action Against Poverty; South Asian Women’s Rights Organization, Davenport-Perth Stop the Cuts Committee, Barrio Nuevo and more

Toronto Stop the Cuts Network and/or our actions have been endorsed by Community Solidarity Network, Disability Action Movement Now, Aids Action Now, Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network, Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialiste, Common Cause – Toronto, Youth for Socialist Action, CUPE 4308, CUPE Toronto District Council, CUPE 1281, Public Services Alliance of Canada – Ontario region, Continuing Education Student Association at Ryerson, Health for All, Women United Against Imperialism (WUAI), Teach2Learn, Perth County Coalition Against Poverty, Toronto Civic Employees Union Local 416 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), OPIRG York, Student Christian Movement Toronto, the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) and the Public Health Social Justice Collective, PARC, CUPE Ontario, Greater Toronto Worker’s Assembly, Youth for Socialist Action, Socialist Action, Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault, New Socialist, Ontario Coaltion Against Poverty, No One Is Illegal Toronto, Jane Finch Action Against Poverty, Barrio Nuevo, Ontario Coalition of Health Unions, and Social Justice Committee of the Graduate Students Union of the University of Toronto.

Source: Toronto Stop the Cuts  

The Poor: Still Here, Still Poor

What ever happened to poor people? Even on the left, Cornel West and Tavis Smiley’s Poverty Tour was an exception. Mostly, the talk is of the “middle class”—its stagnant wages, foreclosed houses, maxed-out credit cards and adult kids still living in their childhood bedrooms. The New York Times’s Bob Herbert, the last columnist who covered poverty consistently and with passion, is gone. Among progressive organizations, Rebuild the Dream, a new group co-founded with much fanfare by Van Jones and MoveOn, is typical. It bills its mission as “rebuilding the middle class”—i.e., the “people willing to work hard and play by the rules.” (What are those rules? I always wonder. And do middle-class people really work all that hard compared with a home health aide or a waitress, who cannot get ahead no matter how hard she works and how many rules she plays by?) The ten steps in its “Contract” contain many worthy suggestions—invest in America’s infrastructure, return to fairer tax rates, secure Social Security by lifting the cap on Social Security taxes. There’s nothing wrong with any of this as far as it goes—middle-class people have indeed suffered in the current recession. But let’s not forget that the unemployment rate for white college grads is 4 percent, and every single one of them has been written up in Salon. It’s who’s missing that troubles me: poor people.

The last time poor people were on the national agenda was during the run-up to welfare reform, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, written by Republicans and signed by President Clinton in 1996. Welfare reform was supposed to transform poor single mothers into full-time or near full-time workers by tying government assistance to employment. Millions of mothers got jobs, which might or might not have had the positive psychological effects reformers promised—but (surprise!) fifteen years later, they and their children are still poor or near poor. “Once they start to make around $13 an hour, they lose the supports that helped them get into the workplace,” feminist economist Randy Albelda told me by phone. “Your costs have gone up, you’re paying for healthcare, you get less in food stamps and you have less time with your kids—so you’re worse off.” “It’s an issue,” liberal economist Robert Cherry acknowledges. “Many women are trapped in near poverty. But once you add in the Earned Income Tax Credit and the childcare tax credit, they’re still better off than they were on welfare.”

Obama's Judge Problem

President Obama is learning why judicial nominations matter—the hard way.

On Thursday, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed two lawsuits challenging the Democrats' health care reform law. Four of the twelve judges on the 4th Circuit are Obama appointees, and the three-judge panel that made the decision included two of them. But last month, in the 11th circuit, a differently constituted panel came to a very different decision on the constitutionality of health care reform. The contrast between the two decisions shows just how important the judicial nomination process is—and how by moving slowly on nominations, the Obama administration has imperiled its signature legislative accomplishment.

On August 12, a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the portion of the health care law that requires Americans to either purchase health insurance or pay a fine. The decision was 2-to-1, with Joel Dubina, whom George H.W. Bush nominated to the appeals court, and Frank Hull, a conservative Bill Clinton nominee, voting that the health insurance requirement is unconstitutional. Stanley Marcus, a judge who was originally appointed by Ronald Reagan but was elevated to the appeals court by Clinton, provided the lone dissenting vote.

