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, October 03, 2011

(Un)Lawful Access

In an exclusive new video, Canada's leading privacy experts speak out against the federal government's proposed cyber surveillance laws. has been working with a coalition of organizations to raise awareness about the federal government’s impending “Lawful Access” legislation – dubbed “Online Spying” by its critics. As part of this effort, has launched the following documentary featuring Canada’s leading privacy experts explaining the dangers of the proposed legislation – namely, that these new electronic surveillance laws allow authorities to access the private information of any Canadian, at any time, without a warrant.

Executive Director of, Steve Anderson takes your questions live Wednesday, October 5th on The Mark's Facebook page.

If the legislation is passed, believes it will lead to internet surveillance that is:
  • Warrantless: In which a range of “authorities” will be able to collect private information from law-abiding Canadians using wired internet and mobile devices without having to provide any justification for doing so.
  • Invasive: Showing a radical break from existing safeguards, and leaving personal and financial information less secure and more susceptible to cybercrime.
  • Costly: As internet service providers will be forced to install millions of dollars’ worth of spying technology, the costs of which will be passed down to the consumer.

Source: the Mark 

A Risky Move to Securitize Immigration

With Bill C-4, the government unfairly targets refugees and further concentrates power in the hands of the Minister of Immigration.

OTTAWA – The Peace Tower looms over Parliament Hill, chiming the hour and reminding me irresistibly of the opening bars of ACDC’s “Hell’s Bells.” I run into an affable Thomas Mulcair standing in front of Centre Block checking his Blackberry, and we talk politics for a few minutes, but he must be used to the sepulchral gongs emanating above our heads – sadly, he refrains from breaking into song: “If you’re into evil you’re a friend of mine!”

Yes, it’s September, and Canada’s 41st Parliament is back in session. Security on the Hill is tight, and my press credentials do not spare me from frequent sessions with metal detectors and vaguely embarrassed security personnel. I get the distinct impression most of the uniformed security guards here feel it’s all a bit much, but there are also plain-clothes security people who walk around the beautifully sculpted halls of Parliament looking serious as cancer, and they betray no embarrassment or awkwardness whatsoever. Maintaining a constant high level of professional paranoia must be no fun at all.

Bold and cautious? Dissecting the Supreme Court’s Insite ruling

“Insite saves lives. Its benefits have been proven.” With that blunt statement, the Supreme Court of Canada cuts to the heart of the matter: by denying Vancouver’s safe-injection facility, Insite, a further exemption from laws prohibiting drug possession, the federal government acts contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The ruling stands as a razor-sharp rebuke of the federal government’s rather fragile position, at least as in terms of the insurmountable evidence that Insite averts deaths from overdose, helps prevent the spread of disease, and facilitates treatment and recovery. The Court’s decision also stands as a potential landmark in Canadian constitutional law, having considerable implications for the obligations the Charter increasingly imposes on government.

Before delving into these two important elements of the decision, it is worth noting what the Court does not do.

The decision does not privilege the provinces’ role in health care over the federal government’s ability to determine criminal law. This is not a case in which British Columbia and the other provinces won a jurisdictional battle. The federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act remains intact. Although the decision likely paves the way for provinces to open new safe-injection facilities, the balance of power between the provinces and the federal government remains otherwise unchanged.

700 arrested on Brooklyn Bridge in NYC

About 700 of the demonstrators taking part in the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York City were arrested late Saturday during a march across the Brooklyn Bridge.

In a statement, NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne said protesters received multiple warnings by police to stay on the pedestrian walkway, and were told that if they took the roadway they would be arrested. “Some complied and took the walkway without being arrested,” Browne said. “Others proceeded on the Brooklyn-bound vehicular roadway and were.”

Protesters dispute Browne’s account of the events. Many of those present at the march say they were duped by the NYPD. “The NYPD started leading protesters onto the roadway,” says Michael Pellagatti, 24, who was arrested and held in a public transit bus for four hours before spending the night in a jail cell in Brooklyn. “My ticket says, ‘blocking vehicular traffic’ but I don’t understand that. The NYPD was already blocking off traffic to begin with,” Pellagatti told Maclean’s, showing off his ticket and plasti-cuffs. “We had the general sense that they were blocking the street to allow us to cross to Brooklyn.”

The Occupy Wall Street protest in downtown Manhattan started two weeks ago after activists responded to a call by Adbusters magazine. The Vancouver-based publication encouraged readers to start a movement against the financial system they say brought down the U.S. economy in 2008. As of Sunday morning, some 200 protesters had spent the night in a makeshift encampment in Zuccotti Park—a stone’s throw from Wall Street—which has come to serve as the nerve centre for the budding movement.

