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, November 14, 2011

Conservatives Could Violate Constitution By Forcing CBC To Turn Over Documents

OTTAWA - Parliament's top lawyer says Conservative MPs could be violating the Constitution if they force the CBC to turn over documents it says are protected under privacy law.

Parliamentary law clerk and counsel Rob Walsh says the move by Tory members of the access-to-information committee could end up in the courts, where he says their attempt is likely to fail.

Walsh says the bid to peek at the CBC's internal files clearly conflicts with a case now before the Federal Court of Appeal which pits the CBC against the information commissioner.

Writing in response to formal questions from the NDP, Walsh says the committee might consider the documents behind closed doors, but even then he fears a leak could compromise CBC's privacy rights and undermine the ongoing legal case.

Occupy Portland Protesters Face Showdown With Police Over Eviction Order

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Several hundred protesters, some wearing goggles and gas masks, marched past authorities in a downtown street Sunday, hours after riot police forced Occupy Portland demonstrators out of a pair of weeks-old encampments in nearby parks.

Police moved in shortly before noon and drove protesters into the street after dozens remained in the camp in defiance city officials. Mayor Sam Adams had ordered that the camp shut down Saturday at midnight, citing unhealthy conditions and the encampment's attraction of drug users and thieves.

More than 50 protesters were arrested in the police action, but officers did not use tear gas, rubber bullets or other so-called non-lethal weapons, police said.

After the police raid, the number of demonstrators swelled throughout the afternoon. By early evening, dozens of officers brandishing nightsticks stood shoulder-to-shoulder to hold the protesters back. Authorities retreated and protesters broke the standoff by marching through the streets.

Canada cuts environment spending

Canada's Stephen Harper government is spending more than 60 billion dollars on new military jets and warships while slashing more than 200 million dollars in funding for research and monitoring of the environment.

Amongst the programmes now crippled is Canada's internationally renowned ozone monitoring network, which was instrumental in the discovery of the first-ever ozone hole over Canada last spring. Loss of ozone has been previously linked to increases in skin cancer.

"The proposed cuts go so far the network won't be able to do serious science," said Thomas Duck, an atmospheric scientist at Halifax's Dalhousie University.

Canada was the pioneer in ozone monitoring, developing the first accurate ozone measuring tool that led to the discovery that the world's ozone layer was dangerously thinning in the 1970s, which in turn led to the successful Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depleting Substances.

Canada has about one-third of the ozone monitoring stations in the Arctic region. It also hosts the world archive of ozone data, which is heavily relied on by scientists around the world.

Canada, Mexico ask to join pan-Pacific trade talks

(Reuters) - Canada and Mexico want to join talks to forge a free trade area in the Asia-Pacific region, giving a significant boost to the U.S.-led initiative to foster economic growth by tearing down trade barriers.

Japan, the world's third-largest economy, said earlier it would like to join.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Sunday he was encouraged to take part by U.S. President Barack Obama.

"We looked at the outline of the criteria set by the partnership and they are all criteria that Canada can easily meet. So it is something we're interested in moving forward on," Harper said at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit of 21 nations in Hawaii.

Billions of dollars stuck in Ottawa's coffers

OTTAWA -- The federal government held on to more than $11 billion it was expected to spend in 2010-11, according to its financial statements.

This is money that Parliament had approved and earmarked to benefit Canadians through green infrastructure, defence, salaries and a slew of programs.

Ottawa has been leaving increasing amounts of money on the table -- $6.2 billion in 2008-09, $9.4 billion the following year, and more than $11.2 billion in 2010-11, audited statements show.

Almost half of this year’s lapse came from two departments: Infrastructure Canada, which stalled on getting nearly $3 billion out the door, and National Defence, which lapsed almost $2.5 billion.

In an interview, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty noted that National Defence has had trouble using its budget as expected.

“We have a very large program going on to rebuild our Canadian armed forces, and they’ve found -- repeatedly, actually -- that they can’t get as much done in a given year as they perhaps thought they were going to,” he said.

Frank Miller: Occupy Wall Street 'Louts, Thieves & Rapists,' Comic Writer Says

Frank Miller has spent much of his famed comic book writing career creating dark, urban dystopias, but the groundbreaking scribe has little regard for the chaos he says reigns at Zuccotti Park.

The man behind such famed comic series as "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns," "Sin City" and "300," in fact, is entirely against the Occupy Wall Street movement.

