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.]

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

More Than 180 Arrested on Occupy Wall Street's First Anniversary

In the early morning hours Monday, Occupy Wall Street activists marked the first anniversary of the movement by protesting in the financial district. Hundreds gathered on Water Street and hundreds more in Zuccotti Park, the birth place of the movement, before marching through Lower Manhattan, occasionally pausing to occupy intersections and protest financial institutions like Chase and Bank of America.

It was one of the largest turnouts since the early days of Occupy, but Monday was also exceptional because of the high arrest figures. More than 180 people, including journalists, were arrested, and in at least some of these cases, the police were arresting individuals arbitrarily and without cause.

Voting’s Outcasts: Why One in Five Blacks in Kentucky Can’t Cast a Ballot

One of every thirteen African-Americans are already disenfranchised, and it’s not because of voter ID laws, voter purges or cut-offs to early voting but because they’re caught up in the criminal justice system. According to a new study released this summer by the Sentencing Project, in 2010, 5.85 million otherwise eligible voters were disenfranchised because they’re current or former felons. Of these, a full 75 percent were already out on parole or probation or had already completed their complete sentence. Nationwide, nearly 8 percent of African-Americans have lost their right to vote, compared to nearly 2 percent for non-African-Americans—illustrating the lasting effects of a racially biased criminal justice system.

Stop denying and show the proof, Mr. Mayor

‘If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell.” – Legal adage


The Ford brothers did not actually pound the table in their Newstalk 1010 radio studio on Sunday, but there were angry words and raised voices as they lashed out at their tormentors in the football affair. The way they put it, the whole controversy over the mayor’s use of city staff to help coach his football team is a creation of lazy reporters and “left-wing elitist socialists.”

Isn't Mitt Romney a Member of the 47 Percent?

Mitt Romney, a son of privilege who used family connections and family advantages to accumulate a “vulture capitalist” fortune, and who now collects multimillion-dollar checks for doing absolutely nothing, claims to have identified 47 percent of Americans “who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them.”

The 47%: Who They Are, Where They Live, How They Vote, and Why They Matter

In secretly recorded comments, Mitt Romney told a private fundraiser that the 47% of American who pay no federal income tax "dependent on government" and predicted they will "vote for the president no matter what."*

Let's not talk about what the comments mean for Romney's election chances. Let's talk about everything we know about "The 47%."

Quebec Long-Gun Registry: Feds Will Appeal Court Ruling

OTTAWA - The federal government is making good on its promise to appeal a Quebec court ruling that blocked the destruction of gun-registry records and ordered the data handed over to the province.

The government plans to challenge last week's decision by Quebec Superior Court Judge Marc-Andre Blanchard, who voided two sections of the Conservative government's legislation to scrap the long-gun registry.

Carbon emissions estimates vary wildly at Northern Gateway hearings

EDMONTON - Carbon emissions from the proposed Gateway pipeline could cost $742 million a year by the time the bitumen in the pipeline is refined and burned as gasoline, engineer Chris Peters, told a federal hearing into the proposed 585,000 barrel-a day pipeline to the West Coast.

But pipeline proponent Calgary-based Enbridge stressed Monday only a fraction of those emissions — about $4 million worth a year — come from the construction and operation of the pipeline.

Two models of Chinese 5th-Gen fighter in works

The Chinese military has leaked first photos of a brand new lightweight fighter with external characteristics that allow the jet fifth-generation attribution. Some pictures suggest it could be used on future Chinese aircraft carriers.

Shenyang Aircraft Industry Group (SAC), one of the leading aircraft design and manufacturing corporations of China’s aviation industry, has rolled out a prototype that might eventually become Chinese analogue to America’s F-35.

Poilievre slams union for using cash for politics

Nepean-Carleton MP Pierre Poilievre has ratcheted up his war of words against unions, saying they’re overstepping their boundaries when they wade into the political sphere.

Documents provided to the Sun show Canada’s largest union representing public servants spent nearly $2 million on political action last year.

“That raises a lot of questions,” said Poilievre. “That money belongs to workers, not the union bosses and it’s being spent on radical, divisive political causes that workers don’t support.”

Conservatives call it a carbon tax. NDP call it cap and trade. Which is it?

The federal Conservatives who were, by their own standards, relatively gentle with the opposition New Democrats throughout the spring have returned to the fall sitting with their messaging set on “carbon tax” and specifically the NDP’s alleged support for such a levy.

The New Democrats deny they have ever favoured such a tax – though they do argue for a cap-and-trade system to force polluters to pay for their carbon output. But an NDP news release issued Monday saying the Conservatives just “love to lie about carbon taxes” did nothing to stop the onslaught.

Foes angered as Conservatives plan second omnibus bill

The Conservatives are putting the opposition on notice that a second omnibus budget bill – with changes to federal science policy, business tax credits and pensions for public servants and MPs – will dominate the government’s fall legislative agenda.

The Conservatives’ decision to cram their first budget bill with a host of items that had little to no connection to the actual budget became a source of political fireworks earlier this year. The opposition accused the government of subverting democracy and proposed more than 800 amendments to the bill in an attempt to delay its passage in June.