Fortress America

Sunday is the 10th anniversary of 9/11. But while the attack on the World Trade Center is probably what provokes the sharpest memories in most people, that's not what stayed with me after the initial shock wore off. In the years since, my strongest reaction has always been less to the event itself than to how we decided to respond to it. I'm unnerved by the way we've become so security obsessed, so suspicious, so wary. Ordinary office buildings require IDs before they'll let you in. Taking pictures is a suspicious activity. Airplanes return to the gate because someone in seat 34A got scared of a guy in a turban a couple of rows in front of them. Small children are swabbed down for bomb residue.

Susana Martinez, New Mexico Governor, Admits Paternal Grandparents Were Undocumented Immigrants

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, who has drawn national attention and criticism from immigrant groups for trying to stop undocumented immigrants from getting driver's licenses, has acknowledged her paternal grandparents came to the U.S. undocumented.

"I know they arrived without documents, especially my father's father," the Republican said Wednesday in an interview in Spanish with KLUZ-TV, the Albuquerque Univision affiliate.

Reports about Martinez's grandfather coming across the border undocumented have surfaced numerous times over the past few years. The governor's office has largely dodged directly answering questions about the issue, saying Martinez was unsure of his status since he abandoned the family when her father was young.

Her comments Wednesday appeared to be the first time she has answered the question definitively.

Martinez spokesman Scott Darnell confirmed the news Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press, saying media reports citing U.S. Census data from 1930 showed Martinez's grandparents entered the country undocumented.

Rick Perry Subjects Ron Paul To A 'Rick Lazio Moment'

Most of the post-debate media chatter centered on the sparks that flew between top-tier candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. That's to be expected, of course -- that's precisely the way the media framed the debate going in to last night. And for the most part, that's the story today, with the addition of some "Jon Huntsman tried to inject himself into the race" sidelines. Writing for The Plum Line, Jonathan Bernstein says that "the most notable thing about the Republican field" is the "absence of a middle tier -- candidates who would make perfectly plausible nominees, but just weren’t likely to win." Well, I'd disagree with that -- the "middle tier," for the moment, is Ron Paul.

And if this image is any indication, Rick Perry, at the very least, hasn't managed to put Paul in his rear view:

Patent Reform Bill Passes Congress After Final Round Of Votes On Special Interest Favors

WASHINGTON -- As expected, the U.S. Senate passed patent reform legislation by a vote of 89 to 9 on Thursday evening, paving the way for the bill to be signed into law by President Barack Obama. But the bill, which has spent the better part of a decade working its way through the legislature, couldn't be approved without one last set of votes on giveaways to entrenched special interests.

It has taken Congress more than seven years to pass patent reform, and the corporate fight that sprung up around the bill meant rich rewards for those on Capitol Hill. Millions of dollars in campaign contributions have poured in over the course of the debate, with nearly every conceivable corporate interest weighing in, from Wall Street banks and drug companies to Silicon Valley tech giants and Texas trial lawyers.

President Obama has repeatedly called the patent bill an easy job-creator, though that assertion has been roundly rejected by patent experts.

NDP Poised To Make History In Newfoundland And Labrador

The New Democrats are looking to make a splash in Atlantic Canada following their stunning success in May's federal election, and in at least one province they might just pull it off.

But the effects of the orange wave and the outpouring of sympathy in the wake Jack Layton's death has been a little uneven.

In Newfoundland and Labrador’s upcoming October vote, the NDP under Lorraine Michael is poised to make history. The New Democrats have never won more than two seats in any provincial election on the Rock, and their vote share has only been in the double-digits once, in 1985.

The timing of the provincial election is good for the NDP leader. In May's federal election, the party took almost one-third of the vote and easily won the two ridings in St. John's. Jack Harris, former Newfoundland and Labrador NDP leader, took his seat with 71 per cent of the vote, while Ryan Cleary was elected with 48 per cent. Outside of the city, however, the NDP was not much of a factor.