"'Occupy' is nothing but a pack of louts, thieves, and rapists, an unruly mob, fed by Woodstock-era nostalgia and putrid false righteousness," Miller wrote in a blog entry last week. "These clowns can do nothing but harm America."

Though, for the most part, the participants in the now-global Occupy moment have protested the imbalances of the economy, corporate fiscal abuses and government officials' close ties to Wall Street, Miller mentions the War on Terror in his slamming of the nascent movement.

"Wake up, pond scum. America is at war against a ruthless enemy," he later continues. "Maybe, between bouts of self-pity and all the other tasty tidbits of narcissism you've been served up in your sheltered, comfy little worlds, you've heard terms like al-Qaeda and Islamicism."

Michele Bachmann Campaign Claims CBS Bias After Email Points To Low Poll Numbers

Michele Bachmann's campaign team thinks it has proof that CBS deliberately snubbed the Minnesota Congresswoman during Saturday night's Republican debate.

The supposed smoking gun? An email from a CBS producer who predicted that Bachmann would not receive many questions from moderators Scott Pelley and Major Garrett.

In the message, which was apparently sent by mistake to a Bachmann staff member, CBS News producer John Dickerson responds to a correspondent about the possibility of Bachmann appearing as a guest on a network "webshow." His response:

"Okay let's keep it loose though since she's not going to get many questions and she's nearly off the charts in the hopes that we can get someone else"

The email was posted to Bachmann's Facebook page.

The GOP's 'Uncertainty' Talking Point, Debunked

WASHINGTON -- With the economy in a slump for nearly four years, corporate executives and conservative politicians have repeatedly invoked "uncertainty" as a major barrier to American job-creation. The "uncertainty" jab is a go-to talking point for any congressional Republican looking to tag President Barack Obama as a tax-raising, regulation-obsessed foe of American businesses.

But according to banking data compiled by economic research firm Moebs Services, the uncertainty plaguing the American economy has nothing to do with government regulations or taxes on millionaires. It's an uncertainty driven squarely by consumers and small-businesses who are worried about their short-term financial prospects. And it's been going on since well before Obama took up residence in the White House.

Since the end of 2007, bank customers have pulled over $900 billion out of certificates of deposits at major U.S. banks, parking their money in checking accounts and money market deposit accounts. Banks pay customers interest to park their money in CDs, but pay out next-to-nothing for money market accounts, and still less -- usually nothing -- for checking accounts.

"These are enormous shifts," Moebs Services founder and Chairman Mike Moebs told HuffPost. "We haven't seen stuff like this since the 1930s."

Republican Debate: Candidates Call For Military Strikes On Iran, Return Of Waterboarding

WASHINGTON -- At the Republican debate on foreign policy Saturday night, the party's candidates for president delivered a series of strong rebukes to the leadership of President Obama and offered a rare glimpse into their international outlooks, while also reopening the national debate on the suitability of torture.

"We're here tonight talking to the American people about why every single one of us is better than Barack Obama, and that's something everyone here can agree with," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said at the height of a debate that was high on technicalities and low on the kind of barbs and gaffes that have come to define many of the candidates' previous engagements.

Foreign policy has not been a popular topic in this campaign to date. Obama's approval rating on his handling of international affairs is unusually high, and with major international successes under his belt, including the killing of Osama bin Laden and the removal of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, the subject has hardly proven a ripe ground for Republican criticism.

Few of the candidates have substantive international experience, and to some extent the debate Saturday night was an exercise in damage control and a chance to demonstrate a basic understanding of the facts and principles concerning American interests abroad.

Occupy Toronto: Anonymous Threatens Cyber Attack If City Attempts To Evict Protesters

TORONTO - A hacker group is standing up for Occupy Toronto protesters, threatening to unleash a cyber attack on the city if it interferes with the month-long demonstration.

In a video released on YouTube, the group Anonymous said Toronto will be "removed from the Internet" unless the city promises to leave the protesters alone.

Mayor Rob Ford asked the occupiers this week to dismantle their tent city in St. James Park.

The mayor's office reaffirmed his position Saturday when asked about the hackers' warning.

"The mayor and city manager have been very clear over the past week _ it's time this came to a peaceful conclusion," the statement read.

"They do not have a permit and we are asking them to leave."

Demonstrators with the Occupy group have brushed off the mayor's plans and promised to regroup at another location if evicted.

A few protesters tried to set up a new base in the park behind the Ontario legislature over the weekend, but their efforts were cut short.

