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.]

Sunday, May 06, 2012

9/11 Defendants’ Hearing Was Rigged, Lawyers Say

GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba — Lawyers for five men charged before a military commission with conspiring in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, complained on Sunday that the process was rigged to lead to the execution of their clients, and they offered new details and explanations for a sometimes chaotic daylong arraignment on Saturday.

Throughout the arraignment, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and the other four defendants refused to talk to — or even listen to — the judge. Several delayed the hearing by praying, and one shouted to the judge that guards at the prison might kill them. Another was brought to the court in restraints and later took off his shirt, before insisting that the full charges be read aloud, which lasted into the night.

One of the lawyers, James G. Connell III, who represents Ali Abd al Aziz Ali, said at a news conference on Sunday that the defendants’ refusal to acknowledge the judge was a “peaceful resistance to an unjust system.”

While Mr. Connell was prohibited from relaying anything his client had told him, he said, the defendants’ actions “appeared to be a coordinated strategy.”

Greece Elections 2012: Nikolaos Michaloliakos, Extreme Right Leader, Warns Greek 'Traitors'

ATHENS, Greece -- The leader of an extreme-right, anti-immigrant party on course for shock success in Greece's general elections Sunday lashed out at those he described as "traitors" responsible for the country's financial crisis and said his party was ushering in a "revolution."

The far-right Golden Dawn party is set to win 7 percent of the parliamentary vote, according to early projections, as Greeks punished the traditionally dominant parties who backed harsh austerity measures tied to debt-relief agreements.

Parties must exceed a 3-percent threshold of the vote to be represented in Greece's parliament. In the last general election in 2009, Golden Dawn received merely 0.29 percent. It has seen its support jump as a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment has spread in financially devastated Greece.

Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos told The Associated Press in an interview that his party had delivered a blow against the country's corrupt leadership.

The Peace Prize War President

President Obama, it has been said, is a master of having it both ways. Nowhere is this truer than in foreign policy. He ended the torture regime at Guantanamo, in line with rulings handed down by the Supreme Court. At the same time he assured impunity to the lawyers who justified torture and the agents who executed it. He publicized his intention of closing the prison itself as a matter of principle; but when resistance sprang up, he scuttled the plan. To facilitate the extension of the war in Afghanistan, he allowed the issue of abuse of prisoners at Bagram to sink out of sight; and rather than enforce rigorous sanctions against mistreatment, he offered weak guidelines for American assistance in the handling of prisoner complaints. The administration sent the message that there was a cruelty practiced against "enemy combatants" which it formally discountenanced but would not go all lengths to prevent.

Obama initially condemned the enhanced interrogation of terrorist suspects because, under the American constitution, suspects have legal rights and all torture is illegal. Meanwhile, he maintained his credit as a war president, not distracted by constitutional niceties, by ordering terrorist suspects to be killed rather than tortured. (We are talking about persons named as suspects on evidence viewed in secret, a different thing from murderers found guilty by a legal process.) The killing is done by drones; and the drones, for now, seem very far away, though we know they are coming closer.

At Guantanamo, a Dubious Start to a Doubtful Trial

America must use military tribunals to prosecute terror suspects like Khalid Sheik Mohammed, we've been told by public officials for the past 10 years, because the trials would be safer and swifter than their civilian counterparts and because the defendants, "enemy combatants" all, are not deserving of the same substantive and procedural safeguards that American criminal defendants are guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.

Our regular civilian courts and procedures cannot be used for that function, we've been told by those same legal, political, and military functionaries, because then the trials of the suspected terrorists would drone on endlessly, permitting the defendants to use the public forum to spread their violent, anti-American messages while generating the possibility that one or more of the defendants would be acquitted by a civilian jury.

After the Bush-era tribunal proceedings were (over and over again) deemed unlawful by the United States Supreme Court, we were told that the trial procedures would be fixed to ensure that the defendants would receive more due-process rights: to look at the evidence against them, to communicate with counsel, etc. All of this was designed to make it more likely that tribunal convictions would be upheld on civilian appeal.

