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, September 15, 2012

Government's fall agenda will unfold behind closed doors

As MPs take their Commons seats for the fall sitting of Parliament, Canadian and European Union negotiators will be huddling elsewhere in the capital, trying to hammer out a free-trade deal that could significantly impact this country and its citizens for decades.

But don't ask what's in the deal, or even what Canada wants and is prepared to give up.

Public debate? Forget it. Canadians won't get to see details of the agreement until after the deal is done.

A night with the fanatics

On Tuesday evening, I covered a 9/11 vigil in Toronto, and a counter-protest across the street organized by Islamic and leftist groups calling for the return of Omar Khadr.

We didn’t know that as this was taking place, Muslim fascists in Libya and Egypt were murdering people who had in some way offended them.

One of the dead was the U.S. ambassador to Libya, representing a nation that had given so much to free the Libyan people from tyranny.

11 Conservative MPs and a Senator Say Exactly the Same Quote About the War of 1812 At the Same Time

Friday was the day for news releases from the Conservative government about its ongoing War of 1812 celebrations.

Conservative MPs and a senator fanned out in eastern Canada to partake in taxpayer-funded gatherings.

No details on the cost but one Defence Watch reader who attended said he a nice time having refreshments and such. The receptions are being funded out of the $30 million fund the Conservatives set aside for celebrating the War of 1812.

The news releases started pouring in Friday afternoon, one after another at one minute intervals. The fascinating thing was how 11 Conservative MPs and a senator can all say exactly the same thing.

Tories’ call centre fights demand it turn over recordings of voter contact calls

OTTAWA — The Conservative party’s phone bank company says its recordings of voter contact calls shouldn’t be given to lawyers who are challenging the results of the last election in certain ridings.

The Responsive Marketing Group (RMG) wants the Federal Court of Canada to block attempts to force the firm to provide scripts, audio recordings and other information about calls made to voters shortly before the May 2, 2011, vote.

Prison Guards Plan Protest In Harper's Riding

Hundreds of prison guards will rally in the prime minister's riding Saturday to protest rising gang violence, budget cuts and overcrowded conditions.

About 500 members of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers are expected to gather at Stephen Harper's Calgary-Southwest constituency office, then they'll knock on doors to sound the alarm about the impact his tough-on-crime agenda is having on staff and public safety.

Species At Risk Act Changes Coming, Says Environment Minister Peter Kent

OTTAWA - After 10 years of ups and downs, the legislation that protects precarious wildlife is ready for an overhaul that will kick into high gear this fall, Environment Minister Peter Kent says.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Kent said he wants to spend the next few months figuring how to make the Species At Risk Act more efficient.

In particular, he wants the recovery plans provided for in the legislation to consider whole ecosystems, rather than just species in isolation.

Ohio's War on the Middle Class

The decor of Erin and Anthony Rodriguez's guest room could really only happen in the United States. In fact, a European did lay eyes on it one time, and his superior brow furrowed instantly with disbelief as he said, "What…is THAT?" It isn't just the powder-pinkness of the third bedroom in their Gahanna, Ohio, home. It's more the hot pink stars stenciled along the ceiling border, and that between them alternate the words "Katie" and "an American Girl." Erin, who's 30, Ohio born and raised, Ohio for life, can't decide herself if she should be excited—I mean, it's not not funny—or mildly embarrassed to show it to people. Nobody named Katie lives here. This paint scheme was left by the previous owners. On the early June afternoon when I drop my suitcase by the bed, Erin exclaims, "You can be our Katie!"

Members of Congress Who Reauthorized Warrantless Wiretapping Bill Don't Understand What It Does

Congress doesn't really understand what it's doing.

Specifically, the House members who voted 301-118 on Wednesday to reauthorize the vast spying powers in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act (or FISA Amendments Act, and yes, that's really its name) don't seem to understand what they were doing. The same thing happened in 2008, when Congress first voted to retroactively legalize warrantless wiretapping. Then, as now, supporters of the legislation falsely insisted that it does not collect the communications of American citizens.

A Plea for Mercy for a Murderer in Pennsylvania

On Monday afternoon, before the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons in Harrisburg, lawyers for a man named Terrance Williams will attempt to convince state officials that his life should be spared-- that instead of being executed by lethal injection on October 3rd Williams (shown at left) should instead be permitted to spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole. Despite the deadly violence of Williams' crime, despite no questions about his guilt, it's an unusually compelling clemency request-- and because of its timing, in the midst of two local sex abuse scandals, a vivid test of the nature of Pennsylvania's clemency process itself.

Williams' lawyers will make their case to five officials who will then make a recommendation to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, who signed Williams' death warrant on August 8th. The vote of the Board of Pardons must be unanimous in Williams' favor and, even then, under state law, Gov. Corbett is free to disregard it and push on with the execution. It would be the first contested execution in the state in nearly half a century (three executions between now and then occurred when the defendants in the cases all agreed to waive their appeals). And it's clear that the governor will be a tough sell.

