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.]

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Feds aware of Attawapiskat crisis for years

The federal department responsible for First Nations has known about the worsening living conditions at Attawapiskat for years, says former Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl.

In an interview with CBC Radio's The House, Strahl tells host Evan Solomon the crisis at Attawapiskat "has been a slow moving train-wreck for a long time."

However, the current Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development John Duncan said this week that officials in his department were unaware of Attawapiskat's housing problems until Oct. 28, despite having visited the community several times in the past year.

But Strahl, who retired from politics earlier this year, paints a different picture.

"It was not good when I was there, and I don't think it's appreciably, or any better now. That was well known, everybody knew it was a very difficult community for a bunch of reasons."

Attawapiskat "was always a problem," said Strahl.

The federal government put the community of Attawapiskat in Northern Ontario under third-party management, and ordered an audit to find out how federal funds have been spent in the commmunity of about 1,800.

French historians gloss over women in the school textbooks

French women might not get fat, but they do get ignored.

Of the 339 historical figures in new French high school textbooks, 11 are women, a new study by a French feminist organization reports.

Of those 11, beheaded Queen Marie Antoinette is represented only with a caricature, no text and contemporary politicians Segolene Royal and Angela Merkel are cutlines.

Emilie du Chatelet, whom biographers call a “daring genius of the Enlightenment,” is referred to as philosopher Voltaire’s girlfriend.

“For us, it was also unbelievable,” centre director Claudine Baudino told the Star.

Their own namesake, leading suffragette Hubertine Auclert, is overlooked. Indeed, the universal suffrage movement is painted in French textbooks as an anomaly rather than a movement, the study said.

A Club of Liars, Demagogues and Ignoramuses

Africa is a country. In Libya, the Taliban reigns. Muslims are terrorists; most immigrants are criminal; all Occupy protesters are dirty. And women who feel sexually harassed -- well, they shouldn't make such a big deal about it.
Welcome to the wonderful world of the US Republicans. Or rather, to the twisted world of what they call their presidential campaigns. For months now, they've been traipsing around the country with their traveling circus, from one debate to the next, one scandal to another, putting themselves forward for what's still the most powerful job in the world.

As it turns out, there are no limits to how far they will stoop.

It's true that on the road to the White House all sorts of things can happen, and usually do. No campaign can avoid its share of slip-ups, blunders and embarrassments. Yet this time around, it's just not that funny anymore. In fact, it's utterly horrifying.

It's horrifying because these eight so-called, would-be candidates are eagerly ruining not only their own reputations and that of their party, the party of Lincoln lore. Worse: They're ruining the reputation of the United States.

Full disclosure needed on premiers' pay

Let's pretend, for a minute, that you are a top executive at TD Bank. In fact, let's pretend that you are Ed Clark, the CEO, and have a very large salary.

How large? In 2010 - and we are not pretending anymore - Mr. Clark earned $11.3-million, a tidy sum that included $1.5-million in base salary, $2.6-million in stock options and a cash bonus of $1.96-million.

We know the numbers because the bank is a publicly traded company with shareholders and a fiduciary duty to disclose what the guy in the corner office makes.

Now, let's pretend that you are Alison Redford, the publicly elected Progressive Conservative Premier of Alberta. Ms. Redford's annual salary is $213,450. Plus, well, more, although just how much more nobody knows since the PC party and Ms. Redford are not saying.

What we can say is this: Alberta's premier receives a salary top-up, a bump from her party in an amount that as voters, and taxpayers, Albertans are not privy to.

U.S. diplomats fear rights challenges over Canada's First Nations policies

Officials in the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa worry that unless Canada gets a comprehensive policy for dealing with First Nations rights, tension between aboriginals and governments will continue to fester and will "pose ongoing human rights challenges," according to a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable.

U.S. diplomats say in the document - unclassified, but labelled "sensitive" - that the government's lack of a clear policy on First Nations rights is detrimental to relations with First Nations.

"Lack of a standard model for resolving comprehensive land claims, self-government agreements, and the absence of a clear legal definition of what constitutes an 'aboriginal right' have resulted in complex multi-year negotiations, a significant claims backlog, and friction between aboriginal communities and the federal and provincial governments," the cable says.

This week, the government has come under withering fire for what the opposition says is gross mismanagement of the First Nations reserve of Attawapiskat.

