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, June 03, 2012

Political Scene: Republican Extremism and the Future of American Politics

At least since President Obama’s Inauguration, political observers have been taking note of the Republican Party’s trend toward the right, and away from compromise. “After 2010, it was impossible for a fair-minded person who knew what was going on in Washington and around the country to maintain the fiction that there was an equivalent extremism, and polarization, and ugliness on both sides,” George Packer says in this week’s Political Scene podcast. But there was an impulse among pundits and citizens alike to believe that Democrats, too, bear some of the blame for the country’s polarization, an impulse only now beginning to fade. Packer joins Amy Davidson and host Amelia Lester to discuss why that’s happening, and how extreme conservatism is affecting American politics and governance.

Packer traces the polarization back to Newt Gingrich. Starting with his Speakership, Packer says, Republicans have been exhibiting a “willingness—even an eagerness—to use every tactic short of law-breaking to demonize the opponent on the way to winning power.” And that, of course, includes this election.

“With Mitt Romney, there’s the extremism about taxes and about the Catholic Church and its conflict about contraception,” Davidson says. “And then there’s the ugliness as well in things like birtherism and in Mitt Romney’s flirtation with Donald Trump.”

Packer believes President Obama—who, he notes, “has always been skeptical of hard ideological lines,”—will have trouble in the current landscape. His lack of ideological stance “means that he’s having to start from scratch in assembling a clear argument that opposes the extremism” of the G.O.P.

Beyond this election, even if Romney loses, Packer predicts that Republicans will not relent, but will continue to bog down government and prevent a return to respectable politics. He quotes Barney Frank’s idea for a Democratic Party-wide slogan: “We’re not perfect, but they’re nuts.”

Original Article
Source: new yorker
Author: Matthew McKnight

Beach Communities Moving Inward: Some Beach Towns Are Eyeing Retreat From Sea As Conditions Change With Global Warming

LOS ANGELES -- Years of ferocious storms have threatened to gnaw away the western tip of a popular beachfront park two hours drive north of Los Angeles. Instead of building a 500-foot-long wooden defense next to the pier to tame the tide, the latest thinking is to flee.

Work is under way to gauge the toll of ripping up parking lots on the highly eroded west end of Goleta Beach County Park and moving a scenic bike path and buried utility lines inland away from lapping waves.

Up and down the California coast, some communities are deciding it's not worth trying to wall off the encroaching ocean. Until recently, the thought of bowing to nature was almost unheard of.

Yu Chen, Southern Metropolitan Editor, Leaves Job Over Anti-Government Blog Comment

BEIJING -- A Chinese newspaper editor has left his job after comments were posted to his paper's official microblog mocking the ruling Communist Party's insistence that it maintain control of the nation's military.

Yu Chen confirmed Sunday that he was no longer the Southern Metropolitan's in-depth editor. He declined to discuss the reason or other details in a sign of the sensitivity of the matter.

"Let's just leave it at that," Yu told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

Jeremy Scahill Says Obama Strikes In Yemen Constitute 'Murder'

Weighing in on President Obama's targeted drone strikes in the Middle East, journalist Jeremy Scahill did not mince words.

During his appearance on MSNBC's "Up With Chris Hayes" Saturday morning, Scahill repeatedly said that such attacks, when they killed innocent civilians, amounted to "murder."

Asked by Hayes why he would use such a "loaded" word to describe the strikes, Scahill responded at length.

"If someone goes into a shopping mall in pursuit of one of their enemies and opens fire on a crowd of people and guns down a bunch of innocent people in a shopping mall, they've murdered those people. When the Obama administration sets a policy where patterns of life are enough of a green light to drop missiles on people or to send in AC130s to spray them down..."

Budget sparks Halifax rally

An “omnibus budget bill” may not sound like it has the power to spark deep emotions or mass revolt, but participants in a nationwide protest against Bill C-38 Saturday were hoping their voices would help do just that.

About 50 people marched to the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market from the north end of the city to speak out against Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s budget bill, which has prompted widespread criticism from many political stripes.