Campaign Loans: Conservatives Plan To Make Raising Cash More Difficult For NDP Leadership Candidates

NDP leadership candidates may face a tougher battle raising cash thanks to the Conservative government, Huffington Post Canada has learned.

Dean Del Mastro, the parliamentary secretary to the prime minister, confirmed the Tories plan to re-introduce bill C-19 — legislation that would force candidates to accept only commercial loans.

Del Mastro said the NDP will be “in contravention of the spirit of the accountability act” if its leadership contestants are allowed to get loans that are below market rates.

“It’s a loophole (in the law),” he admitted. But he said it was one the Conservative government was determined to close.

“We think that the NDP should absolutely abide by that (bill), any loans that are taken out should be commercial loans and they should be fully transparent on that,” Del Mastro said.

9/11: Ten Years and a Trillion Dollars Later

Ideas of cultural relativism have made the West hesitant to confront Islamism.

Ten years and a trillion dollars later, we are more vulnerable to our enemy’s machinations than we were on that sunny September morning of 2001 when evil rained hell from the skies.

The jihadi terrorists’ 9/11 attack on the United States shook human civilization to its core. We in the West who lived a life of privilege and entitlement, who felt invincible, were made to feel as vulnerable as the ordinary inhabitants of the Third World. The colossal amounts of money spent to defend our lifestyle and values were not enough to stop 19 Arab men armed with mere paper cutters from bringing a superpower, a nation of 300 million, to its knees.

The reaction of the U.S. and its NATO allies was swift and powerful, but ineffective. Bungled operations in Afghanistan, where billions of dollars were wasted, allowed Osama bin Laden and his Afghan Arabs, as well as Mullah Omar and his Taliban, to escape to Pakistan. While the Pakistani military gave sanctuary to the enemies of the U.S., the Americans gave billions of dollars more to the Pakistanis, who then spent that money to sustain and promote jihadi operations around the world. As if the fiasco in Afghanistan was not enough, the West invaded Iraq and managed to hand the country over to the U.S.’s worst enemy, Iran.

Torture and the Abuse of Executive Power

The Obama administration is trying to quash court cases against former secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld.

In a system based on checks and balances, the courts are the last refuge for human rights –especially when abuse comes at the hands of the executive branch of government. But if the U.S. government had its way, citizens’ claims against former U.S. secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld for authorizing their torture would never make it to court. Under the Obama administration, which is inexplicably defending Rumsfeld in a series of torture cases, the government has unleashed its full arsenal of aggressive and strained defences to cut these claims short, and to stop the plaintiffs from trying to prove their cases. Like the Bush administration before it, the Obama administration is using some of the very checks-and-balances principles that were designed to protect individual liberties and human rights to attack them, instead. The approach turns our system of checks and balances on its head.

PM and his Conservatives will have ‘run of the House for a while’

PARLIAMENT HILL—It was like waiting for the other shoe that never dropped when Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivered a pre-session speech to his pumped-caucus Thursday—and did not utter a partisan peep.

Instead of the characteristic jabs that have marked the intermittent caucus speeches his media handlers allowed cameras to record over the past five years, Mr. Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) focused instead on bread and butter economic topics, receiving a lusty mid-speech round of applause for a single line that may signal where Conservative hearts remain as Parliament prepares to resume in just over a week.

“As you know, we will also follow through on our plan to eliminate the deficit to protect Canada’s strong fiscal position and help ensure long term economic growth,” Mr. Harper said.

His only reference to a controversial omnibus crime bill and other contentious legislation the government plans for the fall came at the end of the delivery, when he mentioned other priorities from the Conservatives’ May election platform and added: “We will work hard, we will do what we promised and we will continue to earn the trust of Canadians and if we are faithful to these things, I believe our government’s best days and, above all, our country’s best days still lie ahead.”

Harper says post-9/11 Canada safer, more confident

The war on terror is "an ongoing reality" but Canada is a safer and more confident country than it was a decade ago, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says in an exclusive interview with CBC News.

In a wide-ranging interview with CBC chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge that aired on The National Thursday night, Harper reflects on how Canada has changed since the Sept.11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States.

