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.]

Thursday, December 29, 2011

GOP Candidates Reveal How They Would Enact Pro-Life 'Personhood' Laws

WASHINGTON -- Four of the seven Republican presidential candidates reaffirmed their pro-life positions and pledged to protect fetal "personhood" both legislatively and constitutionally Tuesday night.

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry participated in the "pro-life teletown hall" organized by Personhood USA and other pro-life groups. The call came less than a week before the Jan. 3 Iowa Republican caucus, where anti-abortion and Christian voters are expected to play a significant role. More than 40,000 largely anti-abortion listeners tuned in on the radio or called in to the forum, according to the organizers.

The candidates took questions from some of the listeners as well as from Personhood USA's CEO Keith Mason, while syndicated conservative radio host Steve Deace served as moderator of the forum, which was broadcast on his program and 88 radio stations nationwide.

Personhood USA is best known as the group whose pledge requires that signors "defend all innocent human life," and reaffirm that "Abortion and the intentional killing of an innocent human being are always wrong and should be prohibited." The four candidates who participated in the call have all signed the pledge, as has Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), who issued a controversial clarification to his signing. Two candidates, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, have not signed the pledge.

John Baird, Foreign Affairs Minister: UN Security Council Campaign Nixed After Last Year's Historic Defeat

OTTAWA - The Harper government will not mount another campaign for a seat on the United Nations Security Council after Canada's historic defeat last year, says Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.

"It's not something I envisage," Baird told The Canadian Press when asked whether he planned another bid for a two-year, temporary term on the powerful council in the coming years.

While Baird said, "you never want to stand for something and not be elected," the often-combative rookie foreign minister was defiant and cutting in his reasoning for the decision.

"Listen, I mean, we don't go along to get along. That's just not a phrase," said Baird, using the oft-repeated mantra that has morphed into the mantra for his first six months as Canada's top diplomat.

Baird first used it at least eight times during his maiden speech to the UN General Assembly in September.

Canada was trounced by Portugal last year for the second of two temporary two-year, non-veto-wielding seats on the UN's top body. It was the first time in the six-decade history of the UN that Canada failed to win a seat for which it made a bid.

Iran: Strait Of Hormuz, Key Oil Supply Route, Easily Closed

TEHRAN, Iran -- The U.S. strongly warned Iran on Wednesday against closing a vital Persian Gulf waterway that carries one-sixth of the world's oil supply, after Iran threatened to choke off traffic through the Strait of Hormuz if Washington imposes sanctions targeting the country's crude exports.

The increasingly heated exchange raises new tensions in a standoff that has the potential to spark military reprisals and spike oil prices to levels that could batter an already fragile global economy.

Iran's navy chief said Wednesday that it would be "very easy" for his country's forces to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the passage at the mouth of the Persian Gulf through which about 15 million barrels of oil pass daily. It was the second such warning by Iran in two days, reflecting Tehran's concern that the West is about to impose new sanctions that could hit the country's biggest source of revenue, oil.

"Iran has comprehensive control over the strategic waterway," Adm. Habibollah Sayyari told state-run Press TV, as the country was in the midst of a 10-day military drill near the strategic waterway.

The comments drew a quick response from the U.S.

"This is not just an important issue for security and stability in the region, but is an economic lifeline for countries in the Gulf, to include Iran," Pentagon press secretary George Little said. "Interference with the transit or passage of vessels through the Strait of Hormuz will not be tolerated."

New wave of laws restricts voter participation in U.S.

All eyes are on Iowa this week, as the hodgepodge field of Republican contenders gallivants across that farm state seeking a win, or at least "momentum," in the campaign for the party's presidential nomination. But behind the scenes, a battle is being waged by Republicans -- not against each other, but against American voters. Across the country, state legislatures and governors are pushing laws that seek to restrict access to the voting booth, laws that will disproportionately harm people of colour, low-income people, and young and elderly voters.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund have just released a comprehensive report on the crisis, "Defending Democracy: Confronting Modern Barriers to Voting Rights in America." In it, they write: "The heart of the modern block the vote campaign is a wave of restrictive government-issued photo identification requirements. In a co-ordinated effort, legislators in thirty-four states introduced bills imposing such requirements. Many of these bills were modelled on legislation drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) -- a conservative advocacy group whose founder explained: 'Our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.'"

John Baird crafts Canadian foreign policy with a hard edge

The man rewriting Stephen Harper’s foreign policy for majority-government times makes no apologies for stepping on a few toes. From climate change to Israel, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is willing to shrug off the gripes.

After five years of minority government, when a focus on short-term politics meant leaving relations with some parts of the world untended, Mr. Baird now has the task of broadening Conservative foreign policy and planning for the longer term.