Police shut down the fledgling camp Saturday night and brought the demonstrators back to the original site. (CFRB, The Canadian Press)

Source: Huff 

Occupy Halifax protesters demand mayor resign, complain about police treatment

Hundreds of protesters filled a Halifax park Saturday calling for the city’s mayor to resign and demanding answers from police who they accused of roughing up demonstrators when a camp was torn down a day earlier.

Chanting “Peter Kelly has got to go,” 300 Occupy Nova Scotia protesters held a rally outside City Hall to express their anger and frustration at the way they were forced out of their camp site at another park on Friday.

Organizer Kyle Buott said dozens of people, who had camped at the nearby public park, were given eviction notices around midday, with only a few hours to clear out their belongings and tents.

“The mayor ordering a peaceful, democratic protest removed on Remembrance Day, which celebrates the veterans who fought for democratic freedoms in the first place, is absolutely shameful,” he said.

“He and the police chief need to held accountable for the police brutality that happened yesterday.”

Attempt to spread Occupy protest to Queen’s Park fails

An attempt to create a satellite branch of the Occupy Toronto protest at Queen’s Park was shut down by police Saturday evening.

Meanwhile, the hacker group Anonymous threatened a cyber attack on the city if officials interfere with the month-long demonstration.

The dismantling of the short-lived occupation was amicable. Toronto police Staff Sgt. Walter Brasca said protesters left peacefully and were given a ride back to St. James Park.

The protesters had set up two tents in the shadow of the provincial legislature building. Protester John Erb said left he the main site at St. James Park with a group of four fellow occupiers late Friday night, carrying a bold red and white sign saying “Occupy The World.”

Herman Cain: God Convinced Me To Run For President

Former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain says that God told him to run for president, National Journal reports.

"I prayed and prayed and prayed," Cain told about 100 members of the Georgia Young Republicans in Atlanta on Saturday. "I'm a man of faith, I had to do a lot of praying for this one, more praying than I'd ever done before in my life. And when I finally realized that it was God saying that this is what I needed to do, I was like Moses. 'You've got the wrong man, Lord. Are you sure?'"

Cain isn't the only Republican candidate who says God convinced them to run, however.

In May, before officially announcing her candidacy, Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said that she felt a "calling" to seek the GOP nomination.

"I've had this calling and tugging on my heart that this is the right thing to do," Bachmann said.

In June, in an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation," Bachmann reiterated her comments about God telling her to run for political office.

"Did God tell you He wanted you to run for the Minnesota State Senate, or something like that?" host Bob Schieffer asked.

"I prayed about that, as well," Bachmann said. "And that's really what that means. It means that I have a sense of assurance about the direction I think that God is speaking into my heart that I should go."

Source: Huff 

MacKay To Discuss Iran Nuclear Dispute With Israeli Minister

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Defence Minister Peter MacKay says he plans to ask his Israeli counterpart Ehud Barak about reports that Israel’s leaders have discussed plans to attack Iran’s nuclear sites.

Barak, who along with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has taken a tough line on Iran, is due to visit Canada next week.

Speaking to reporters in Kandahar after a day trip to Kabul, MacKay said Saturday that the "dynamics have changed and will continue to change" as tensions escalate between nuclear-armed Israel and Iran.
The International Atomic Energy Agency released a report this week that said Iran has conducted secret experiments that could lead to the development of a nuclear device.

But Iran denies the allegations, claiming the UN nuclear watchdog based its findings on evidence fabricated by the Unites States and its allies.

MacKay said Iran has shown a "blatant disregard" for Israel’s right to exist.

The Facebook comments the prime minister’s staff doesn’t want you to see

Canadians have used the comments section of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Facebook page to critique his management of the economy, his position on abortion, and the Conservative omnibus crime legislation. But some of the most critical comments posted have been deleted and will never be seen again.

A Citizen analysis found that more than 300 comments on have been purged over the past few months.
Many were sanitized because they contain foul language or posted links to other sites. But more than 100 comments erased from view were simply criticism of Harper and his government.

Numerous comments on Harper’s Facebook message calling on Canadians to donate to East Africa drought relief were spiked.

“We don’t have starving people like they do … Have a heart people you don’t like seeing starving people in canada get up and do something about it yourself instead of complaining about it ...” said one comment, since sent to the recycle bin.