CSIS head urged government to fight ban on information obtained through torture

MONTREAL — Canada's spy agency was so reliant on information obtained through torture that it suggested the whole security certificate regime, used to control suspected terrorists in the country, would fall apart if they couldn't use it.

That's the essence of a letter written in 2008 by the former director of CSIS, Jim Judd, obtained by the Montreal Gazette.

It suggests a disturbing acceptance by the national security agency of torture as a legitimate strategy to counter terrorism.

The letter, dated Jan. 15, 2008, was sent from Judd to the minister of public security just as the government was finalizing Bill C-3, legislation to replace the security certificates law which was struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional in February 2007.

The government had been given a year to come up with new legislation that would respect the charter rights of those targeted by the certificates.

In the letter, Judd urges the minister to fight an amendment to C-3 proposed by Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh that would prohibit CSIS and the courts from using any information obtained from torture or "derivative information" — information initially obtained from torture but subsequently corroborated through legal means.

Why MacKay's helicopter ride touches a nerve in Newfoundland

For centuries, families in Newfoundland and Labrador have grieved for those who went to sea and didn’t come home.

The risk continues. Fishing is among the most deadly jobs in the country, and the dangers inherent in travelling to the offshore oil rigs were made clear in the 2009 helicopter crash that killed 17.

Against this backdrop, search and rescue (SAR) is never just about dollars and cents for people in the province. There has been heated debate and raucous protests about the appropriate level of protection. All of which explains why the controversial helicopter ride by Peter MacKay, the ranking political minister in Atlantic Canada, touches such a hot button.

“In the context of cutbacks to basic [rescue] services, that’s pretty hard to swallow,” said Earle McCurdy, president of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union. “Since 1973 there’s been 193 Newfoundlanders lost their lives in the fishery.”

Huge Cost of Tax Evasion Revealed as Campaign to Tackle Tax Havens Launches

New research published by the Tax Justice Network shows that tax evasion costs governments around the world more than US$3.1 trillion annually.

In Canada an estimated $81 billion a year is lost to tax evasion in the ‘shadow economy’ - that is half of our total healthcare spending. Canada ranks 11th out of the 145 countries surveyed in total amount of tax evaded.

Tax havens are a major part of the tax evasion problem – and these new findings come as the Tax Justice Network launches Tackle Tax Havens, a new campaign that highlights the critical role that these secretive states play in corrupting the global economy.

The issue of tax collection is rising fast up the political and social agenda, as countries across the world make deep cuts in public spending in ways that hurt the poor and the middle classes the most.
This new research demonstrates how important it is to tackle tax evasion and the tax havens that help wealthy individuals and corporations escape from contributing to the services that directly benefit them - from the health and education systems that support their workforces, to the roads that ship their goods to markets, to the courts of law that enforce their contracts or to the police who protect their property.

But tax havens are not just about tax: they cause colossal damage on many fronts. Tackle Tax Havens aims to inform the public about the offshore system and the problems it causes -- and to show what we can do about it.

Aboriginal Incarceration: Black Mark for Canada

Abhorrent rates of aboriginal imprisonment are linked, inextricably, to the social and economic position of First Nations communities.

In April, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo addressed the lack of discussion surrounding First Nations' issues during the 2011 Canadian federal election, suggesting that First Nations children are more likely to go to jail than to graduate from high school. The connection between school and prison is not accidental: Failure to graduate from high school and failure to make the transition from school to work are known to be linked with crime.

The Mark analyzes Assembly Chief Atleo's response to the violent death of a young child on a native reserve. Read more here.

More generally, the problems prevalent in aboriginal communities that Atleo pointed out as being ignored in the recent federal election – low high-school completion rates, high infant-mortality rates, and extreme poverty – have been with us for quite some time. Forty-three years ago, an unsuccessful Progressive Conservative candidate for prime minister, Robert Stanfield, made the observation in his election platform that:
One of the greatest blots on Canada’s reputation for fairness and equity is the condition of the Indians, Métis, and Eskimos who are the descendants of the original inhabitants of this land. It is a problem that should touch the conscience of all Canadians … In 1966, 40 per cent of Canadian Indians were living on relief … Indians are hospitalized twice as often as other Canadians. Their mortality rate is higher. Among pre-school children the mortality rate is eight times the national average.
This is not a pretty picture. Unfortunately, the picture hasn’t changed much.