Canada’s collective rights must be applied with collective sanity

Canada, we like to believe, is among the freest societies on Earth. It would offend many of us greatly to think that, for example, we are a bunch of whinny-babies who go snivelling off to mama — or the societal equivalents, a human-rights court, or the court of public opinion — whenever we hear or read something that bruises our feelings.

Facebook, God knows (I invoke His name intending no offence, overt or implied, to secular humanists, agnostics, atheists, Unitarians, communists, or believers who take His or Its name to be Allah, Yahweh, Atman, Odin, Zeus, Wicca, Manitou, the Tao or the Force) is an incubator for ideas of every kind, some outrageous and offensive, if not repulsive. On Twitter, otherwise respectable Canadians, including members of Parliament, curse like sailors and trash-talk each other in the basest of terms.

So how can it be that, in 2012, a 19-year-old high-school student from Nova Scotia was suspended from school, for wearing a “Life is wasted without Jesus” T-shirt, on grounds this was offensive? And how can it be that on the opposite coast Wally Oppal, whose life has recently been given over to heading the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry in Vancouver, has been called out for taking a bit part in a movie, produced by a friend, because some don’t like the storyline?

Feds spending $100k for paper flags, lapel pins to mark diamond jubilee

OTTAWA — The Conservative government has set aside more than $100,000 for paper flags and lapel pins for celebrations to mark the sixth decade of Queen Elizabeth’s reign.

The costing was tabled by Heritage Minister James Moore in response to a written question by NDP MP Tyrone Benskin.

Details of various contracts were also included in the document, among them: $74,180 for 682,000 paper flags to be sent to the public, provinces and territories; $52,650 for 300,000 lapel pins; and $28,883.20 on posters.

The government also plans to spend $94,675.50 to print Crown of Maples — a government publication that “makes information on the Crown in Canada available to Canadians in an interesting and educational format,” according to the Canadian Heritage website.

Overall, Canadian Heritage expects to spend $7.5 million dollars from the department’s budget for celebrations and commemorations. Of the funds, $2 million will go toward community celebrations, $1.8 million for “awareness initiatives” and $3.7 million for the diamond jubilee medals program.

Of the $2 million for regional celebrations in the 13 provinces and territories, Ontario will receive the bulk of the funds ($333,947). Prince Edward Island ($169,150), British Columbia ($156,525), Saskatchewan ($129,630) and Nova Scotia ($92,205) round out the Top 5. The Yukon will receive the least amount of money at $10,000.

The $2 million in funding also includes $800,000 handed out to national organizations that are not represented by the regional events.

Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, will visit New Brunswick, Ontario and Saskatchewan for two weeks at the end of May to mark the diamond jubilee celebrations commemorating the Queen’s 60-year reign.

Original Article
Author: Postmedia News

An open letter about Rob Ford to the City of Toronto, from the Rest of Canada

Dear Toronto:

It's time we had a frank talk about that Chief Magistrate of yours.

We are speaking of course about Rob Ford, the big guy who keeps showing up in that lime-green team jacket.

We're sorry we can't think of a gentle way to put this, but surely we're all in agreement that your Mr. Ford is a jackass? First there was that thing with closing public libraries and trying to insult Peggy Atwood. (It must have been embarrassing to a great big man like that to have his butt kicked by a little slip of a thing like Ms. Atwood. Or was that his brother? Well, whatever.)

Then there was that Toronto's Biggest Loser project, or whatever it was called, with weekly weigh-ins and all that embarrassing stuff. Very unseemly, even before he was caught on phone-cam sneaking out of Col. Sanders' place with a bucket of eviscerated chicken bits.

François Hollande defeats Nicolas Sarkozy to become French president

PARIS—François Hollande swept to victory on Sunday, becoming the first socialist to become president of France since François Mitterrand left office in 1995.