Source: Maclean's  

Occupy Wall St. protest to march into Canada

Activists are planning an occupation of Toronto's financial district as well as other Canadian cities following in the footsteps of protesters currently camped out on Wall Street in New York City.

A group calling itself Occupy Toronto Market Exchange has launched a website to organize a march on Bay Street beginning Oct. 15.

That's a Saturday, when the stock exchange is closed and few people are working in Canada's financial capital.

About 830 people on Facebook have replied they would attend the event in Toronto.

Occupations are also planned in the streets in other Canadian cities, including Vancouver, Montreal and Calgary.

South of the border, protesters speaking out against corporate greed and other grievances remain in Manhattan's financial district.

They are holding their ground even after more than 700 of them were arrested Saturday during a march on the Brooklyn Bridge in a tense confrontation with police.

The group Occupy Wall Street has been camped out in a plaza for nearly two weeks staging various marches, and had orchestrated an impromptu trek to Brooklyn.

Protesters are speaking out against corporate greed, government bailouts, and income inequality amid high unemployment and the prospect of another recession.

Canada's economic growth has been slowing, leading some to believe this country could also be headed for recession.

Source: CBC 

Conservatives set to table bill forcing unions to open books

The Conservatives are set to take another hit at labour organizations, this time through a private member’s bill designed to force Canada’s unions to open their books to the public.

The legislation is set to be tabled in the House on Monday afternoon by Conservative MP Russ Hiebert, who has won a draw allowing him to be the first parliamentarian to present his private member’s bill.

The bill’s content is still confidential, but its title shows it will seek to change the rules governing labour organizations under the Income Tax Act, which exempts unions, along with charities and municipalities, from paying taxes. If adopted, the bill will force unions “to apply financial disclosure rules” that are already in place for charities, said a source, given the tax benefit that they receive.

The proposed bill is part of continued efforts in recent months by the Conservatives to take on Canada’s unions, which are key backers of the NDP.

Occupy Wall Street Arrests: An Eyewitness View

Joshua Stephens, 33, had joined the protest march and had ended up on the Brooklyn Bridge. He managed to avoid being one of the 500 or so penned in by the NYPD and arrested. HuffPost reached him by phone, and he provided a first-hand narrative of just what happened on the bridge:

"The people who plotted the march did not give out the route in advance. There were people stationed throughout the march in the procession who were helping guide us when it was time to turn. They told people at the beginning 'we have a route, we're not announcing it.' I think that was a reaction to what happened before when the cops pepper-sprayed those women up in Union Square.

I was a little surprised when we got down to City Hall, and people started turning onto the Brooklyn Bridge. The Brooklyn Bridge is generally choked with tourists, just choked with tourists. If you are a cyclist, you just never take the Brooklyn's just a really frustrating experience...There's so many people on it all the time.

Ontario Election 2011: Mike Harris Still A Presence In Ontario Politics

TORONTO - He's been gone from politics and stayed largely out of public sight for almost a decade, yet former premier Mike Harris still casts a shadow across Ontario's political landscape.

Indeed, as the pace and rhetoric heated up ahead of the Oct. 6 election, the ghost of Harris seemed to have been invoked with the frequency of a favourite dead uncle at a seance.

"Harris plays so central a role in pre-election messaging in the run-up to the 2011 election that he really deserves royalties," Graham Murray, a long-time observer of the legislature, said before the campaign got underway formally.

While Harris, who has not surfaced — at least publicly — as part of Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak's campaign, Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty has made several disparaging allusions to the Harris era.

700 Arrested on Brooklyn Bridge as Occupy Wall Street Enters Third Week, Protests Grows Nationwide

The "Occupy Wall Street" protests in the financial district took a dramatic turn on Saturday when protesters tried to march across the Brooklyn Bridge. When police arrested 700 of the demonstrators, the event quickly turned into one of the largest arrests of non-violent protesters in recent history. Some protesters claim police lured them onto oncoming traffic on the bridge’s roadway; others said they did not hear instructions from police telling them to use the pedestrian walkway. Meanwhile, similar "Occupation" protests have spread to other cities, including Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles, where hundreds of protesters are now camped out in front of City Hall. We host a roundtable discussion with Marisa Holmes, an organizer with the main organizing group of Occupy Wall Street, called the General Assembly, Marina Sitrin, an attorney who is part of Occupy Wall Street’s legal working group, and Laurie Penny, a writer and journalist who reported on protests in London earlier this summer.

Source: Democracy Now! 