But it’s not a mandate to please all. The image of Canada seeking to play honest broker and likable conciliator on the world stage is being changed by a deliberate edge to Conservative foreign policy. There’s a willingness to send the military, a high priority on economics and less qualms about raising hackles.

“Stephen Harper said it and I’ve said it: ‘We don’t just go along to get along,’ ” Mr. Baird said in a year-end interview. “There’s 194 countries in the world. I don’t agree with their foreign policy on everything,” he said. “You know the Russian Foreign Minister? His job is to stand up for Russia. My job is to stand up for Canadian values and Canadian interests.”

Unlawful Detention on US Soil

When his wfie and children arrived to visit Shukri Abu-Baker at the secretive federal prison known as a Communications Management Unit (CMU) in Terre Haute, Indiana, this past fall, they were forced to sit in silence and stare at him through Plexiglass. The twin phones on either side of the partition wouldn’t work. They raised their voices to be able to hear each other, but the guards immediately told them to stop. Their communications, after all, had to be recorded and monitored live by someone in Washington, DC.

The Abu-Bakers had scheduled their visit over a month in advance. The Federal Board of Prisons (BOP) knew they were coming. The family made the fifteen-hour trip from Dallas to Terre Haute in a rented van, spending a total of $2,000 so they could spend eight hours that weekend seeing and talking to Shukri.

The prison officials told the family to go to the hotel and wait so that they could fix the phones. They never called them. When the family returned a month later to spend Eid at the prison, the same thing happened.

Redefining Secure Communities

On September 28, 2010, Esteban Garces led dozens of people in blaze-orange T-shirts into the Arlington County boardroom. The son of Bolivian immigrants, Garces had forgone a higher-paying career in network security to be a community organizer for the Northern Virginia nonprofit Tenants and Workers United. The members of the group were filled with excitement that day: they saw Arlington as the first step in challenging the mounting feeling of insecurity created by new immigration policies. At the head of the room, County Board member Walter Tejada introduced a resolution opposing the controversial Secure Communities program, stating that it "will create divisions in our community and promote a culture of fear and distrust of law enforcement that threatens public safety and makes communities less safe." When the board voted, it was unanimous.

Garces and the group had launched their campaign in April of that year, when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) enrolled Arlington in Secure Communities. Largely unknown at the time, the federal immigration enforcement program enlists local police to share the fingerprints of every individual arrested with federal immigration authorities. Those identified as being in the country unlawfully are then located by ICE for detention and, eventually, deportation.

Garces recalls thinking that S-Comm was "the new incarnation of 287(g)," the contentious federal-local enforcement partnership that trains some police officers to directly enforce immigration law. For Margaret Huang, executive director of Rights Working Group in Washington, DC, and then-chair of the Arlington Human Rights Commission, the new program presented a fresh opportunity to look at the broader human rights violations associated with local enforcement of immigration law. And Arlington, with its history of progressive and pro-immigrant politics, seemed like an ideal testing ground for an organized pushback.

Montanans Launch Recall Of State's Congressional Delegation Over Votes On NDAA, Indefinite Detention

A group of Montanans has launched an effort to recall the state's U.S. congressional delegation over recent votes on a controversial defense bill that explicitly authorized the indefinite detention of terrorism suspects, including American citizens.

Montana -- along with 8 other states -- has language that extends its "right of recall" to members of its federal congressional delegation "on the grounds of physical or mental lack of fitness, incompetence, violation of oath of office, official misconduct, or conviction of certain felony offenses," the group notes in a press release. The petition, drafted by Montana residents William Crain and Stewart Rhodes, then calls for recall elections for Senators Max S. Baucus (D) and Jonathan Tester (D), as well as Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) on charges that they have violated their oaths of office by not protecting and defending the United States Constitution in voting for the National Defense Authorization Act.

In their press release, Rhodes, the national president of the libertarian Oath Keepers organization and former staffer for Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), explained the recall campaign:

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The new commander of the Guantanamo Bay prison wants a team of government and law enforcement officials to be allowed to review all communications between lawyers and inmates accused of helping organize the Sept. 11 attacks, The Associated Press has learned.

The proposed changes, contained in a 27-page draft order, have sparked a backlash from the Pentagon-appointed attorneys representing the five Guantanamo prisoners charged in the attacks. They say the new rules would violate attorney-client privilege and legal ethics and deprive the prisoners of their constitutional right to counsel.

The order is still in draft form and has not yet been signed by the commander, a detention center spokeswoman, Navy Cmdr. Tamsen Reese, said Tuesday. She said the commander was not available for an interview.

Lawyers for the Sept. 11 prisoners received the draft order from the commander, Navy rear Adm. David Woods, on Dec. 22 and were told to sign an agreement to abide by the rules within 48 hours.

Instead, they sent a written response contending that requiring them to abide by such rules in order to see their clients was illegal.