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.]

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Why Tom Harkin and a Handful of Other Progressives Opposed the Deal

Most progressives in the US Senate and House voted in favor of the “fiscal cliff” deal worked out between Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky. They did this despite the fact that the agreement compromised on what was supposed to be a hard-and-fast principle: that tax rates on Americans making $250,000 or more must go up to at least the rates that were in place when Bill Clinton was president. Instead, the deal only ends Bush-era tax cuts on those with incomes above $400,000. That rate, thoughtful progressives argue, “does not generate the revenue necessary for the country to meet its needs for everything from education for our children, to job training, to other critical supports for the middle class.”

How Zero Dark Thirty Sanitizes Torture

If you look backward you see a nightmare. If you look forward you become the nightmare.

There's one particular nightmare that Americans need to face: in the first decade of the twenty-first century we tortured people as national policy. One day, we're going to have to confront the reality of what that meant, of what effect it had on its victims and on us, too, we who condoned, supported, or at least allowed it to happen, either passively or with guilty (or guiltless) gusto. If not, torture won't go away. It can't be disappeared like the body of a political prisoner, or conveniently deep-sixed simply by wishing it elsewhere or pretending it never happened or closing our bureaucratic eyes. After the fact, torture can only be dealt with by staring directly into the nightmare that changed us—that, like it or not, helped make us who we now are.

Memo to GOP From an Ex-Conservative: The Eighties Are Over

After a grueling election cycle from which the GOP emerged with a net loss of eight seats in the House, two seats in the Senate, and no White House, one might expect Republicans to reconsider their view that the electorate has given a solid mandate to conservative hardliners. But no: From the fiscal cliff talks (where only 29 percent of Americans approve of the work GOP leaders have done), to the inflexible stance on guns post-Sandy Hook amid an eight year high in public calls for better gun control, the party seems to be largely in denial about where the policy mandate lies. And that, in turn, highlights a longer-term problem: The right-wing base is less vital than it used to be. The challenge can be seen most evidently in a movement I know from personal experience: the religious right.

Part 1 of the Fiscal Cliff is Over. Now Gird Yourself for Part 2

The fiscal cliff is dead. Long live the fiscal cliff.

It's over. Sort of. The Senate voted 89-8 to prevent middle-class taxes from rising while allowing rates to increase for taxpayers with incomes over $450,000. Democrats caved in on the estate tax, so the elderly super-wealthy can breathe easy on that front. Capital gains taxes go back up to 20 percent for high earners, and Democrats and Republicans split the difference on dividend taxation, raising it to 20 percent too, rather than the 39.6 percent Obama wanted. The working class got an extension of the stimulus tax cuts, but lost out on an extension of the payroll tax holiday. The deal also includes a bunch of other miscellaneous provisions (Suzy Khimm has the details here), and the end result is a revenue increase of about $600 billion over ten years.

Canada's indigenous movement gains momentum

Canada's Idle No More movement began as a small social media campaign - armed with little more than a hashtag and a cause.

But it has grown into a large indigenous movement, with protests and ceremonial gatherings held almost daily in many of the country's major cities.

The movement is spearheaded by Theresa Spence, the leader of the Attawapiskat, a small native band in northern Ontario.

Idle No More protesters block eastern Quebec rail line

Protesters supporting Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence's hunger strike are blocking a rail line in Quebec's Gaspé region today, in the latest demonstration linked to the Idle No More movement.

The demonstrators from the Listuguj Mi’gmaq community say they will maintain their blockade of the tracks at Pointe-à-la-Croix for as long as necessary.

Hope on the horizon in 2013: On Harper, social media and #IdleNoMore

I usually find myself in an optimistic mood on New Year's Day, and this year is no exception. But I think there's good reason to be hopeful about 2013 in Canada. The Idle No More movement has inspired the majority in Canada who are opposed to the Harper government; it has led to a global outpouring of solidarity; and, perhaps most importantly, it has brought to light the founding, core injustices of this settler-colonial country.

Creative and courageous activism has proved infectious, and Idle No More has forced its way in to the mainstream, provoking a widespread conversation long overdue about the situation facing the Indigenous Peoples of this land.

A note to Idle No More: Inclusion and respect will make the fire stronger

In the past several months, I have sensed a growing and powerful energy amongst our people. I began to sense it when we started marching and singing around Winnipeg during the call for a National Inquiry on Murdered or Missing Indigenous Women.