East Timor Massacre Remembered: U.S.-Armed Indonesia Troops Kill 270 Timorese 20 Years Ago

This weekend marked the 20th anniversary of the Santa Cruz massacre in East Timor. On November 12, 1991, Indonesian troops fired on a peaceful memorial procession in the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili, killing more than 270 East Timorese. Two decades later, Amnesty International has called for a judicial inquiry into the massacre, noting that the failure "to hold all the perpetrators to account highlights a wider problem of impunity for crimes under international law and other human rights violations committed during the Indonesian occupation of Timor-Leste (then East Timor) between 1975 and 1999." We play an excerpt from a 1992 documentary, "Massacre: The Story of East Timor," produced by journalist Allan Nairn and Amy Goodman.

Source: Democracy Now! 

Occupy Nova Scotia Eviction: Halifax Protesters Demand Mayor Peter Kelly's Resignation

HALIFAX - Hundreds of protesters filled a Halifax park Saturday calling for the city's mayor to resign and demanding answers from police who they accused of roughing up demonstrators when a camp was torn down a day earlier.

Chanting "Peter Kelly has got to go," 300 Occupy Nova Scotia protesters held a rally outside City Hall to express their anger and frustration at the way they were forced out of their camp site at another park on Friday.

Organizer Kyle Buott said dozens of people, who had camped at the nearby public park, were given eviction notices around midday, with only a few hours to clear out their belongings and tents.

"The mayor ordering a peaceful, democratic protest removed on Remembrance Day, which celebrates the veterans who fought for democratic freedoms in the first place, is absolutely shameful," he said.

A new Israel in the making

One day not long from now we will wake up to a different kind of country, the country that's now in the making. It won't look like the country we know, which already has its share of flaws, distortions and ills. And when we become aware of this, it will be too late. At that point, the old Israel will be described in glowing terms, a model of democracy and justice, compared to the new version that is taking shape as we close our eyes to it, day after day, new law after law.

The way of life in the new Israel where we will live and die won't remind us in the least of the country we're used to. Even this article won't be publishable. Only proper opinions will be put into print, the ones approved by the new government-sponsored journalists' association, whose people will sit in every newsroom so there is no divergence from the accepted chorus of opinion.

Laws and regulations (clearly they will be passed as "emergency" regulations ) will bar publication of anything that could, in the eyes of the authorities, harm the state. A new law will bar defamation of the state, and the newspaper you will hold in your hands will be different. It will only report good news.

Radio and television broadcasts won't be what you're familiar with either. No media outlet will be able to go beyond the bounds of the law due to the draconian penalties for running afoul of them. The word "occupation" will be illegal, as will the expression "Palestinian state." Treasonous journalists will be pilloried or arrested, or at least fired. That day is not long in coming.

Robert Fisk: Do those who flaunt the poppy on their lapels know that they mock the war dead?

I turned on the television in my Damascus hotel room to witness a dreary sight: all the boys and girls of BBC World wearing their little poppies again.

Bright red they were, with that particularly silly green leaf out of the top – it was never part of the original Lady Haig appeal – and not one dared to appear on screen without it. Do these pathetic men and women know how they mock the dead? I trust that Jon Snow has maintained his dignity by not wearing it.

Now I've mentioned my Dad too many times in The Independent. He died almost 20 years ago so, after today, I think it's time he was allowed to rest in peace, and that readers should in future be spared his sometimes bald wisdom. This is the last time he will make an appearance. But he had strong views about wearing the poppy. He was a soldier of the Great War, Battle of Arras 1918 – often called the Third Battle of the Somme – and the liberation of Cambrai, along with many troops from Canada. The Kaiser Wilhelm's army had charitably set the whole place on fire and he was appalled by the scorched earth policy of the retreating Germans. But of course, year after year, he would go along to the local cenotaph in Birkenhead, and later in Maidstone, where I was born 28 years after the end of his Great War, and he always wore his huge black coat, his regimental tie – 12th Battalion, the King's Liverpool Regiment – and his poppy.

City museum closures loom

In a city consumed by the cost of things, it’s easy to lose sight of the value of things.

Torontonians will be reminded of the difference later this month when Mayor Rob Ford unveils the city budget.

Among the measures included will be the closure of four of the city’s 10 museums. Sources tell the Star that those chosen to be shut are the Market Gallery, Gibson House, Montgomery’s Inn and Zion Schoolhouse.

The justification will be the nearly $1 million in savings, a tiny fraction of a city budget that in 2010 stood at $9.2 billion.

For thousands of residents who visit and use these facilities, the impact will be more about the quality of their lives than the depth of their pockets.