The bill transcends the usual budgetary matters and instead amends, repeals or enacts more than 60 laws affecting everything from fisheries to employment insurance.

The Halifax protest was one of more than 50 similar events taking place across Canada.

Criminologist In Scott Walker Ad Says Governor 'Misrepresented' His Views

MILWAUKEE -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's (R) most memorable -- and controversial -- recall ad is one that goes after Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) for a scandal where violent crimes in the city were underreported. But a criminologist quoted in that ad says the governor misrepresented his views and is "absolutely wrong" to blame the mayor for the problem.

"This 2-year-old spent six days in intensive care after being severely beaten," says the Walker ad's narrator. "But Tom Barrett’s police department didn’t consider it a violent crime." The ad then shows crime statistics and asserts "violent crime is up" in Milwaukee.

Scott Walker Denies He Is Target Of John Doe Criminal Investigation

MILWAUKEE -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) vehemently denied a new report stating he is the target of a criminal corruption probe on Saturday.

Speaking to reporters after a meet-and-greet with volunteers at his campaign's Wauwatosa headquarters, Walker said neither he nor his lawyers have received a letter stating that he is being sought out in the investigation, which is focused on Walker's time as Milwaukee County executive. The allegations range from embezzlement to doing campaign work with taxpayer money.

The latest questions arose in after a Friday Facebook post by David Shuster of Take Action News. "According to government lawyers familiar with a Milwaukee criminal corruption probe, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is now a 'target' of the investigation," wrote Shuster.

Florida Voter Purge Will Continue, Defying Federal Warning

Florida will defy a federal warning to stop purging people the state suspects aren't U.S. citizens from voter registration rolls.

Despite a Justice Department letter, objections from county elections officials and evidence that a disproportionate number are voters of color, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner's office planned to continue scrubbing the election rolls, a spokesman said Friday. Gov. Rick Scott (R) ordered the search for potentially ineligible voters.

“We have an obligation to make sure the voter rolls are accurate and we are going to continue forward and do everything that we can legally do to make sure that ineligible voters cannot vote,” said Chris Cate, a spokesman for Detzner. “We are firmly committed to doing the right thing and preventing ineligible voters from being able to cast a ballot. We are not going to give up our efforts to make sure the voter rolls are accurate."

The Lies That Inflated the Housing Bubble

As viewed from Frank Alpan’s cubicle, through the glare of two flat-screen monitors, the collapse of the housing market looks a lot like a crime scene. Clicking his way through electronic case files, he hunts for clues: a strange font on a pay stub, numbers on a W-2 form that don’t add up. He is continually amazed at just how sloppy some suspects can be.

Alpan (whose name has been changed, as his company’s policy forbids unauthorized employees to speak to the media) spends eight hours a day at this desk in Digital Risk’s office building in suburban Maitland, Florida, reconstructing the exact circumstances that led so many Americans to buy houses they couldn’t afford. The cases he has seen reveal a country gone berserk: a woman in Ann Arbor who refinanced her home five times in five years but neglected to tell her lender that she had quit her job; a concrete finisher in Las Vegas who applied for 15 mortgages in one week; pastors—dozens of them—who doctored bank statements, bought houses they couldn’t pay for, and then filed for bankruptcy. “The nice thing about pastors is that their church shares information when asked,” Alpan says. “Pastors are always an easy [fraud] claim.”

Scott Walker's Divide-and-Conquer Strategy Is "The New Model For The Country"

Coming soon to your state: The anti-union, education-cutting, free-market-leaning, divide-and-conquer playbook of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

According to a leading conservative activist, the Walker agenda in Wisconsin is the new conservative game plan for all states in the union. That was the key message delivered at a rally Friday evening in Madison by Tim Phillips, national president of Americans for Prosperity, the conservative nonprofit started with money from the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. "The Wisconsin approach to changing and making state government better is the new model for the country," he said. "You are the model for the country."