Tory MPs seek $250K for legal costs in robocalls case

Seven Conservative MPs whose election victories are being challenged will argue in Federal Court today that more than $250,000 must be set aside to help cover their legal fees.

Each MP is demanding about $37,000 be set aside. The Canada Elections Act specifies that $1,000 is all a voter need put up in order to contest an election in court, however the act does allow some leeway for that amount to be increased.

Strong majority of Canadians oppose drug patent extension in Canada-EU trade deal: poll

Ottawa – A new poll conducted by Ipsos Reid, and released by the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Health Coalition, shows that what would otherwise be high support for a Canada-European Union free trade deal collapses on the issue of pharmaceutical drug costs, with 69 per cent of Canadians opposing a deal that would lengthen patent protections for brand name drugs.

The two organizations are asking the provinces, whose trade negotiators are in Ottawa this week for another round of Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) talks, to insist on removing patent term extension and related pharmaceutical proposals from the EU trade deal. Failing to do so will not only be expensive for the provinces and the public, it will also frustrate efforts to contain drug costs through co-ordinated bulk purchasing of generics while putting a desperately needed national pharmacare program even further out of reach.

Waking Up From the American Dream

Hedrick Smith, author of Who Stole the American Dream?, explains how the land of opportunity became the land of inequality.
* * *
How would you define the American Dream?

It was pretty simple to define the American Dream in the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, because so many people were living it. It was a steady job with steadily rising pay over your lifetime career, health benefits, a lifetime pension from your employer, the opportunity to buy your own home, and the hope that your kids would live a better life.

Detropia: New Doc Takes Intimate Look at Detroit’s Struggle with Manufacturing Collapse, Urban Decay

Once known as the Motor City, where the middle class was born, Detroit’s auto industry and manufacturing sector have collapsed. Today the city is on the verge of bankruptcy, facing a thinning population and massive cuts to basic services. The new film "Detropia" takes an intimate look at at some of the city’s former members of the middle class as they struggle to make ends meet and refuse to abandon hope. We’re joined by the film’s co-director, Rachel Grady, a private investigator turned filmmaker who, along with her co-director Heidi Ewing, has made several films, including the Academy Award-nominated "Jesus Camp."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Diplomacy Under Fire

Former Canadian Ambassador to Iran Ken Taylor says that making diplomats accessible is a risk, but it’s a risk that you have to take.

Ken Taylor was Canada’s ambassador to Iran in November 1979, when the U.S. embassy in Tehran was seized and more than 50 American diplomats were taken hostage. Six other Americans managed to avoid capture and were sheltered by Taylor, who helped them get out of Iran. Today, Taylor reflects on the killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and the dangerous demonstrations outside other U.S. embassies in the region.

Things look good around here — for now

So it turns out Ipsos has been polling monthly, since 2007,  in 24 countries around the world, about attitudes toward the local economy. The latest round landed in my emailbox tonight, and it’s very interesting reading. It helps explain why incumbent governments have been doing well in Canadian elections, and why economic insecurity is still a big ingredient in our politics. Let’s take a look.

A hefty .pdf of the annoyingly named “Global @dvisor” poll’s latest results is here. Let me highlight a few results.

Lobbying rules changing amid PMO chief's controversy

Mining giant Barrick Gold won't say which of its people placed calls this year to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's right-hand man, but soon companies won't be able to shield the identity of all those involved in lobbying government officials.

The government said Monday it will change lobbying rules so that the name of every in-house lobbyist who communicates with a public office holder is publicly listed.

Chinese firms wave the flag to cash in on Japan tension

The image of a small island topped by a massive Chinese flag that dominated the home page of Chinese internet giant Baidu Inc. on Tuesday leaves little doubt as to where its allegiances lie.

Baidu and companies across the country are tapping a frenzy of nationalist sentiment, launching patriotic promotional campaigns as thousands take to the streets to protest against the Japanese government’s purchase last week of some disputed islands from a private owner, islands China claims as its own.

Canadian economy stuck in ‘soft patch,’ TD warns

The Canadian economy is “stuck in a soft patch,” Toronto-Dominion Bank economists said Tuesday in a bleak report citing stressed households and debt-burdened governments.

“Canada’s economy appears to be at a crossroads,” said economists Craig Alexander, Derek Burleton and Diana Petramala. “After ramping up spending during the recession and recovery, fatigued households and deficit-laden governments have recently been shifting their attention to restraint.”

NATO halts work with Afghan allies to stem insider attacks

KABUL- NATO ordered a cutback on Tuesday on operations with Afghan forces in response to a surge of so-called insider attacks on foreign servicemen, but said the restriction was temporary and would not derail a 2014 handover of security to Afghan forces.

The order indefinitely suspending most mentoring operations was issued by the second most senior U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Lieutenant-General James Terry, and applies to all front-line missions involving units smaller than an 800-strong battalion.