Settlement Reached Over Arrest of Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! Producers at 2008 GOP Convention

A final settlement has been reached in a federal lawsuit challenging the police crackdown on journalists reporting on the 2008 Republican National Convention and protests in St. Paul, Minnesota. Democracy Now! host and executive producer Amy Goodman, along with former producers Nicole Salazar and Sharif Abdel Kouddous, filed the lawsuit last year against the Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments, the Ramsey County Sheriff and United States Secret Service personnel. The lawsuit challenged the policies and conduct of law enforcement during the 2008 RNC that resulted in their arrests. They were among dozens of journalists arrested that week in St. Paul. The settlement includes $100,000 in compensation paid by the St. Paul and Minneapolis police departments and the Secret Service. The settlement also includes an agreement by the St. Paul police department to implement a training program aimed at educating officers regarding the First Amendment rights of the press and public with respect to police operations, including proper procedures for dealing with the press covering demonstrations.

Source: Democracy Now! 

Rick Perry Open To Sending U.S. Troops To Mexico To Battle Drug Cartels

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP/The Huffington Post) -- Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry says he is open to sending American troops to Mexico to help battle drug cartels.

Perry, the Texas governor, likens the situation to Colombia, where the government accepted American military support in battling the war on drugs.

Perry says the current violence may require similar military action.

He often calls for more National Guard troops to help protect the Mexican border and stem the flow of illegal immigration. But Saturday's comments go further. They indicate he's open to deepening America's military involvement across the border.

Andrew Breitbart Tells Unions To 'F**k Off', Calls Janeane Garofalo Hollywood's 'Sympathy F**k'

Andrew Breitbart helped kick off the Chicago Tea Party's TeaCon 2011 Convention in suburban Schaumburg Friday night -- and had some harsh words for unions and liberal actress Janeane Garofalo.

While addressing a crowd of cheering supporters, the conservative blogger began ripping on Garofalo for her vocal opposition to the Tea Party. The actress recently said that GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain "is probably well liked by some of the Republicans because it hides the racist elements of the Republican party."

Breitbart told the crowd that the word around Los Angeles--where he lives--is that Garofalo is "Hollywood's sympathy fuck." The crowd erupts in laughter.

Breitbart went on to call Nancy Pelosi a "bitch," according to Mediaite, and then slammed the unions for being critical of the Tea Party movement.

Troy Davis Funeral: More Than 1,000 People Attend Service

SAVANNAH, Ga. — Sent to death row 20 years ago as a convicted cop killer, Troy Davis was celebrated as "martyr and foot soldier" Saturday by more than 1,000 people who packed the pews at his funeral and pledged to keep fighting the death penalty.

Family, activists and supporters who spent years trying to persuade judges and Georgia prison officials that Davis was innocent were unable to prevent his execution Sept. 21. But the crowd that filled Savannah's Jonesville Baptist Church on Saturday seemed less interested in pausing in remorse than showing a resolve to capitalize on the worldwide attention Davis' case brought to capital punishment in the U.S.

Benjamin Todd Jealous, national president of the NAACP, brought the crowd to its feet in a chant of "I am Troy Davis" – the slogan supporters used to paint Davis as an everyman forced to face the executioner by a faulty justice system. Jealous noted that Davis professed his innocence even in his final words.

40 Detained During Moscow Gay Pride Rally

MOSCOW -- Russian police say they have detained dozens of anti-gay protesters and gay rights activists during a gay pride rally in central Moscow.

Saturday's protest was one of the few gay rights events sanctioned by authorities. In recent years, several attempts to hold gay pride marches in Moscow and other Russian cities have been blocked by police, Russian Orthodox Church activists and soccer fans.

Moscow police spokesman Anatoly Lastovetsky said 40 people were detained Saturday.

He told The Associated Press that police were "finding out whether (the detained) were part of the rally or the people who tried to thwart it."

During the rally, several men were seen trying to pelt the protesters with tomatoes and unfurling posters with pejorative remarks about homosexuality.

Source: Huffington 

Canadian version of Wall Street occupation planned

Organizers in Toronto and several other Canadian cities say they plan to follow the example of anti-Wall Street activists in the United States by taking to the streets later this month to protest the global financial system.

The New York activists say they are protesting to bring attention to corporate greed and government-backed bailouts of American banks. Similar demonstrations have already spread to Albuquerque, N.M., Boston and Los Angeles.

In Toronto, activists say they plan to converge in the city’s financial district on Saturday Oct. 15. A tentative schedule on a website called Occupy Toronto says the occupation will begin at 10 a.m. ET that day. The group plans to use the weekend to organize itself and says it will wait to march on the streets until the Toronto Stock Exchange opens on Monday.