Attawapiskat isn't helped by the blame game

Liberal leader Bob Rae worked up a righteous lather when he rose in the Commons this week to denounce the horrifically squalid living conditions on the Attawapiskat First Nations reserve as a disgrace to the country's reputation. And, of course, as being entirely the fault of the Harper government.

The impoverishment of the community on the James Bay shore in northern Ontario is extreme, but not uncommon on Canadian reserves. It was brought to the fore when the band council declared a state of emergency and the MP for the area, New Democrat Charlie Angus, posted a video showing large families of up to three generations crowded into rotting, fire-trap plywood shacks without electricity, running water or toilets, some even living year-round in tents.

Rae was right that the situation is a national disgrace, but not so much in his retort to the prime minister's response that his government has spent $90 million on Attawapiskat since taking office five years ago and his suggestion that the money could have been better managed. "It would seem that the prime minister is saying that it is the people of Attawapiskat who are responsible for the problems they are facing," Rae fumed.

Unemployment For Women Not Getting Better

The woman -- dressed in a crisply-ironed blue dress, practical and polished flats and the perfect shade of red lipstick to complement her smooth alabaster skin and ebony hair -- approached the microphone. What she said next made the audience at an October forum on joblessness gasp.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I stand before you," Gayle Leslie said, "as a woman with a college degree, as someone who is incredibly well networked, congenial, flexible and determined and who has never stopped looking for work. But after almost three years without a job, I am also the face of homelessness."

The last time Leslie had a full-time job, she was responsible for producing voters for Barack Obama. Today, the 51-year-old former copywriter and event planner, is homeless.

Much ink has been spilled covering the so-called "mancession," and men's plight in the current recovery. Earlier this year, in a story titled "Dead Suit Walking," Newsweek asked readers to consider what would become of men after a decade of declining wages. In November, a piece in The Atlantic titled "All the Single Ladies," explored how men's economic decline has impacted women's search for romance. The piece generated so much online traffic that a producer optioned it for a possible television show.

Women's struggles are less well-known. "It's one of those things that has somehow stayed under the radar," said Joan Entmacher, vice president for Family Economic Security at the National Women's Law Center, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

Jerry Brown And The Occupy Movement: Where Does The Governor Really Stand?

In mid-November, a group of demonstrators aligned with the Occupy movement held a rally outside a Sacramento loft building in an attempt to capture the attention of one of its residents: Jerry Brown. They were angry about the harsh tactics that police had been using against demonstrators throughout the state, and they wanted the governor to hear them out. But they weren't there to excoriate him or to demand his resignation, as their counterparts in other cities and states have done with other elected officials from Oakland's Mayor Jean Quan to New York's Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“Gov. Brown, we challenge you to take up the fight with Occupy,” declared demonstrator Kevin Carter. “We occupy for the First Amendment, free speech, peaceful assembly and the redress of grievances against the government. As the governor, you should lead this fight.”

They were asking, it appeared, for the governor to join them.

Previously, Occupy demonstrators strenuously resisted attempts by politicians to use the movement as a platform, even to the point of turning away Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), the revered Civil Rights activist, when he tried to speak out of turn at a general assembly in Atlanta.

Still, it wasn't hard to see why they might make an exception for Brown. He was "Governor Moonbeam," the eccentric idealist who, in his first stint in the statehouse in the late '70s and early '80s, vetoed the death penalty, appointed the country's first openly gay judge, slept on a futon and drove a Plymouth Satellite sedan to the office.

Rick Santorum Defends Health Insurance Companies For Denying Coverage To People With Pre-Existing Conditions

While speaking to a group of high school students in New Hampshire on Friday, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum defended insurers for denying coverage or charging more to people with pre-existing conditions, using his own family as an example.

"We have a child who has a pre-existing condition and we went out and we said, we like this plan," Santorum said, according to ThinkProgress. "We have to pay more because she has a pre-existing condition. Well, we should pay more. She's going to be very expensive to the insurance company and, you know, that cost is passed along to us... I'm okay with that."

Santorum's three-and-a-half-year-old daughter Isabella has a genetic disorder called Trisomy 18, a condition that often results in death within a year of birth. He recently began opening up about "Bella" on the campaign trail.

Santorum -- who said "we have a broken insurance system" -- offered up more information on his own insurance plan, noting that his candidacy forced him to purchase insurance "on the open market."