The 10 museums operated by the City of Toronto Culture Division cost taxpayers about $5.3 million yearly. The institutions themselves raise $1.3 million through rentals, admissions and gift shop sales.

Annual attendance is about 250,000.

Elizabeth Warren 'Socialist' Label Hammered On By Critics

WASHINGTON -- The 2012 Massachusetts Senate race is stuck in a time warp.

At a campaign event in Boston last week, a Tea Party supporter heckled Warren, the Harvard Law professor and consumer activist who is campaigning for Senate. "Well, if you're the intellectual creator of that so-called party," he said, referring to Occupy Wall Street protesters, "you're a socialist whore. I don't want anything to do with you."

During an interview with ABC News and Yahoo on Tuesday, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) declared Warren "a socialist."

The latest red-baiting came in the form of a Karl Rove-backed attack ad. Released by American GPS, a Rove super PAC, the new ad superimposes an image of Warren over a banner promoting, a group that supports democratic socialism. An image of Che Guevara later appears on the screen.

Now that Alan Khazei, the only other serious contender for the Democratic nomination,has dropped out of the race, Republicans have made Warren and her pro-consumer policies the target of their attacks.

McGill Tuition Protest Police Accused Of 'Brutality'

McGill University's principal has launched an investigation after a massive student tuition protest reportedly turned violent on Thursday night, and riot police were called in.

Principal Heather Munroe-Blum, in an open letter published on McGill's website, said she's asking the dean of law, Daniel Jutras, to conduct an independent investigation into what she called "disturbing" events at the school's downtown Montreal campus. Jutras is to report back with his findings by Dec. 15.

"The presence of riot police on our campus is shocking," Munroe-Blum said. "We, as a community, need to fully understand the events and the responses to them and I trust Dean Jutras will conduct a thorough, impartial review."

Some students and staff are accusing Montreal police of overreacting to what they call a largely peaceful protest.

“This was a very violent example of what I would call police brutality,” said Greg Mikkelson, an associate professor in McGill’s department of Philosophy and the School of Environment.

Mikkelson said he was clubbed with a baton and pepper sprayed in the face as he was walking on the university campus to the daycare to pick up his daughter.

“I had just stopped to watch what was going on, and the police just walked up to me and attacked me,” he said.

If Canada is to excel in the 21st century, political parties must be reformed and civil society engagement revamped.

This is the final part of a three-part series focusing on citizen disengagement from the political process in Canada, and how we can best go about fixing it. Part 1 explained why Canadians are disillusioned with dysfunctional political institutions. Part 2 proposed the establishment of a Canadian Council of Governments to co-ordinate intergovernmental relations and objectives, thus ensuring more accountable and responsive levels of government.

To reverse the public disengagement from our political institutions, political parties and civil-society groups must take dramatic steps to rethink their roles, structure, and operations, taking responsibility for promoting the concerns and aspirations of Canadians.

Canadian politics will continue to be organized around political parties for the foreseeable future. Political parties are still necessary as vehicles for addressing societal conflict and reconciling competing interests into differing but coherent visions for society. It would be wrong to think that we can give up on political parties altogether and rely only on issue-specific engagement in civil society. But the old ideological divisions among Conservatives, Liberals, and New Democrats – the old 20th-century conflicts between the state and markets,big or small government – no longer define the political landscape. Twenty-first-century politics are much less ideological, and much more idiosyncratic and dependent on character, leadership, and the ability to project a long-term vision that resonates with the electorate.

When 'Giving Back' Becomes 'Atonement'

As the federal government moves to reform how charities are funded, the 'moral debt' of wealthy philanthropists comes under the microscope.

Two seemingly separate storylines – one of taxing the rich and another of reforming the role of charity – have dominated our national news lately. The first chronicles the ongoing saga of the Occupy movement, which has spread northward from New York City to our own urban centres, and to hundreds of cities around the world. The public spaces around the Vancouver Art Gallery and Victoria Square in Montreal are now as "occupied" as those around Wall Street and St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the movement is generating debate among all quarters.

A second, apparently distinct storyline has emerged from the federal government’s recent proposal to reform the way it funds charitable organizations, and to move Canada closer to a U.K.-inspired "Big Society" model of social service provision. The latter story has expanded into an in-depth Globe and Mail series on philanthropy, which, among other things, sets out BMO Capital Markets advisory board member, Donald Johnson’s argument that the tax benefits available to Canadian philanthropists should be expanded even further at this time.