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 25, 2012

Arctic Ice “Rotten” to the North Pole, scientist says

When David Barber first headed to the Arctic in the 1980s, the ice would typically retreat just a few a kilometres offshore by summer’s end.

Now he and his colleagues have to travel more than 1,000 kilometres north into the Beaufort Sea to even find the ice.

And it’s nothing like the thick, impenetrable ice of Arctic lore.

Case of the Conservatives’ carbon amnesia

The Conservative Party’s attack machine, with its television ads, canned speeches and pre-written scripts, has always been constructed on exaggeration tinged with mendacity. To this, since Parliament resumed, can now be added flagrant hypocrisy, since the machine and its mouthpieces, Conservative MPs, are attacking with customary vehemence the very policy on which they once campaigned.

In 2008, the Conservative platform promised to “develop and implement a North American-wide cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gases and air pollution, with implementation to occur between 2012 and 2015.” Now, however, the Conservative attack machine denounces a cap-and-trade system, as conceptually proposed by the NDP, as a “carbon tax,” a job killer “that will increase the price on everything.”

Terry Williams Death Penalty Case Rocked By New Evidence Days Before Planned Execution

PHILADELPHIA -- The prosecutor sat in the witness box, as the judge told her to review a document from a murder case decided nearly 30 years ago.

"It looks like notes about an interview," said Andrea Foulkes, a former Philadelphia assistant district attorney and now a federal prosecutor. "That is my handwriting."

The interview, in late 1984, was with a mother whose 16-year-old son belonged to a church youth group led by Amos Norwood, a 56-year-old chemist recently found stabbed and beaten to death in a cemetery.

A Peek Into the Fantasy World of the Persecuted Rich

Mitt Romney’s secretly recorded diatribe against the 47 percent of Americans who pay no income taxes revealed a lot of things about him, one of them being the degree to which he has come to share the paranoia of the rich that has flowered in the Obama era. The paranoia is very weird, not least because the rich have actually prospered under Obama while vast swaths of the populace have struggled, which is in character with the broader explosion of inequality over the last few decades. The recording also shows the degree to which Romney has joined the imaginary world of persecution inhabited by rich conservatives and undergirded by made-up facts.

Pakistan Drone Study Finds 'Damaging And Counterproductive' Consequences From U.S. Policy

A new study conducted by law professors at Stanford and New York University contends that the U.S. use of drones to target suspected militants in Pakistan has had a "damaging and counterproductive effect" on the country and has killed far more civilians than previously acknowledged.

The study, which was released on Tuesday, relies on some 130 interviews with civilians living in the regions of northern Pakistan where targeted drone strikes have been most frequent. Working with the activist group Reprieve, the team of professors have added to the growing body of literature that argues, contrary to Obama administration claims, that numerous civilians have been killed, and many more traumatized, by the drone strike program.

New Jersey Foreclosures Crisis: Chris Christie Not Using $300 Million In Federal Funds To Help Distressed Homeowners, WABC Reports

Is Chris Christie doing enough to help residents of New Jersey stave off foreclosure? A new report from WABC's Jim Hoffer suggests the answer might be "no."

In 2011, New Jersey accepted $300 million in federal money to start the Homekeeper Program, which would, as its website advertises, promote "neighborhood stability in New Jersey communities by providing financial assistance to eligible homeowners in danger of foreclosure."

False Prophecy and Real History in the Mideast

Kabuki theater, with its extremely stylized dramaturgy, and the Yiddish stage, with its lachrymose realism, are rarely joined. The Democratic National Convention succeeded, however, in fusing the two. A platform insertion terming Jerusalem the undivided capital of Israel was gaveled through by a visibly unhappy mayor of Los Angeles, reportedly at the insistence of the White House, which sought to silence Republican charges that the administration is disloyal to our unruly client state.

Perhaps we should think instead of the Theater of the Absurd. The administration’s policy is like that of the governments that preceded it. The final status of Jerusalem is to be decided by Israel and Palestine if they conclude a peace treaty. It is almost certain, whoever wins the election, that our embassy will remain in Tel Aviv. Meanwhile, the audible anger of many of the convention delegates nullified the reassuring effect the resolution was supposed to have on those voters for whom Israel’s delusions of omnipotence are their commands. Most are Republican biblical literalists, who believe that the coming of Israel portends the Last Judgment, the conversion of some Jews and the extirpation of the rest. The leaders of the Jewish organizations are remarkably tolerant of the theology of their fundamentalist allies. They are sure, after all, of their unconditional support for Israel—something that an increasing number of American Jews refuse. The Jewish organizations and their leaders become all the louder as their constituency shrinks. A majority of American Jews will vote as Americans, and some of the most self-consciously Jewish of them will do so for the sake of biblical values of social justice—which they find increasingly challenged in Israel. Meanwhile, events in the world reduce the political theater at the convention to its true dimensions, exceedingly small.