When given the opportunity to speak, I stated that we are witnessing the rise of a people's movement, where the passion and energy of our people will no longer be harnessed by apathy, political correctness, deference, or a blind trust in provincial or federal politicians to do the right thing. There is a new energy that is now awake and its messaging is spreading quietly amongst our people through the whispers, the prayers and the songs of our young men and women.

India rape suspects reportedly tried to run over victim

The men in India accused in the brutal sexual assault and death of a 23-year-old student threw her off a bus after raping her and then tried to run her over, according to reports citing police notes on the incident.

The Indian Express newspaper says those details of the assault in New Delhi are contained in a 1,000-page charge sheet to be presented in court on Thursday, when police are expected to file formal charges against the suspects.

Density and the city: How will Toronto health care cope with population growth?

If you think wait times at Toronto hospitals are already too long, just wait until 2036.

Twenty-five years from now, Toronto is expected to have one million new residents. It’s projected the GTA will reach 9.2 million by 2036, a 44 per cent increase from 2011.

Density is rapidly increasing to well above the old city average of 4,077 people per square kilometre, a trend expected to continue to intensify in coming decades.

Delhi gang-rape: look westward in disgust

There's something uncomfortably neocolonial about the way the Delhi gang-rape and subsequent death of the woman now known as Damini is being handled in the UK and US media. While India's civil and political spheres are alight with protest and demands for changes to the country's culture of sexual violence, commentators here are using the event to simultaneously demonise Indian society, lionise our own, and minimise the enormity of western rape culture.

Perspective on the Deal

To make sense of what just happened, we need to ask what is really at stake, and how much difference the budget deal makes in the larger picture.

So, what are the two sides really fighting about? Surely the answer is, the future of the welfare state. Progressives want to maintain the achievements of the New Deal and the Great Society, and also implement and improve Obamacare so that we become a normal advanced country that guarantees essential health care to all its citizens. The right wants to roll the clock back to 1930, if not to the 19th century.

Public losing confidence in the RCMP

Public confidence in Canada’s national police force has dropped “significantly” over the past five years, according to a new poll conducted by Ipsos Reid on behalf of Postmedia News and Global Television.

While a solid majority of Canadians believe RCMP officers treat the public fairly and equitably, they hold a dimmer view of how the force treats its employees.

Crisis of confidence: The long fall of the middle class

Welcome to the new year. This is the time of year when journalists and pundits dust off their ‘best-of’ lists and track who was up and who was down in the year just past. This year, I wanted to do something different — to look beyond the events to the broader social forces producing really important changes in our country and the world.

So I’ve come up with a list of five social forces — five trends which, backed by polling, show how our world is changing, and why.

Contempt of court charges laid against Sarnia blockade for not shutting it down

A contempt of court order was issued against the Sarnia CN Rail blockade Tuesday for failing to comply with a previous court injunction to remove it when it began 13 days ago in support of the Idle No More movement.

Named in the court order is Ron Plain, the spokesman for the people mounting the blockade. He is scheduled to be in Sarnia court Wednesday at 11 a.m. according to a statement released by members of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation blockade.

Canada’s new politics of discord could carry a heavy price

Call 2012 the year of The Cleavage, the year when the fractures in Canadian society gaped wide enough to threaten the legitimacy of our democracy, of our political trust in one another and much of what remains of our common national imagination.

Day by day these past 12 months, when Canadians might have been collaborating with one another to build for the common good, to respectfully acknowledge and find room for each other’s thoughts and beliefs, we’ve advanced resolutely in the opposite direction toward suspicion and loathing and marginalization and the rejection of a communal public life.

So-Called Fiscal Cliff Averted as Congress Begins New Fight over Spending on Social Welfare Programs

After much drama, the "fiscal cliff" has come to an end — for now. We look at what is in the Senate deal approved by the House Tuesday night with economist Juliet Schor. The bill lays the groundwork for future battles between Democrats and Republicans over decisions on federal spending and debt, when much of the focus is expected to be on cuts to so-called entitlements. "The government needs to be spending to do the things the country needs," Schor says. "So we need to be spending on shifting into a clean energy paradigm." Schor is a professor of economics and sociology at Boston College and author of "True Wealth: How and Why Millions of Americans Are Creating a Time-Rich, Ecologically Light, Small-Scale, High-Satisfaction Economy."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

How Canadian troops could end up in Mali

In late December, the UN Security Council passed a resolution calling for African troops to help Mali combat Islamist forces occupying the northern part of the country. On Sunday, Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay suggested the Harper government could contribute to a training mission in the African nation of Mali depending on the “ask” – this, despite the fact Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has repeatedly said Canada is not “contemplating” a military mission in Mali. Should the government decide to contribute, here’s how it would come about:

Cost overruns on the F-35 jet should prompt reassessment

The long and expensive saga of the F-35 fighter jet took another turn when Canada announced it would reconsider its promised purchase of 65 of the Lockheed Martin-built “Chevrolet of the sky.” The cost overruns were simply too much for conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper to defend after an independent auditor put the combined purchase and maintenance price of the order at $46 billion over the 42-year life of the project; in 2010, the Canadian government put the cost of the purchase alone at $9 billion. Canada’s decision should be a wake-up call to the Pentagon: Repeated contractual overruns not only affect the US defense budget, but also provoke convulsions in the defense market as a whole.