He says that prior to 9/11 most people weren't aware of terrorism threats facing the country and even though they existed and had been carried out — the 1985 Air India bombing was an example — they weren't a source of general concern. "Today we are much more focused on it. We are much more concerned about it. We're much more able to detect and thwart terrorism than before," said Harper.

The prime minister says, however, that the world is "still a very dangerous place" and some areas pose threats to Canada. He said there were "some well-known failures" in Afghanistan but that it's no longer a safe haven for terrorists to use as a staging ground for plotting attacks around the world. But that doesn't mean the war on terrorism is over, the prime minister acknowledged.

"The war on terror, can it be won?" said Harper. "The truth of the matter is there's so many different possibilities, manifestations of terrorism I think it is a case that we will have to be perpetually vigilant … and I just think that's going to be an ongoing reality … that's just life going forward in the 21st century, unfortunately."

With 1.4 million out of work, Stephen Harper must act now on jobs

Labour market slows

Canada's jobs market stalled again in August - that wasn't supposed to happen - and the unemployment rate inched up to 7.3 per cent.

Today's report from Statistics Canada marks the second consecutive month of trouble, adding urgency to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's shift of focus to job creation, though he isn't saying what he could do. And it comes just one day after President Barack Obama's $450-billion (U.S.) jobs package.

The economy lost 5,500 jobs as the construction, transportation and resources sector dragged down the market, The Globe and Mail's Tavia Grant writes. The health care and social assistance sectors gained.

Today's disappointing report comes amid unemployment troubles the world over, as The Globe and Mail's Barrie McKenna reports. Canada's jobless rate remains well below those of other ailing countries, but is still projected to remain above 7 per cent for quite some time.

New Port Lands plan will cost taxpayers $270-million

The man battling Rob Ford for control over Port Lands redevelopment is warning that the mayor's new plan will cost an additional quarter of a billion dollars for infrastructure.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Globe and Mail, Waterfront Toronto CEO John Campbell stressed his agency selected the most cost-effective alternative for naturalizing the mouth of the Don River and building a flood plain capable of handling storms of the magnitude of Hurricane Hazel.

Under the mayor’s plan – which features a megamall, Ferris wheel and monorail – Toronto taxpayers could be on the hook for up to $270-million in extra infrastructure costs, according to Waterfront Toronto officials, citing financial estimates that were prepared by third-party costing and hydrology consultants retained for the lengthy environmental assessment process. Among other things, the additional expenses include $50-million for relocating a Hydro substation and $100-million to clean a heavily polluted area north of the Keating Channel, Mr. Campbell said.

Her majesty becomes a wedge issue

Stephen Harper triggered a long lost memory of a public school detention this week.

My crime: in an act of pre-pubescent civil disobedience, my buddy Chris and I decided we would launch into an old rock classic, “Duke of Earl” by Gene Chandler to be precise, when the rest of the class was singing “God Save the Queen.”

We weren’t anti-monarchist and we were too young to be making a political statement.

We just thought singing allegiance to a Queen an ocean away was rather silly.

No sillier, it seems, than Harper’s edict this week that portraits of Queen Elizabeth be hung on the walls of all Canadian embassies, high commissions and consulates around the world.

As Study Links 9/11 Debris to Cancer, Details Emerge on How Officials Downplayed Ground Zero Dangers

An often-forgotten group victims in the September 11th narrative are the many rescue workers who fell sick after being exposed to contaminants at Ground Zero. According to a new article by ProPublica, recently uncovered documents reveal that federal officials in Washington and New York went further than was previously known to downplay concerns about health risks, and misrepresented or concealed information that might have protected thousands of people from the contaminated air at Ground Zero. Meanwhile, a new study has provided potentially groundbreaking evidence of a link between exposure to toxic debris at Ground Zero and the development of cancer. The medical journal, The Lancet, reports male firefighters exposed to dust and smoke at Ground Zero have a 19 higher percent risk of developing cancer than colleagues who were not exposed. The finding comes just one month after the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health ruled there’s insufficient evidence to draw a link between the smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center after 9/11 and cancer. Firefighters and rescue workers have been unable to receive payments for cancer treatments because cancer is not covered under legislation providing care for 9/11 responders. We speak with Anthony DePalma, author of "City of Dust: Illness, Arrogance and 9/11." His latest article for ProPublica is called, "New Docs Detail How Feds Downplayed Ground Zero Health Risks." We’re also joined by Joel Kupferman, Executive director of the New York Environmental Law & Justice Project. He was co-counsel for a group of residents and workers suing the EPA and ex-EPA Head Christine Todd Whitman.