Canadian protests are also planned for Calgary, Vancouver, Victoria, Ottawa, Montreal, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, according to a website called Occupy Together.

The Toronto organizers are using the same rallying cry as those in New York, saying they are part of 99 per cent of people who are struggling while the wealthiest 1 per cent of the world’s population prospers.

The Toronto group held its first organizing meeting on Sept. 29. By Sunday afternoon, 800 people said they planned to attend the Occupy Toronto event, according to its Facebook page.

In Vancouver, organizers say they plan to occupy an area outside the Vancouver Art Gallery. Those attending have been asked to bring tents with them and the group’s Facebook page says protesters will stay “as long as it takes.”

The Occupy Together website suggests similar events are being planned in Mexico, Australia, Tokyo, about a dozen European countries and more than 40 U.S. states.

On Saturday night, more than 700 people were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge in connection with the anti-Wall Street protest, after a march closed down a lane of traffic for several hours.

Source: Globe&Mail 

Phony Fear Factor

The good news: After spending a year and a half talking about deficits, deficits, deficits when we should have been talking about jobs, job, jobs we’re finally back to discussing the right issue.

The bad news: Republicans, aided and abetted by many conservative policy intellectuals, are fixated on a view about what’s blocking job creation that fits their prejudices and serves the interests of their wealthy backers, but bears no relationship to reality.

Listen to just about any speech by a Republican presidential hopeful, and you’ll hear assertions that the Obama administration is responsible for weak job growth. How so? The answer, repeated again and again, is that businesses are afraid to expand and create jobs because they fear costly regulations and higher taxes. Nor are politicians the only people saying this. Conservative economists repeat the claim in op-ed articles, and Federal Reserve officials repeat it to justify their opposition to even modest efforts to aid the economy.

The first thing you need to know, then, is that there’s no evidence supporting this claim and a lot of evidence showing that it’s false.

Settlement construction still major obstacle to peace

The issue of construction in the settlements continues to be a major obstacle in the peace process.

In the midst of the American and Israeli diplomatic campaign to attain a majority in the UN Security Council against the unilateral Palestinian application for statehood, the Regional Planning and Building Council in Jerusalem approved construction of 1,100 apartments on the southern slopes of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, which is over the Green Line.

The unilateral decision was made while the Quartet was waiting for the parties' response to its new initiative on negotiations, which is intended to save the two-state solution and prevent another outbreak of violence.

The issue of construction in the settlements continues to be a major obstacle in the peace process. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has announced that a hiatus on such construction is a condition to renewing negotiations. As far as the Palestinians are concerned, the issue of sovereignty in East Jerusalem is to be clarified in permanent-status talks. The international community, including the United States, does not recognize the application of Israeli law and administration to East Jerusalem. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton joined the Palestinian protest against the decision to expand Gilo. The Quartet warned that Israel's move endangers its efforts to achieve peace.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the criticism, saying that Gilo is not a settlement, but rather a Jerusalem neighborhood five minutes from the center of the capital. He noted that all Israeli governments built in such neighborhoods. Indeed, successive Israeli governments built thousands of apartments in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, and also poured billions of shekels into the establishment of settlements in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

This shortsighted policy is one of the obstacles to the establishment of two states based on the 1967 borders.

A series of international agreements to which Israel is a signatory obliges the government to avoid unilateral steps on matters to be decided in final-status talks. The government must remember that this obligation also applies to East Jerusalem. Breaching it harms our credibility, undermines the prime minister's call for a renewal of talks and may prove disastrous in the long term.

Source: Ha'aretz 

The Bankers and the Revolutionaries

AFTER flying around the world this year to cover street protests from Cairo to Morocco, reporting on the latest “uprising” was easier: I took the subway.       

The “Occupy Wall Street” movement has taken over a park in Manhattan’s financial district and turned it into a revolutionary camp. Hundreds of young people chant slogans against “banksters” or corporate tycoons. Occasionally, a few even pull off their clothes, which always draws news cameras.
“Occupy Wall Street” was initially treated as a joke, but after a couple of weeks it’s gaining traction. The crowds are still tiny by protest standards — mostly in the hundreds, swelling during periodic marches — but similar occupations are bubbling up in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington. David Paterson, the former New York governor, dropped by, and labor unions are lending increasing support.

I tweeted that the protest reminded me a bit of Tahrir Square in Cairo, and that raised eyebrows. True, no bullets are whizzing around, and the movement won’t unseat any dictators. But there is the same cohort of alienated young people, and the same savvy use of Twitter and other social media to recruit more participants. Most of all, there’s a similar tide of youthful frustration with a political and economic system that protesters regard as broken, corrupt, unresponsive and unaccountable.