Obama Admin Appeals NDAA Ruling in Bid to Preserve Indefinite Detention at Home and Abroad

The Obama administration has filed an emergency appeal of a federal judge’s decision to block a controversial statute that gave the government the power to carry out indefinite detention. Judge Katherine Forrest ruled against a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, authorizing the imprisonment of anyone deemed a terrorism suspect anywhere in the world without charge or trial. A group of journalists, scholars and political activists had brought the case, arguing the provision was so broad it could easily infringe on freedom of speech. In a court filing on Monday, the government argued Judge Forrest’s ruling could go beyond the statute itself to curb the indefinite provisions contained in the legislation authorizing the so-called post-9/11 "War on Terror," potentially jeopardizing the imprisonment of foreigners in Afghanistan without charge. We look at the Obama administration’s support for indefinite detention at home and abroad with Empty Wheel blogger Marcy Wheeler.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Democracy declined worldwide in 2011, Arab Spring nations at risk

WASHINGTON, Sept 17 (TrustLaw) - Democratic governance declined throughout the world in 2011, showing that gains made in the Middle East and North Africa during the Arab Spring are very fragile and in its chaotic aftermath leaders may slip back into authoritarian rule, a U.S. watchdog group said on Monday.

Only Tunisia has improved markedly its overall governance score amongst the Middle East-North African countries that were surveyed in the latest Countries at the Crossroads report published by Freedom House. Bahrain slipped backward and Egypt edged up only slightly.

Gateway pipeline hearings resume: First Nations get chance to question Enbridge

EDMONTON - Lawyers for an aboriginal group fighting the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline have raised more questions about who could end up with ownership stakes.

Hana Boye, who represents the Haisla band which claims much of the pipeline's route as its traditional territory, queried Enbridge (TSX:ENB) officials on who put up money for 10 $10-million option agreements that could guarantee their holders space in the pipeline and a share of its ownership.

The Commons: The joke is on you, Canada

The Scene. John Baird pointed at Thomas Mulcair and laughed.

Conservative MP Andrew Saxton was on his feet a couple rows back, claiming that the leader of the opposition had spent the summer promoting the idea of a tax on carbon. Mr. Baird apparently thought this was funny. Mr. Saxton had been preceded by Shelly Glover. And Mr. Saxton and Ms. Glover would be followed by Conservative MP John Williamson, all rising in the moments before Question Period to recite their assigned talking points.

Michigan a Key Battleground for Labor Rights with Votes on Emergency Managers, Collective Bargaining

Michigan voters will be asked in November to decide the future of a controversial state law that allows the governor to appoint an unelected emergency manager or corporation to take over financially distressed towns and cities and effectively fire elected officials. The law, which is now on hold, empowers unelected managers or corporations to take over cities and effectively fire elected officials. In addition, another initiative on the Michigan ballot in November aims to enshrine collective bargaining rights in the state constitution to stave off future attacks on unions. We’re joined by Paul Abowd, an investigative reporter at the Center for Public Integrity.

Source: Democracy Now
Author: --

Dear Ontario teachers: Don't let McGuinty get away with this

I know you're angry right now. You should be. That your bargaining process has been interrupted by the reprehensible actions of the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives in Ontario should outrage you and all Ontarians who support you.

I want to acknowledge your pain. Having never had a student wet himself beside me, having never had to separate a fight where girls' hair is strewn across the floor, having never had to explain why the Merchant of Venice doesn't suck, having never had to stop myself from swearing for more than a few days at a time ... I know that what you do I could never do. What you do, most people can't do. Even with the shitty teachers lumped in, the service you give to the community deserves to be acknowledged, honoured and celebrated.

Harper poised to put Senate reform on ice

Under the guise of a projected Supreme Court reference on Senate reform, Prime Minister Stephen Harper may be about to bury his party’s grand plan until at least the next federal election and, possibly, for all time.

The only certainty about Harper’s bid to limit Senate terms to nine years in an elected upper house has always been that it would eventually land in the lap of the Supreme Court.

Palestinians ‘have no interest’ in peace, says Mitt Romney in new video

WASHINGTON— GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney told donors in a newly released video clip that Palestinians “have no interest” in peace with Israel and suggested that efforts at Mideast peace under his administration would languish.

Romney says that Palestinians are “committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel” and that the prospects for a two-state solution to Mideast peace were dim.

Hudak says wage freeze just beginning of austerity blitz

Freezing the wages of 1.2 million Ontario public servants should be merely the first phase in an all-out effort to rein in salaries, warns Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak.

“What comes next? If we don’t have bold reforms to actually drive down the cost of government then we’re going to hit these unaffordable heights once again once the wage freeze comes off,” Hudak said Monday at Queen’s Park.

A sea of trouble between China and Japan over five tiny islands

A dispute over a quintet of uninhabited islands is jeopardizing the political and trade relationship between the world’s second and third-largest economies, as a number of Japan’s flagship companies announced temporary closures of their China operations on Monday after being targeted by days of angry protests.

Automakers Nissan Motor Co., Honda Motor Co. and Mazda Motor Corp. – who collectively employ thousands of Chinese workers – each announced they were temporarily suspending production in China after a week of anti-Japanese protests around the country that saw Japanese-owned businesses looted and Japanese cars and restaurants attacked. Other industries, including electronics, food and retail, were also affected and the dispute put global supply chains for Japanese products produced in China under threat.