"I had insurance under my employer. And when I decided to run for president, I left my job, I lost my insurance, I had to go out and buy insurance," Santorum said.

Newt Gingrich: 'We've Had People Take Their Food Stamp Money And Use It To Go To Hawaii'

Newt Gingrich made the claim that some people who receive government aid through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program "take their food stamp money and use it to go to Hawaii."

"More Americans now get food stamps therefore and we now give it away as cash," Gingrich said. "You don't get food stamps. You get a credit card and the credit card can be used for anything. We've had people take their food stamp money and use it to go to Hawaii."

Gingrich -- who has recently led in the polls -- made the claim about the program during an appearance in Iowa on Wednesday, according to ThinkProgress.

The claim is false according to PolitiFact, which notes the food stamp program has "precise rules about what can and cannot be paid for." The site noted that the food stamp program does not allow funds to be used for restaurant meals and certain purchases like alcohol or vitamins.

This is not the first time Gingrich has commented on food stamps. In May, he called Barack Obama a "food stamp president," blaming him for the recession.

"President Obama is the most successful food stamp president in American history," Gingrich said. "I would like to be the most successful paycheck president in American history."

Source: Huff 

U.N. Envoy: U.S. Isn't Protecting Occupy Protesters' Rights

WASHINGTON -- The United Nations envoy for freedom of expression is drafting an official communication to the U.S. government demanding to know why federal officials are not protecting the rights of Occupy demonstrators whose protests are being disbanded -- sometimes violently -- by local authorities.

Frank La Rue, who serves as the U.N. "special rapporteur" for the protection of free expression, told HuffPost in an interview that the crackdowns against Occupy protesters appear to be violating their human and constitutional rights.

"I believe in city ordinances and I believe in maintaining urban order," he said Thursday. "But on the other hand I also believe that the state -- in this case the federal state -- has an obligation to protect and promote human rights."

"If I were going to pit a city ordinance against human rights, I would always take human rights," he continued.

Troy Mayor's Facebook Slam on Gay Marriage Draws Widespread Criticism

Janice Daniels is not yet a month into her new position as mayor of Troy, and she is already causing controversy after a status update slamming gay marriage on what appears to be her personal Facebook page went viral Friday afternoon.

The June 25 status update reads: "I think I am going to throw away my I Love New York carrying bag now that queers can get married there." The post was tucked among other posts and photos about Daniels' mayoral campaign, as well as personal photos and status updates.

As the status made its way around Facebook, Twitter and the web, hundreds of people shared and commented on it.

In a report Friday evening by MLive, an Ann Arbor-based news site, the mayor is quoted as saying: "I probably shouldn’t have used that kind of language, but I do believe marriage should be between one man and one woman."

Occupy LA Raid: Los Angeles Police Reportedly Went Undercover At Encampment Prior To Raid To Gather Information

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Los Angeles police used nearly a dozen undercover detectives to infiltrate the Occupy LA encampment before this week's raid to gather information on protesters' intentions, according to media reports Friday.

None of the officers slept at the camp, but tried to blend in during the weeks leading up to the raid to learn about plans to resist or use weapons against police, a police source told the Los Angeles Times. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case is ongoing.

The undercover work yielded information that some protesters were preparing bamboo spears and other potentially dangerous weapons in advance of an expected eviction by the LAPD, none of which were used, according to City News Service which first reported the story.

Police downplayed the significance of the undercover work since Occupy meetings were public and easily tracked.

LAPD Officer Cleon Joseph declined an Associated Press request for comment on the reports.

Stop building junk on reserves, says Mike Holmes

For Canada's most famous — and outspoken — home renovator, the solution to the First Nations housing crisis is remarkably simple.

"When I heard years ago the problems they were having, to me it was like, 'Oh, OK, this is easy. Why isn't anyone else doing it?'" Mike Holmes, star of HGTV's home renovation show Holmes on Homes, said in an interview.

"We need to stop building crap. It's as simple as that."

Holmes teamed up with the Assembly of First Nations in 2010 to create a pilot project on the Whitefish Lake First Nation west of Sudbury, Ont., to build energy-efficient, environmentally friendly homes and other infrastructure. The ongoing project also aims to develop trade skills for people living on reserves.

While recent attention has focused on the grim living conditions on the Attawapiskat reserve in northern Ontario, the First Nations housing crisis extends far beyond just the James Bay community and has gone on for years.