Hollande campaigned on a kinder, gentler, more inclusive France, but his victory over Nicolas Sarkozy will also be seen as a challenge to the German-dominated policy of economic austerity in the eurozone, which is suffering from a recession and record unemployment.

French voters may not like belt-tightening, but both Hollande and Sarkozy had promised to balance the budget in the next five years. The vote was viewed domestically as a rejection of the unpopular Sarkozy and his relentless effort to appeal to the voters of the far-right National Front party. Sarkozy is the first incumbent president to lose since 1981.

With about half the vote counted, preliminary results released by the Interior Ministry shortly after the last polling stations closed at 8 p.m. showed Hollande had secured about 51 per cent of the vote while Sarkozy, of the centre-right Union for a Popular Movement, won about 49 per cent. Opinion pollsters suggested that the final result would be closer to 52 percent versus 48 percent.

Tories' Orwellian Stranglehold on the Press

For this year's World Press Freedom Day, I spoke in the chamber to assure the Canadian public that the fundamental principles of journalism are being respected.

Allow me to refer to the code of conduct of the Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec to outline the fundamental values of journalism in Canada.

We know that journalists' work must be based on the critical thinking that pushes them to question everything, the impartiality that pushes them to do their research, and report on the various aspects of a situation, the independence that keeps them at arm's length from power and lobby groups, the honesty that makes them stick to the facts, and a number of other principles.

In the collective agreement between CBC/Radio-Canada and the Syndicat des communications de Radio-Canada, which expires on September 30, 2012, it is agreed that in order to fulfill the mandate given to the corporation by Parliament through the Broadcasting Act, CBC/Radio-Canada staff members will report factually, and without intent to deceive the public. The parties recognize that the primary professional obligations of the corporation, and of its employees are toward the public, which is entitled to news, and information that is impartial, complete, factual, and balanced -- that is from section 47.2 of the agreement.

B.C. Economist Blocks Coal Trains In White Rock

About a dozen protesters, including one of Canada's leading energy-environment economists, were arrested Saturday after setting up a blockade on train tracks in White Rock, B.C., aimed at stopping U.S. coal trains from reaching local ports.

Mark Jaccard, a professor of sustainable energy at Simon Fraser University and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, was arrested along with several others late Saturday evening following a day-long protest in the 15000 block of Marine Drive.

"Thirteen protesters were arrested without incident and were respectful of the police and the process that was required to affect their arrest as a result of their actions," said RCMP Sgt. Peter Thiessen.

The protesters, 12 men and one woman, were each served with a $115-ticket for trespassing under the Railway Safety Act. All were subsequently released from police custody.

In a written statement released before the protest, Jaccard said he was prepared to be arrested.

Bill C-309: Conservatives Back Private Members' Bill Targeting Masked Protesters

OTTAWA - The Harper government is throwing its weight behind a private members' bill that would give police the power to arrest anyone hiding their identity during a riot or unlawful assembly.

Conservative backbencher Blake Richards is proposing penalties of up to five years in prison or a fine of up to $5,000 for protesters who wear a mask or disguise.

The bill, Richards said in an interview, is designed to give police more power to prevent the kinds of riots that have caused so much damage, including the current student riots in Quebec, the Stanley Cup riot of last spring in Vancouver and the G20 protests in Toronto two years ago.

"Certainly I've heard of instances where it is legitimate that there might be reasons that someone needs to protest anonymously and this bill certainly still allows for that," said the second-term MP from Airdre, Alta., representing the riding of Wild Rose.

"I think it strengthens the right for peaceful protest. It's only when individuals engage in criminal activity or become violent where this law would apply."

U.S. abandons consulate site in Afghanistan, citing security risks

After signing a 10-year lease and spending more than $80 million on a site envisioned as the United States’ diplomatic hub in northern Afghanistan, American officials say they have abandoned their plans, deeming the location for the proposed compound too dangerous.