Deformed Oilsands Fish Appearing In Lake Athabasca, Says First Nation

FORT CHIPEWYAN, Alta. - Natives downstream from the oilsands in northern Alberta say they have caught more deformed fish in Lake Athabasca and will be sending them away for testing.

Pictures of two fish, a sucker and a northern pike, were distributed by the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation on Friday. The band has long called for better protection of the region's water.

Chief Allan Adam said he is concerned that changes to the Federal Fisheries Act will favour industrial development over the protection of fish.

The pike, which Adam said was caught near the community on Wednesday, appears to have a red lesion running down its back and more lesions on its belly. The sucker, which Adam said was also caught Wednesday, was found floating near-death on the surface. It is missing a lot of its scales.

Bill C-38: Harper Conservatives Look To Scrap Fair Wages Act In Omnibus Budget Bill

Where there's overtime work, there's usually overtime pay. However, an adjustment in the Harper Conservatives' omnibus budget bill may just change that for a number of contract workers.

It's a law known as the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act. Its mandate? To ensures that contractors working on federal government construction projects must pay their workers the prevailing wage in the province plus overtime pay.

The law originated in the Great Depression but could now disappear thanks to 10 words buried in the 425-page budget: “The Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act is repealed." That's it. No context, no further explanation, no justification to be found in the budget.

Thai workers flown in to staff Newfoundland fish plant

In what is believed to be a first in Newfoundland and Labrador, foreign workers have been brought in to work at a fish plant in the province because of a shortage of available labour.

About 20 Thai workers are now on the job at the Quinlan Brothers crab and shrimp processing facility in Bay de Verde.

Gabe Gregory, a spokesman for Quinlan’s, says the hiring of temporary foreign workers followed a long and involved process.

“The fact is that the company has demand for labour, and wasn’t able to fulfil it this past winter locally, and really is left with no other choice but to take these kind of avenues,” Gregory told CBC News.

Sask. premier has 'concerns' with Mulcair's Dutch Disease

NDP leader Tom Mulcair's tone may have changed following his first trip to Alberta's oilsands but his diagnosis for what is ailing Canada's economy remains the same, says Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall.

In an interview airing on CBC Radio's The House on Saturday, Wall tells host Evan Solomon the NDP leader is still "pretty blunt about not having changed his position that we have 'Dutch Disease'."

That's because after touring Alberta's oil sands on Thursday, Mulcair repeated comments he first made during the May 5 episode of The House, when he told Solomon the Canadian dollar was being held "artifically high" by the oilsands causing the economy harm in other parts of the country such as the manufacturing sector in the East.

Mulcair blames Harper for East-West divisions

Federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair says he isn't pitting Canada's East against the West, in prepared remarks to provincial New Democrats gathered for a party convention in Winnipeg on Saturday.

"Those are Stephen Harper's battle lines," Mulcair said on his last day of a three-day tour of the Prairies. "Not mine."

Mulcair's controversial "Dutch Disease" comments unleashed a fury of reaction from federal Conservatives and western premiers alike who called his comments "divisive", "goofy" and intended to divide the country.

Mulcair feels Manitoba love

Federal New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair, on a tour of Western Canada, finally found some love in Winnipeg Saturday when he addressed the party's faithful at the provincial NDP's annual convention.

The newly minted leader of the official opposition was soundly criticized during stops in Alberta, where he toured the oilsands on Thursday, and in Saskatchewan for saying the Canadian dollar has been artificially inflated by oilsands exports by companies that don't pay the full cost of their pollution.

Mulclair argues that drives up the Canadian dollar and hurts the manufacturing sectors of central Canada -- an economic phenomenon known as "Dutch disease."

Calgarians protest federal budget bill outside Harper’s office

Waving signs and banging pots and pans, more than 40 Calgarians protested the federal government’s sweeping budget bill outside Stephen Harper’s southwest constituency office Saturday.

It was one of dozens of demonstrations held in various cities to protest Bill C-38, which contains more than 700 clauses and promises to amend or eliminate at least 60 different laws across the gamut of federal departments and agencies.