For Holmes and others who want to move past the politicking and fingerpointing consuming much of the public debate around the issue, solutions lie in the willingness to embrace ideas others may want to dismiss out of hand.

Memos anticipate religious freedom office sensitivities

Communications lines drafted by the bureaucracy about the government's plan to establish an Office of Religious Freedom reveal a deep-seated nervousness about how the venture will be perceived by the public.

During the election campaign last spring the Conservatives promised the office would become a key pillar of Canadian foreign policy.

But documents obtained through access to information laws suggest the government is worried about the perception that the office would be used to curry favour with religious and ethnic groups in Canada. And it shows nervousness about the office being seen as an attempt to blur the line between church and state.

The lines were drafted for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird for a day-long consultation with religious groups, human rights advocates and academics, which took place in Ottawa on October 3. The meeting was closed to the public and the media.

The document is a mock-up of potential questions the minister could face, and the appropriate responses.

Slowdown In F-35 Production Urged

Production of early models of the F-35 Lightning II should slow down to help reduced costs after potential cracks and "hot spots" were found following testing, the U.S. military's program head says.

"The analyzed hot spots that have arisen in the last 12 months or so in the program have surprised us at the amount of change and at the cost," U.S. Vice-Admiral David Venlet said in an article posted online Thursday by AOL Defense.

"Most of them are little ones. But when you bundle them all up and package them, and look at where they are in the airplane and how hard they are to get at after you buy the jet, the cost burden of that is what sucks the wind out of your lungs," he said.

Venlet said the discovery of weaknesses in the fighter is not surprising.

"It's a fighter made out of metal and composites. You always find some hot spots and cracks and you have to go make fixes. That's normal," he said.

The aircraft, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter, is currently still in early production and testing. AOL Defence says only 18 per cent of flight-testing has been completed and fatigue testing is in initial phases.

Attawapiskat's Impact: Canada's Katrina Moment

It took a month, but when the Harper government moved to respond to the crisis in Attawapiskat, they moved fast. Stephen Harper made his move on Monday Nov. 28, a month to the day since a state of emergency had been declared in the impoverished northern community. He made his move just as the cargo plane carrying emergency supplies from the Red Cross was touching down in Attawapiskat. I was standing on the tarmac watching the relief plane taxi to a standstill, the fading northern sun turning the snow a dark blue. Shivering on the tarmac beside me was our national leader, Nycole Turmel, Red Cross volunteers and a long line of media cameras and journalists.

The crisis in Attawapiskat had been going on for weeks with barely a notice of concern from the federal government. But then the Huffington Post published footage and an article I wrote on the desperate conditions in the community. Almost overnight the story went viral. The images of families living in sheds and tents without running water or toilets appalled the nation.

The response drew Canada's Red Cross to intervene with a disaster management team. And now as their plane hit the ground, it seemed as if this could be the game changer moment. But as the cargo bays opened and the mundane task of unloading sleeping bags and heaters began, the Harper government decided to make their own game-changing play.

Next Israel will ban oxygen from Gaza

(some days ago...)

A low rumble mutes the car honks and the cries of children playing on the lane outside our house in Deir al Balah, central Gaza. The vaguely furnace-like sound distinguishes itself as an Israeli warplane flying over our skies, poisoning the mid-morning tranquility.

I'd been lost in typing my thoughts, almost oblivious to my surroundings: the Gaza Strip, where at any moment such a warplane's roar erupts and where likewise any moment the deafening thud of its bomb vibrates through towns and cities and farmland.

But the rumble of the circling Israeli warplane snaps me back into reality, making the trivial all the more trivial, and the possible all the more possible.

Belarus: Europe’s ugly little dictatorship

For the longest time, the ruling regime in Belarus permitted Ales Michalevic to practise politics almost as he might if he were living in a democracy. The soft-spoken lawyer from Minsk, now 36, ran as a candidate in last December’s presidential election. He travelled widely, held rallies, met local officials and delivered a centrist message that sought to peel votes away from the country’s president, Alexander Lukashenko, by offering only muted criticism of Lukashenko’s violent, corrupt, economically and morally bankrupt government.