Chicago Teachers, Verizon Workers and Quebec's Students Prove That Resistance Works

Teachers in Chicago, Verizon workers, and students in Quebec recently proved that not only are strikes and general resistance and dissent essential to any democracy, they also work.

Despite ongoing efforts by private education lobbyists and a complacent national media working to smear teachers as being selfish, greedy leeches on society, educators in Chicago secured a major victory for themselves and their students.

Ralph Reed's Group Compares Obama Policies to Nazi Germany

A mailer blasted out by the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a nonprofit group spending millions of dollars to mobilize evangelical voters this November to help Mitt Romney's campaign, compares President Barack Obama's policies to the threat posed by Nazi Germany and Japan during World War II. It also says that Obama has "Communist beliefs." A copy of this so-called "Voter Registration Confirmation Survey" was obtained by Mother Jones after it was sent to the home of a registered Republican voter.

The Faith and Freedom Coalition is the brainchild of Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition who was once hailed as "the right hand of God" and who is now tasked with getting out the evangelical vote for Romney. In the mid-2000s, Reed was ensnared in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Reed was a longtime friend of Abramoff's, and he took payments from Abramoff to lobby against certain American Indian casinos. Reed once ran a religious-themed anti-gambling campaign at the behest of an Abramoff-connected Native American tribe to try to prevent another tribe from opening a competitor casino. His current efforts for Romney are something of a political rehabilitation for Reed.

States Aren't Enforcing Their Own Oil and Gas Rules

The biggest domestic oil and gas boom in a generation is going unpoliced by regulators in many states, according to a report released today by the environmental group Earthworks. Since 2005, the United States has increased oil production by about 10 percent and gas production about 20 percent, largely due to technological advances in horizontal drilling and fracking. Meanwhile, enforcement actions in six major oil and gas states have not kept pace with all the new drilling.

The report, "Breaking All the Rules," examined oil and gas regulation in Colorado, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas. It found that in recent years the number of oil-and-gas-related enforcement actions and total dollar amount in penalties in each state have either remained fairly constant or dropped. The only exception was in Colorado, where penalties increased because the state addressed a backlog of old cases.

Utah Set to Send Glenn Beck-Approved End Times Novelist to Congress

Glenn Beck likes to say that he never endorses candidates—he just tells his followers how he feels about them. In Chris Stewart, the Republican nominee in Utah's 2nd Congressional District, Beck has found someone he feels pretty damn good about. "If he wasn't running, I'd be trying to convince him to work for me, to help me stay the course, strategize, and save the country," he said last winter, as Stewart's campaign was just getting off the ground. "I've actually tried to talk him out of running, because it's a lion's den in Washington."

But, Beck added, "I believe he's a Daniel."

The Real Problem With Romney's Offshore Investments

Mitt Romney's taxes are once again in the news thanks to Friday's release of his full 2011 tax return. As with his 2010 filings, the documents highlight the GOP candidate's extensive overseas holdings, which some tax experts believe has allowed him to lessen his tax liability. But the problem with Romney's reliance on offshore tax havens goes beyond his own tax bill.

The Internal Revenue Service and many members of Congress have sought for years to close some of the loopholes that are draining billions of dollars from the federal treasury and shifting the tax burden from wealthy corporations to average individuals. Yet through his work at Bain Capital and his personal investments, Romney has supported a shadowy financial system with far-reaching ramifications for the US and foreign governments.

Public Service Cuts: Feds Refuse To Hand Over Details To Watchdog Kevin Page

OTTAWA -- The Conservative government won't be turning over any more documents to help Canada's budget watchdog discover what federal jobs will be slashed or what government services will be eliminated.

In a letter to Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) Kevin Page posted online Monday, Wayne Wouters, the clerk of the Privy Council, writes that the federal government has already "shared extensive data" with him regarding the 2012 budget and believes what he is currently looking for falls outside his mandate.

Conservative War On Unions: As Public Service Job Cuts Mount, Tories Distract, Destabilize Critics

The war drums of a Tory-led campaign against Big Labour beat louder each day, with calls to make union dues optional and financial disclosure mandatory.

Behind the rhetoric about “union bosses” and “transparency” lies a strategy, political observers say, that stokes controversies and throws up red herrings in order to force key opponents on the defensive — in this case, Canada’s labour movement and the NDP.