Budget cuts and F-35 controversy hang over the military in 2013

OTTAWA—As they shake off the dust of a decade’s service in Afghanistan, Canada’s fighting forces enter 2013 facing a new reality of budget cuts, restructuring and a continuing dogfight over the next fighter for the air force.

Having eased out of a tough combat mission in Kandahar and into a lower profile role training Afghan troops, the Canadian Forces will be out of the country altogether by the spring of 2014.

Arctic energy rush runs into a reality check

Mark 2012 as the year the Arctic rush for oil and gas was put on ice.

The harsh reality of finding – and the even more cumbersome process of extracting – petroleum from beneath a frozen ocean with little or no infrastructure nearby, coupled by the expensive price tag, have dented industry’s plans to exploit the polar region.

Beefed-up technology designed for Arctic work has crumbled during testing. Exploration programs have been cancelled. Other seismic testing missions have come up empty. And some companies even swore off ever drilling for oil in the Arctic.

Idle No More spreads beyond border as aboriginal activists ramp up pressure

MONTREAL - The aboriginal movement known as Idle No More continued to gain strength beyond Canada's borders on Tuesday as activists embarked on a public relations blitz in the United States.

Pamela Palmater, one of the leaders of the movement, travelled to Washington, D.C. to give interviews to the U.S. press. She said the goal of the media campaign was to raise awareness internationally and force Prime Minister Stephen Harper to act.

Allegedly baked bills a matter of national security, says Canada's central bank

OTTAWA - Disclosing details of behind-the-scenes discussions about tales of melting banknotes could endanger national security or international relations, says Canada's central bank.

In response to a formal request from The Canadian Press, the Bank Of Canada released 134 pages of internal records — almost completely blanked out — concerning allegations its new polymer bills melted in the scorching summer sun.

Fiscal cliff: Washington’s long drama over the ‘fiscal cliff’ ends

WASHINGTON—Past its own New Year’s deadline, a weary Congress sent U.S. President Barack Obama legislation to avoid a national “fiscal cliff” of middle class tax increases and spending cuts late Tuesday night in the culmination of a struggle that strained America’s divided government to the limit.

The bill’s passage on a bipartisan 257-167 vote in the House sealed a hard-won political triumph for the American president less than two months after he secured re-election while calling for higher taxes on the wealthy.

America's Understanding of Emancipation Proclamation On Its 150th Anniversary Too Simple For Country's Own Good

Abraham Lincoln, the tall president with the stovepipe hat, the full beard and the grief-stricken eyes, slipped away from the White House’s annual New Year’s celebration with a few members of his administration. Lincoln steadied his nerves, then his hands.

After a few minutes, he took a pen, signed the Emancipation Proclamation and ushered in the beginning of the end of two and a half centuries of American chattel slavery, some of its attendant violence and human degradation. Exactly 150 years ago today, the Emancipation Proclamation -- a monumental document written on both sides of an ordinary sheet of White House paper -- declared slaves living in most of the South “forever free.”

India Gang Rape Victim's Ashes Scattered, More Attacks Stoke Debate

LUCKNOW, India, Jan 1 (Reuters) - The ashes of an Indian student who died after being gang-raped were scattered in the Ganges river on Tuesday as reports of more attacks stoked a growing national debate on violence against women.

The death of the 23-year-old woman, who has not been named, prompted street protests across India, international outrage and promises from the government of tougher punishments for offenders.

Check your junk mail? Ottawa's anti-spam rules still missing

If you're wondering what happened to the Conservative government's much-publicized anti-spam law, you're not alone.

Many consumers and opposition MPs want to know why the legislation, passed two years ago, still is not in force.

"I think that this demonstrates that the Conservative government doesn't take privacy issues seriously," said NDP MP Charmaine Borg, who notes that another piece of legislation, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act that also governs the Privacy Commissioner's Office, is overdue for a review by Parliament.