Eager to raise an American flag and open a consulate in a bustling downtown district of the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif, officials in 2009 sought waivers to stringent State Department building rules and overlooked significant security problems at the site, documents show. The problems included relying on local building techniques that made the compound vulnerable to a car bombing, according to an assessment by the U.S. Embassy in Kabul that was obtained by The Washington Post.

The decision to give up on the site is the clearest sign to date that, as the U.S.-led military coalition starts to draw down troops amid mounting security concerns, American diplomats are being forced to reassess how to safely keep a viable presence in Afghanistan. The plan for the Mazar-e Sharif consulate, as laid out in a previously undisclosed diplomatic memorandum, is a cautionary tale of wishful thinking, poor planning and the type of stark choices the U.S. government will have to make in coming years as it tries to wind down its role in the war.

Russia Protest March: Police In Moscow Arrest Top Opposition Figures, Demonstrators

MOSCOW — A demonstration by at least 20,000 people on the eve of Vladimir Putin's inauguration as president turned into a battle with police Sunday after some protesters tried to split off from the approved venue and march to the Kremlin.

Club-wielding officers wearing helmets seized demonstrators and hauled them to police vehicles, dragging some by the hair, others by the neck. Several protesters were injured, including one man with blood dripping from his head down the left side of his face.

Three leaders of the opposition movement that gained new life over the winter were among those arrested: Sergei Udaltsov, Alexei Navalny and Boris Nemtsov.

More than 400 people were arrested, and Russia's chief investigative agency said it was considering filing criminal charges of inciting riots against some of them. Police reported that 12 riot police officers were injured.

Send in the clowns

I think I have this straight:

According to Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale, last night sometime shortly after 7:30 p.m.—almost an hour before sunset—Mayor Rob Ford approached him in a public park and mugged him for his phone under threat of physical violence.

According to Mayor Rob Ford, last night at dusk, he approached Daniel Dale in a public park and angrily cornered him, taking his phone and video recorder as Daniel Dale ran off screaming for help, begging the mayor not to hit him.

There’s not a lot of difference between those two stories; those facts appear not to be in dispute. Except that the mayor and his brother, and the surprisingly large contingent of media people who have taken their side, seem to believe that Daniel Dale and the Star have something to apologize for. Their premise for believing that is that they claim Daniel Dale was standing on cinder blocks and shooting photos on his Blackberry of the mayor’s backyard, and the mayor considers that to be an extreme violation of his privacy. This would, in this version of events, justify the mayor’s rage and further justify his angry confrontation with the reporter—a thin wisp of a young man—and also provide grounds for some sort of police action against Dale and justify kicking him out of the press gallery.

Sparta is heading to the polls

The only democracy in the Middle East is heading to the polls again. The elections will be democratic, what else? On paper, they were called because the Supreme Court found fault with the Tal Law on draft deferrals for the ultra-Orthodox. And Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is promoting a draft-everyone bill.

In reality, the prime minister wants the Israeli elections to precede the U.S. presidential election; this order will be more conducive to an Israeli strike on Iran. Either way, events revolve around the military, war and belligerence. Sparta (the Israeli version ) is going to the polls again.

Those who thought that last summer we finally moved on, matured and sobered up have been proved wrong by the election campaign, even at its very early stage. A nonmilitary agenda is nowhere to be seen. Early symptoms were apparent on Independence Day last month; once again, it was a military festival. Most newspapers looked like old issues of IDF magazine Bamahane, filled with tales of bravery on the battlefield. U.S.-made fighter jets zoomed through the sky, one of our nation's few sources of pride.

Canada’s place is among the leaders

Power among nations is shifting dramatically. Goldman Sachs has projected that, by 2050, the seven largest economies in the world will include only one western nation — the United States, which will rank second in economic power, well behind China. Next in order would be India, Brazil, Mexico, Russia, Indonesia. Canada would rank 16th, a little behind Vietnam, a little ahead of the Philippines.

That trajectory is not about anyone’s decline, but rather about the rise and assertion of new strengths. The shift is not just economic, but also political, military, diplomatic — and, most significant, it is cultural — what languages, which values, what sense of community will characterize the future?