Protest organizer Jim Picken said everyone from scientists and seasonal workers to migratory birds and fish will be affected if the omnibus bill becomes reality.

Why cut jobs at home, just to send money to Afghanistan?

I was dismayed to read recently that "-the entire Department of Fisheries and Oceans contaminants program is being shut down effective April 1, 2013- The entire pollution file [covering] the marine environment in Canada's three oceans will be overseen by five junior biologists, including one stationed in B.C-. DFO spokeswoman Melanie Carkner said between Fisheries and the Canadian Coast Guard, about $79.3 million has been saved for the Canadian taxpayer-."

The job-loss announcement, one of many made in the 2012 federal budget, came hard on the heels of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's affirmation of Canada's determination to withdraw all Canadian military forces from Afghanistan, but with the promise to continue to send financial aid to Afghans at the rate of $110 million annually for several years.

Harper, Tory MPs challenge Kent on climate science, letters reveal

OTTAWA — While scientists and environmentalists criticize him for doing little to fight climate change, Environment Minister Peter Kent also has been questioned by his Conservative party colleagues, including the prime minister, about whether the scientific evidence is real and requires a government response.

A series of letters signed by Kent have revealed he has faced many questions from colleagues in recent months about whether Canada needs to take action to reduce consumption of fossil fuels such as coal and gasoline that produce heat-trapping pollution and other toxic emissions in the atmosphere.

But in each of the letters, released through access to information legislation, Kent defended scientific evidence, while dismissing myths such as a suggestion from one Conservative that volcanoes were a major contributor to global warming.

The War of 1812 and the Surrender of 2012

It always struck me as a bit odd, from when I first heard it heralded in the 2011 Speech from the Throne, that Canada was to have a major celebration for the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. It got more intriguing when the detail was unveiled that we were to spend $28 million in such celebrations, in a year when the budget was described as working toward deficit reduction. Many commentators have noticed Stephen Harper's tendency to wrap himself in the flag - to adopt a jingoism and patriotic voice more often associated with a southern accent.

I am very comfortable with language about valuing Canada. I love Canada. No doubt about it. I consider myself a patriot. In fact, ever since receiving the honour of being made an Officer of the Order of Canada, I have taken the words of "O Canada" very seriously indeed. "We stand on guard for thee" is personal. And I tend to see it in terms of standing on guard for wilderness and ecosystems and future generations, which means standing on guard for environmental science and laws and policy.

But not until the details of 420 pages of C-38 came to light did I realize that Stephen Harper is doing something extraordinary for the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812. That flag he has wrapped himself in is a white flag. He is surrendering.

How else to explain that 200 years after protecting the sovereignty of the land that is now Canada and ensuring it was not subsumed by our southern neighbour, we are passing legislation to allow US law enforcement agents onto Canadian territory to enforce US laws. What would Laura Secord have made of that plot? Had she discovered it with her wandering cow, would she have turned Stephen Harper in?

Original Article
Author: Elizabeth May 

Anti-Mubarak protesters blocked from Tahrir Square

Parts of Cairo's Tahrir Square have been blocked off, after big protests overnight. The demonstrators were unhappy about some of the rulings handed down Saturday following a trial for deposed president Hosni Mubarak.

Mubarak and his interior minister were sentenced to life in prison, for failing to stop the killing of hundreds of protesters during last year's uprising, but six senior police and interior ministry officials were acquitted.

Mubarak and his two sons were found not guilty of corruption, although the ex-leader was convicted on charges of complicity in the killing of some 900 protesters during the revolt that forced him from power.

Troops deployed to Tripoli after Syrian groups clash; 15 killed

Lebanese troops deployed in the city of Tripoli on Sunday after 15 people were killed in clashes between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, local medics said, the deadliest fighting in Lebanon since Syria’s uprising began.

Residents said relative calm had returned to the Mediterranean city since the soldiers took up positions around the city at around 7 a.m. (0400 GMT), after gunmen exchanged heavy machinegun fire and rocket-propelled grenades.

Two people wounded in the fighting died on Sunday, adding to the 13 killed on Saturday. Occasional gunfire could still be heard but was less intense than earlier exchanges.