And Michalevic was permitted to go about his political business, as were more than a half-dozen other opposition candidates, right up until the election returns came in on Dec. 19. Then the news anchors announced that Lukashenko had won almost 80 per cent of the vote. His nearest rival, Andrei Sannikaü, had won less than three per cent. Michalevic scored even lower. Many Belarusians sensed a gap between the official result and the message of their own hearts. Thousands spilled into the streets to protest. Black-clad thugs showed up to beat them senseless.

The police arrested perhaps 800 people overnight, including seven presidential candidates. The KGB—Belarus is the last country in the world to keep the Soviet-era name for its secret police—came for Michalevic at 4 a.m., while he sat drinking cognac with his campaign staff.

The police gave him a text to read for television, accusing other candidates of inciting mass disturbances and “hooliganism.” He refused. “So they said, ‘Okay, you are guilty of organizing mass disturbances with a penalty of from five to 15 years,’ ” Michalevic told me last week in Ottawa.

Harper defends MacKay as MPs call for his resignation

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has backed his Defence Minister’s controversial helicopter airlift from a fishing holiday as “appropriate” even though documents have blown holes in Peter MacKay’s story that he used the helicopter for a search-and-rescue demonstration.

Copies of e-mails between military officers indicate that Mr. MacKay asked for the chopper lift at least three days ahead of time to save him a two-hour boat and car ride to the Gander airport, but that the ride would be “under the guise” of search-and-rescue training.

Mr. Harper didn’t mention a search-and-rescue demonstration, but insisted that the flight was for government business.

“The minister was called back from vacation and used governmental aircraft only for government business, and that is appropriate,” the Prime Minister told reporters in Burlington, Ont.

Richard Wolff: Eurozone Woes Result from Mating of Our "Dysfunctional" Political, Economic Systems

European leaders are preparing to unveil their plans for addressing the sovereign debt crisis that’s threatened to tear apart the eurozone. Both France and Germany are expected to push for changes to the eurozone treaty, including centralized oversight of national budgets and tighter reins on debt. In a speech on Thursday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said radical changes are needed in order to save the euro. Sarkozy’s address came after central banks, including the U.S. Federal Reserve and European Central Bank, took coordinated action to prevent a credit crunch among European banks. For more on the developing crisis in Europe and its implications worldwide, we are joined by economist and professor Richard Wolff. He is the author of several books, including "Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do About It." "The Fed is recognizing that another bailout is needed," Wolff says. "All the steps taken over the last few years to try to cope with this crisis of our capitalist system haven’t worked, and so we’re now again on the brink of a crisis, and again public money and public institutions are bailing out a private banking system and a private enterprise system that is not working and is not solving its own problems." Wolff continues, "The fundamental question is, you’ve got to deal with an economic system that isn’t working... You’ve got to take big steps that change the way this economic system works, or find a new system... It’s as though we have a dysfunctional economic system coupled to a now dysfunctional political system, and instead of fixing each other, these two systems are making each other in a kind of a spiral downturn."


"Hancock 38" Defendants Found Guilty for Bold Army Base Protest Against U.S. Drone Attacks Abroad

Thirty-one of 38 accused activists were found guilty on Thursday for their role in a protest against U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The activists were arrested on April 22 at the New York Air National Guard base at Hancock Field near Syracuse, New York, after trespassing to protest the MQ-9 Reaper drones, which the 174th Fighter Wing of the Guard has remotely flown over Afghanistan since late 2009. The protesters draped themselves in white clothes splattered with blood-red pigment and then staged a "die-in" at the main entrance to the base. They said their act of nonviolent civil disobedience aimed to visualize the indiscriminate killing of civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan by drones operated by personnel sitting in front of computers thousands of miles away. The group calls themselves the Hancock 38 Drone Resisters. Following the guilty verdict, four of the activists were sentenced to 15-day terms in prison while a number of others were given fines and community service. We speak to Ramsey Clark, the former U.S. attorney general turned outspoken human rights activist, who testified at the trial that the drones violate international law. We’re also joined by Harry Murray, one of the Hancock 38 and a co-defendant in the trial. "Having a drone control center established at Hancock Air Base has really brought the war home to central New York," Murray says. "Having people who are actually killing human beings in Afghanistan working right in Syracuse really makes Syracuse and upstate New York a war zone." Clark says drones are "a weapon of extreme provocation and extreme danger, extreme inaccuracy... International law, I believe, does prohibit the use of drones."

Source: Democracy Now!