Consider two dimensions of these changes.

First, where does conflict come from in the modern world? Not much now from ideology, as in the Cold War, and not simply from poverty and inequality but instead, so often, from culture and identity and faith.

Canada is Israel's best friend: Baird

Canada declared its unwavering support for Israel and human rights everywhere at an event hosted by American Jewish Community (AJC) on the weekend.

"Israel has no greater friend in the world today than Canada," Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird declared at the Global Forum in Washington, D.C., on Saturday. "Our strong support for Israel is not about politics at home, and certainly not about winning popularity contests at the United Nations. Canada certainly has the scars to show for it. It's about values."

Baird was addressing the AJC World Leaders Plenary, attended by an audience of more than 1,500.

Canada's pro-Israel position, he said, was a matter of principle, based on the values of "freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law" that Canada shares with Israel and the U.S.

"At the UN and elsewhere, we make it clear that Israel's right to exist is non-negotiable. We vote against one-sided and unfair resolutions," Baird said in a statement.

Canada has not always been so friendly to Israel, said Baird, who recalled two incidents in his own career when his suggestions to speak up for the Jewish state were rebuffed as naive and politically unrealistic.

"That is no longer how Canada operates," he said, "Not under this foreign minister. And not under this prime minister."

Baird also expressed Canada's commitment to human rights, specifically denouncing Iran for its persecution of women, Christians and Baha'i, China for driving Christianity underground, and Egypt for its treatment of Coptic Christians.

Original Article
Source: toronto sun
Author: QMI Agency

High loonie causing harm says Mulcair

NDP leader Thomas Mulcair said Saturday that parts of the country are paying a price for the prosperity enjoyed by natural-resource sectors such as the oil-sands in Alberta, because of the way they raise the value of the Canadian dollar.

"It's by definition the 'Dutch disease,'" Mulcair said Saturday on the CBC Radio show The House.

The "Dutch disease" is a reference to what happened to the Netherlands economy in the 1960s after vast deposits of natural gas were discovered in the nearby North Sea.

The resulting rise in its currency was thought to have caused the collapse of the Dutch manufacturing sector, and Mulcair said the same thing is happening in Canada.

"The Canadian dollar's being held artificially high, which is fine if you're going to Walt Disney World, [but] not so good if you want to sell your manufactured product because the American clients, most of the time, can no longer afford to buy it."

The Canadian dollar has traded higher or close to parity with the U.S. dollar for most of this year. Mulcair cited Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick as some of the places affected by the high loonie.

But Alberta Environment Minister Diana McQueen, who was also on the show, said Mulcair was being divisive in his treatment of the oilsands.

She called it "old-style politics; trying to pit one part of the country against another."

Original Article
Source: the province
Author: Postmedia News

Looming layoffs ‘toxic’ for PS morale

OTTAWA — Ruben Marulanda has worked for the federal government for 22 years, and until three weeks ago, he felt like he was on top of his world.

With a family that includes three boys, and a secure job, life couldn’t be better. Things looked so good, he recently bought himself new wheels. And then suddenly, out of the blue, his world began to fall apart.

Marulanda was called in last month by his bosses at Natural Resources Canada and told he was an “affected” employee, and handed a letter telling him his job was marked for elimination under the federal government’s spending cuts. With only 33 jobs for the 42 people in his unit, he’d have to compete with others for them. And he could easily be one of the nine without a job.

“I have two kids in college, we are in debt because I just bought a car, and now I may not have a job. It has caused me a lot of stress and anxiety, and it is going to have a huge impact on my family,” Marulanda said.

“I am in a fight of my life.”

Greece votes in critical election

Greeks cast ballots on Sunday in their most critical — and uncertain — election in decades, with voters set to punish the two main parties that are being held responsible for the country's dire economic straits.

The stakes couldn't be higher.