With radio attack on ‘the media,’ Ford brothers’ disconnect from reality reaches new heights

No one has ever accused Mayor Rob Ford, or his brother Councillor Doug Ford, of being overly aware of their own buffoonery. Oblivious is more their style. But on Sunday afternoon, their disconnect from reality became more pronounced than usual. All while live on the air.

The Ford brothers co-host a two-hour radio program on NewsTalk 1010 every Sunday afternoon. They spent the first hour of the most recent show recapping their recent trade mission, dozens of city officials and business leaders in tow, to Chicago. Ford had proudly boasted that the trip wouldn’t cost taxpayers a dime, comments that were called into question last week after Councillor Michael Thompson said that though he’d travelled to Chicago, he wasn’t paying for it himself. During Sunday’s show, Mayor Ford repeated, without elaboration, his contention that the trip wouldn’t cost taxpayers anything. Just ’cause.

Our new normal: the mockery of democracy

Allan Gregg, the veteran pollster and commentator, caused a bit of a stir recently when, in a speech at Carleton University, he accused the Harper government of making an Orwellian assault on democracy and reason.

No sooner had that speech been delivered than the Conservatives, as if bent on buttressing the thesis, entered into all kinds of hyperbole and doublespeak in accusing the New Democrats of wanting a country-destroying carbon tax. The party favours a cap-and-trade system that the Conservatives previously endorsed; it’s not a direct carbon tax, although costs from it would be passed on to the consumer – as they can be from regulatory measures favoured by the Conservatives.

PQ acts on pledge to tax the wealthy

The Parti Québécois is moving to hike taxes on higher-income earners in the province – a bold move that means Quebeckers who make more than $130,000 would pay more into government coffers this year.

The PQ’s decision to act quickly on a controversial campaign pledge – and the government’s intention to apply it retroactively to taxpayers – has set up a showdown for a minority government that is only days old.

China closing in on huge oilpatch purchase

CALGARY—Will one of the tallest buildings in Calgary soon be emblazoned with the initials of a Chinese state-owned oil company?

That’s just one of the many questions that hangs over the proposed takeover of Nexen, a major oilsands player, by the China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC).

In July CNOOC offered Nexen shareholders a 61-per-cent premium on the share price and last week those shareholders decided it was a deal that they simply couldn’t refuse. It was an important step toward completion of the $15-billion deal, China’s largest overseas acquisition to date.

Stephen Harper heads to New York for award but skirts United Nations

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper flies to New York Thursday to accept a “world statesman” award from a little-known group, but he will not be joining more than 100 world leaders for the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly occurring just a few blocks away.

Instead, he has assigned Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird to once again deliver the speech next week on behalf of Canada.

Critics on Monday blasted Harper for his decision, saying it confirms the Conservative government’s disdain for the UN and that Canada will pay an international price for it.

Tories block Easter’s EI report in Ottawa

A report commissioned by Malpeque MP Wayne Easter showing examples of people negatively affected by recent EI changes was blocked from being tabled in the House of Commons Monday.

Easter tried to table the document so its contents could be debated in Parliament and become public information.

He says recent changes to allowable part-time earnings while on EI has meant many Canadians are worse off financially than they were before, and this document supports his claim. That’s why he believes it was blocked.

Mitt Romney 'speaks truth to power' about neo-conservatism

Ironically, in the now-famous video that seems likely to end his political career, it could be said that Mitt Romney was speaking truth to power.

Of course, "speaking truth to power" is a phrase normally used to describe courageous souls who risk their own hides to take a principled stand challenging those in power -- not exactly what Mitt was doing.

Rather, assuming he was speaking privately to like-minded multi-millionaires, the Republican presidential candidate told the $50,000-a-platers what they wanted to hear: that he hasn't any intention of helping the 47 per cent of Americans too poor to pay income tax. "My job is not to worry about those people."

Canada's tar sands development: Headfirst into a staples trap

Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney spoke in Calgary recently on "Dutch disease". The Governor denied emphatically that a boom in one sector (petroleum) represented a loss in another (manufacturing).

Without mentioning Tom Mulcair by name, Carney delivered a direct repudiation of the argument advanced by the leader of the Official Opposition, who has been pointing out that over-development of the Alberta sands is creating an unbalanced Canadian economy, and is not sustainable.

For Carney, development of the Alberta sands is positive, because "most fundamentally, higher commodity prices are unambiguously good for Canada." As well as ignoring the environmental consequences of resource extraction, strangely, Carney exhibited the same irrational exuberance as characterizes players in market booms.

About Stephen Harper's ambassadorial timeshare: Maybe he missed the lesson on the Statute of Westminster!

Like Sir John A. Macdonald, a British subject I was born and now, apparently, a British subject I may die. What's with that?