Source: Democracy Now! 

Unions to play smaller role in NDP leadership vote

OTTAWA—The labour movement will play a diminished role in choosing the next leader of the federal New Democrats after the party executive decided not to recommend giving greater weight to union votes.

“It is not on the table,” NDP interim leader Nycole Turmel told a news conference in Ottawa on Thursday. “It is one member, one vote.”

Dozens of New Democrats — from both the grassroots and the upper echelons — are gathering in downtown Ottawa on Friday to set the ground rules for the upcoming race to replace the late Jack Layton as party leader.

The role of the labour movement in selecting the new chief threatened to spark a heated debate at the meeting, but Turmel laid the issue to rest on Thursday following a week of speculation.

Rebuilt Ground Zero Billed as National Symbol, But Costly Construction Projects Outsourced Overseas

This weekend thousands of people will gather at the site of the former World Trade Center to mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. On Sunday, a dedication ceremony will be held for the 9/11 Memorial which will open to the public on Monday. However, construction continues on 1 World Trade Center, which is far from complete. While the 10th anniversary has made international headlines, little attention has been paid to some controversial aspects of the rebuilding at Ground Zero. At a time when President Obama is launching a massive jobs initiative, key parts of the construction project were outsourced overseas. A Chinese glass company won the contract to manufacture the special blast-resistant glass base of 1 World Trade Center. Some 250 tons of stainless steel from Germany will also be imported for the project. So far, just two tenants have agreed to move in to the 105 floor building — the massive skyscraper formerly known as the Freedom Tower. The China Center was the first tenant to sign a deal. Leasing floors 64 to 69, the center will be used to promote the expansion of Chinese companies in the United States and house the U.S. offices of some Chinese firms. And the publishing giant Conde Naste has agreed to be the anchor tenant by leasing floors 20 to 41 at a heavily subsidized rate. We’re joined by Joe Nocera, business columnist for the New York Times who has closely followed the rebuilding at Ground Zero and recently wrote a column titled, "9/11’s White Elephant." We also speak with Scott Paul, executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing.

Source: Democracy Now! 

City arts grants at risk

A proposal drafted at Toronto City Hall to slash all funding to major arts organizations is sending shock waves through Toronto’s cultural world, the Star has learned.

The proposal, prepared by city manager Joe Pennachetti in response to a request from Mayor Rob Ford’s office, is intended to be presented at a meeting of the city’s executive committee on Sept. 19.

If passed by city council, the plan would eliminate more than $6 million of annual funding that goes directly to 10 of the city’s top arts organizations, including the Toronto International Film Festival, which opened Thursday.

The leaders of those organizations have scheduled a summit meeting on Friday morning at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, convened by the Toronto Arts Council. (The council hands out $10 million in arts grants from the city, but the $6 million for the major groups comes directly from city hall.)

Mayor Ford defends brother’s waterfront vision

Mayor Rob Ford is defending his brother’s Port Lands vision, admitting the venture could bring more money into the cash-strapped city than the original plan endorsed by council last year.

“You don’t get jobs having 400 acres of parkland. Parks are beautiful. We have tons of parks, but unfortunately, that tree can’t employ anybody,” said Ford, pointing to a wooded area in Colonel Danforth Park Thursday evening.

Ford said the city could use more development projects like the proposed mega-mall, ferris wheel and monorail along Toronto’s eastern waterfront as a way to generate revenue.

“As a businessman, I have the experience of creating jobs, meeting payrolls, and I understand how the real world works, the business world,” Ford said.