Entirely dependent on billions of euros worth of international rescue loans from other European countries and the International Monetary Fund, Greece must impose yet more austerity measures next month, if it is to keep the money flowing and prevent a default and a potentially disastrous exit from the euro.

Thirty-two parties are vying for the support of nearly 10 million registered voters, many of whom, according to recent polls, were undecided on the eve of the election.

Abstention, once projected to reach historic highs but seen rising in recent opinion surveys, will be crucial to the final outcome. In the last national election, in October 2009, just over 70 per cent of the registered voters went to the polls.

Greek voters set to punish main parties for economic woes

Greeks cast ballots on Sunday in their most critical — and uncertain — election in decades, with voters set to punish the two main parties that are being held responsible for the country's dire economic straits.

The stakes couldn't be higher.

Entirely dependent on billions of euros worth of international rescue loans from other European countries and the International Monetary Fund, Greece must impose yet more austerity measures next month, if it is to keep the money flowing and prevent a default and a potentially disastrous exit from the euro.

Thirty-two parties are vying for the support of nearly 10 million registered voters, many of whom, according to recent polls, were undecided on the eve of the election.

Abstention, once projected to reach historic highs but seen rising in recent opinion surveys, will be crucial to the final outcome. In the last national election, in October 2009, just over 70 per cent of the registered voters went to the polls, a low figure by historical standards.

Taxing the Rich

The news is just in: It’s time to tax the rich in Ontario. In exchange for a promise to abstain from voting against the Liberals’ budget, Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath got Premier Dalton McGuinty to include a provision to increase the basic tax rate for those who make more than $500,000 by two per cent.

Much noise is being made by the newly impoverished one per cent in the mass media. A money manager told Rita Celli on CBC Radio that this is the thin end of the wedge, and that a Nazi takeover is in the wings. He also warned listeners that the sort of money he manages is quite mobile, and will take flight to Alberta if things don’t get better soon. The clean mountain air of Camrose beckons, with or without the scent of wild roses.

This, despite the fact that polls tell us that 90 per cent of Ontarians support higher taxes on those making more than $500,000 per year, and that most Ontarians voted for either the Liberals or NDP in the most recent provincial election. That’s called democracy, by the way – a system of government where the majority rules, with some constitutional restrictions for what they can do with that rule. And last time I checked, the NDP was a social-democratic party. So is it any surprise that it pursues social-democratic policies?

The ghost houses of Ireland: Foreclosure and eviction

DUBLIN—In Mairead Harold’s Irish childhood, there were no rugged mountains, stone-built cottages or seaside cliffs.

Harold grew up poor in Dublin’s derelict Finglas neighbourhood, where rows of gritty semi-detached houses and parks have long been regarded as a haven for drug dealers and their clients.

A 1987 marriage to Stan Harold hardly improved her fortunes. Within weeks of their wedding, he was laid off and she had to use a modest family inheritance to pay down most of the $24,000 mortgage on their new three-bedroom home.

It wasn’t long before Stan left.

Almost 20 years later, he came back, announcing in 2005 that he wanted roughly $130,000 to surrender his claim to the house. Mairead Harold couldn’t raise the cash on her own. She earned $13 an hour working for a bookmaker, her unemployed adult son lived with her and her heroin-addicted daughter was constantly asking for money.

Quebec government offers temporary freeze on hikes to end tuition protests

VICTORIAVILLE, QUE. — After a bitter three-month battle, there was hope Saturday of a breakthrough in Quebec's tuition crisis, with news of a tentative agreement reached between the provincial government and student leaders.

The deal, made public late in the evening, would include what amounts to an overall freeze on what students pay for the next six months, giving both sides some breathing room while negotiations continue.

It would also ensure the debate over tuition levels becomes a key election issue.

Premier Jean Charest must call an election by 2013, and opinion polls suggest most Quebecers side with his government in the dispute.

Still, it was unclear whether the deal, hammered out after a 24-hour negotiating session in Quebec City, would end months of unrest.