Or did I fail to get it right yesterday that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his gang of so-called Conservatives have decided to give up he trappings of independent nationhood and, just as the Scots are about to head out for the Highlands, go in with the British on a joint-venture diplomatic service?

This has got to be the weirdest story of the long, weird Harper government. Who thought we'd ever see the leaders of a sovereign nation state, even this one, so glibly toss aside the trappings of sovereignty and nation statehood?

Free speech, hate crimes and insidious stereotypes of the Roma people

On July 15th of this year, the Morinville News (Alberta) reported that Conservative MP Paul Storseth was "looking to educate constituents about what he sees as the overzealous bureaucracy that exists within Canada's Human Rights Act."

The News reported that the MP would hold public meeting in the Fedorah Hall near Bon Accord, Alta., to discuss his private member’s bill, Bill C-304, An Act to Amend the Human Rights Act: Protecting Freedom, which had passed the House of Commons in June.

C-304 is now before the Senate.

Halting the March to War

Founder and president of the National Iranian American Council Trita Parsi fears we’re headed for war over Iran’s nuclear program, but says it’s not too late to turn back.
* * *
Do you think we’re heading towards a military confrontation between Iran and the United States, or Iran and Israel?

Absent any concrete action to get us off the current trajectory, yes: I believe war is going to increase in likelihood. I think there are three ways that war could start right now between the United States and Iran or Israel and Iran.

Food price hikes: Why I blame investors

Andrew Hepburn is a former hedge fund researcher. He writes on commodities, the stock market and the financial industry–but without the jargon.

Once again, food prices are soaring. For the third time in five years, the world seems on the verge of a crisis. Prices for corn, soybeans and wheat have all skyrocketed on international markets, rising 21 per cent, 41 per cent and 31 per cent respectively since the start of the year.

Minister's email to gay community sparks privacy complaints

An email titled "LGBT Refugees from Iran" that was sent from Immigration Minister Jason Kenney's MP office has raised concerns about whether the private information of Canadians may be used for partisan purposes.

Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community received an email from Kenney extolling the government's handling of cases of lesbian and gay refugees from Iran.

Vic Toews shrugs off call for probe into Omar Khadr leak

OTTAWA—The Conservative government distanced itself Monday from the leak of a classified videotaped interview with Guantanamo prisoner Omar Khadr that angered the U.S. administration and dodged calls for a probe into its source.

The Star reported Friday officials in the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama were furious about what they view as a serious “breach of trust.”

NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar told the Commons Monday it is “no laughing matter when our closest ally is privately questioning whether Canada can be trusted to keep secrets.”

Doug Ford apologizes, almost, for calling reporters new name

On Sunday, Councillor Doug Ford described reporters as a “bunch of sucky little kids.” On Monday, he described them as a “bunch of pr---s,” issued a near apology, then made it clear he wasn’t actually sorry.

His ongoing offensive against the media comes after another spate of critical stories about the activities of his brother, Mayor Rob Ford. While Toronto politicians are regularly unhappy with the coverage they receive, it is highly unusual for them to engage in public name-calling.

Orwell would be impressed...

The climate change issue reached new heights in Canadian public dialogue this week. It wasn’t because of the unprecedented melting of Arctic sea ice this summer, the phony-baloney announcement about Canada’s ‘progress’ toward meeting its greenhouse gas targets, or government’s caving on real regulations for coal plants. Nope, it wasn’t because of any of these worrisome situations.

Fighting climate change was selected by the Harper government for use as an all-purpose distraction -- a fog machine -- for the new parliamentary session. Now it didn’t have to answer to a number of pressing issues (like the rapidly melting Arctic icecap or 1.4 million unemployed Canadians). So when the leader of the opposition rose to ask his first question he was promptly attacked as an economy-destroying peddler of carbon taxes. For a week the Prime Minister and a gaggle of ministers and backbenchers repeatedly levelled this false charge at every opportunity. It quickly turned into a farce.

"Harvest of Empire": New Film Recounts How U.S. Intervention Caused Mass Latin American Migrations

At a time of heated and divisive debate over immigration, the new feature-length documentary, "Harvest of Empire," examines the direct connection between the long history of U.S. intervention in Latin America and the immigration crisis we face today. Based on the groundbreaking book by award-winning journalist and Democracy Now! co-host Juan González, "Harvest of Empire" takes an unflinching look at the role that U.S. economic and military interests played in triggering an unprecedented wave of migration that is transforming our nation’s cultural and economic landscape. González is a columnist at the New York Daily News and author of three other books, including "News for All the People: The Epic Story of Race and the American Media." We’re also joined by the film’s co-director, Eduardo López.

Source: Democracy Now!
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