UN accuses Canada of being 'complicit' in rights violations

The United Nations is taking Canada to task for security practices it says expose Canadians and others to torture and allow war criminals to escape international justice.

A new report by the UN Committee Against Torture accuses Ottawa of being “complicit” to human rights violation committed against three Arab-Canadian men held in Syria after 9-11.

Canadian officials also played a role in the ill-treatment of Omar Khadr at Guantanamo Bay, the report contends, criticizing government delays in approving the child soldier’s request to serve out his sentence in Canada.

Quebec Student Protests: Student Group Promises Summer Of Protests After Talks Fail

MONTREAL - Frustrated after a breakdown in negotiations, thousands took to the streets of Montreal Saturday and promised a summer full of demonstrations unless the dispute over tuition fees is resolved.

Quebecers young and old joined students at a festive afternoon march through the city, despite scattered showers. At times it seemed more like a parade, with protest songs blaring from a truck and the clanging of pots and pans that has become customary at recent protests.

The event, organized by the hardline student group CLASSE, was a chance for supporters to express their anger with the lack of progress in ending a crisis that has gripped Quebec for nearly four months, and with Bill 78, the province's new emergency law that limits protests.

Quebec's 'grand awakening:' not a revolution, but a confrontation

The protesters despised Jean Charest's plans, so they gathered often and by the thousands. They stormed police barricades and threw eggs at the National Assembly – the seat of power and democracy in Quebec. They fired off paintball guns, splattering the legislature in bright yellow. Across the province, cabinet ministers' offices were trashed. Fires were set, and the riot police were on constant duty.

All this took place not this week, but in 2003, when Mr. Charest was still green as a Premier, mere months into his first term.

In the end, he blinked. For the sake of social peace and to appease the unions, he scaled down his campaign to trim bureaucracy and reduce the power of labour. Calm returned to the land, at least for a little while, and caving in to protest became one of the Premier's trademarks.

Until now.

What Ontario’s oldsters can learn from Quebec’s youngsters

Welcome to the future. It’s not just for students.

Even if Ontario’s classrooms are untouched by Quebec’s student protests, there are bigger lessons to be learned. And if we don’t do our homework now on looming inter-generational tensions, we’re destined to fail future political tests.

No question, Quebec students enjoy Canada’s lowest tuition rates and the proposed fee hikes are modest. University students often come from better-off families, so it’s debatable whether they deserve more subsidies.

But tuition protests don’t tell the whole story. Even if similar grassroots protests haven’t spread to Ontario, we ignore Quebec’s upheaval at our peril.

Quebec student movement turning more to graying crowd

MONTREAL—With public fundraising underway and many students leaving Montreal for the summer, the latest failure of negotiations with the government has the student protest movement relying increasingly on citizens at large to wage its fight.

The latest major, organized protest took place Saturday afternoon and attracted about 7,500 people to march and bang pots and pans in spite of rain. “It’s not a student strike,” the event’s Facebook invitation announced. “It’s a society waking up.”

Indeed, there seemed to be more average citizens than students among the marchers. The spokesperson for the organizers, the militant student group CLASSE, acknowledged the difficulties ahead.

An Oil Industry Witch Hunt in Canada Threatens Us All

Big Oil and the Canadian government are showing their true colors these days, and what an ugly spectacle it is. Not content to squeeze tar sands oil profits from Canada's boreal forest, the industry and the Harper regime are working overtime to squelch free speech in this once-vibrant democracy.

Their main target is nonprofit groups that oppose the Keystone XL and other tar sands pipeline projects. To silence these voices, the government has begun questioning whether the groups are following charitable tax codes and started proposing laws to limit their advocacy work. They've even equated environmental groups with terrorists and money launders.

This effort to stack the deck in favor of big oil companies doesn't just limit the rights of nonprofits. It endangers the rights of all people -- on both sides of the borders -- to breathe clean air, drink safe water, have a healthy climate and preserve forests and farmlands for our children.