Mitt Romney's Muslim-Baiting Backers

On the opening night of the Republican National Convention, the cameras caught former UN ambassador John Bolton in the Romney family box, chatting amiably with Romney’s son Tagg. Shortly before the convention, Bolton, an unpaid foreign policy advisor to Romney, rushed to the defense of Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, whose attempts to tie Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin to the Muslim Brotherhood were widely denounced, even by Republicans like John McCain. Several weeks before the convention, Romney met in Denver with former Army lieutenant general Jerry Boykin, who was rebuked by President Bush in 2003 for his anti-Muslim, Crusade-like statements while still in uniform and subsequently found by the Pentagon Inspector General to have violated three internal rules when he delivered these speeches without clarifying that he was speaking in his private capacity. Boykin’s war cry of “no mosques in America” and rejection of First Amendment rights for statements in support of Islam led to his withdrawal as a West Point speaker this year, after protests by Iraq and Afghanistan vet groups. Boykin recently became executive vice president of the Family Research Council, a measure of how Islamophobia has become an integral part of the hard-right agenda.

Overcrowding In Federal Prisons Harms Inmates, Guards: GAO Report

The federal prison system has been unable to keep pace with the stream of inmates flooding its facilities over the last five years despite adding space for thousands of new convicts, according to a government report.

The ballooning incarcerated population puts inmates and guards in danger and holds back efforts to rehabilitate convicts, experts told HuffPost.

The already-taxed Bureau of Prisons network swelled to 39 percent above capacity through last September, and is expected to surge to more than 45 percent above its limit in 2018, says the Government Accountability Office report, titled "Growing Inmate Crowding Negatively Affects Inmates, Staff, and Infrastructure." The report was released on Wednesday.

Flood Threat To Nuclear Plants Covered Up By Regulators, NRC Whistleblower Claims

In a letter submitted Friday afternoon to internal investigators at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a whistleblower engineer within the agency accused regulators of deliberately covering up information relating to the vulnerability of U.S. nuclear power facilities that sit downstream from large dams and reservoirs.

The letter also accuses the agency of failing to act to correct these vulnerabilities despite being aware of the risks for years.

Occupy Wall Street Plans To Surround New York Stock Exchange To Mark Anniversary

Sept 15 (Reuters) - Occupy Wall Street marks its first anniversary on Monday, and, in a bid to rejuvenate a movement that has failed to sustain momentum after sparking a national conversation about economic inequality last fall, activists plan once again to descend on New York's financial district.

The group, which popularized the phrase "We are the 99 percent," will attempt to surround the New York Stock Exchange and disrupt morning rush hour in the financial district, according to a movement spokeswoman.

Mitt Romney Tax Policy Studies: Candidate Seemingly Contradicts Their Conclusions

WASHINGTON -- Over the past few weeks, the Romney campaign has repeatedly pointed to five separate studies supporting the candidate's contention that a dramatic, across-the-board, reduction in tax rates can be paid for by economic growth and the elimination of deductions and exemptions for high-income earners.

Romney himself referenced these five studies in an interview with Meet the Press on Sunday. His running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), said the same during his run through the Sunday show circuit.

Campaign Spending Limits Supported By Most Voters: Poll

WASHINGTON — Americans don't like all the cash that's going to super political action committees and other outside groups that are pouring millions of dollars into races for president and Congress.

More than 8 in 10 Americans in a poll by The Associated Press and the National Constitution Center support limits on the amount of money given to groups that are trying to influence U.S. elections.

But they might have to change the Constitution first. The Supreme Court's 2010 decision in the Citizens United case removed limits on independent campaign spending by businesses and labor unions, calling it a constitutionally protected form of political speech.

Pope Benedict Calls For Religious Freedom In Middle East

BEIRUT — Pope Benedict XVI told Syrians at a rally for young people Saturday that he admired their courage and that he does not forget those in the Middle East who are suffering.

On a day of appeals for religious freedom in the region, he said it was time for Muslims and Christians to work together against violence and war. He spoke on the second day of his visit to Lebanon, a country with the largest percentage of Christians in the Middle East. He arrived amid a wave of violent demonstrations over an anti-Islam film across the Muslim world.

Anti-Japan Protests In China Swell, Turn Violent

BEIJING -- Protests against Japan over its control of disputed islands spread across more than two dozen cities in China and turned violent at times Saturday, with protesters burning Japanese flags and clashing with Chinese paramilitary police at the Japanese Embassy before order was restored.

Thousands of protesters gathered in front of the embassy in Beijing. Hundreds tried to storm a metal barricade backed by riot police armed with shields, helmets and batons. Many threw rocks, bottles, eggs and traffic cones at the embassy.

Wisconsin Collective Bargaining Law Struck Down By County Judge

MADISON, Wis. — A Wisconsin judge on Friday struck down nearly all of the state law championed by Gov. Scott Walker that effectively ended collective bargaining rights for most public workers.

Walker's administration immediately vowed to appeal, while unions, which have vigorously fought the law, declared victory. But what the ruling meant for existing public contracts was murky: Unions claimed the ruling meant they could negotiate again, but Walker could seek to keep the law in effect while the legal drama plays out.

Together, we can block Harper: Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois and CLASSE to tour Canada

In the spring of this year, Quebec's student movement declared war on an intransigent government which hoped to raise tuition fees by 82 per cent while slashing corporate taxes and those on high income earners.

The result? Two education ministers resigned. A premier and a sitting government defeated. The tuition hikes and that odious assault on civil liberties known as Law 12 set to be repealed.

Man fights for video proof that officer allegedly flicked urine on him

A disabled Toronto man is suing the province’s information and privacy commissioner in a last-ditch effort to obtain police surveillance video — footage he claims will show that an officer urinated in his jail cell and then “shook the remaining urine” onto his neck and face as he lay prostrate on the floor.

On Friday, Udhbirprasaud “Joe” Bhikram served a $12,500 small claims lawsuit to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, the latest government organization to throw up a roadblock in his three-year fight to obtain the video, he alleges.