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.]

Monday, January 14, 2013

Foreclosure Review Insiders Portray Massive Failure, Doomed From The Start

Last January, dozens of independent contractors showed up for their first day of work at a large, single-story Bank of America building in Tampa to right the wrongs of a foreclosure crisis that many had witnessed firsthand. Or so they thought.

They were lawyers, paralegals and other mortgage industry veterans. Along with thousands of other contractors working at banks and auditing firms like Deloitte and PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the Tampa crew was to comb through the mortgages of people whose homes were in foreclosure at the height of that crisis, in 2009 and 2010. They were looking for lost paperwork, overcharges, botched loan modifications -- evidence of the kinds of errors and misconduct widely alleged by foreclosed borrowers.

Beware Walmart’s Role in the Gun Control Debate

As Vice President Joe Biden plotted his task force’s plan of action on gun control this week, he invited representatives Walmart to the White House to talk about it. That makes sense—as we detailed last month, the retail giant is the biggest seller of weapons and ammunition in the United States. Stakeholders as far-flung as the hunting groups Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever were invited to meet with Biden’s task force, so Walmart surely has a place at the table.

Letter From Haiti: Life in the Ruins

Sometimes you can’t help but be sickened by the behavior of certain international organizations helping Haiti recover from the devastating January 2010 earthquake—hit, that is, by a wave of real physical nausea. The other day, I spent an afternoon in the displaced persons camp across from the ruins of St. Anne’s church in downtown Port-au-Prince. The place was awful, as awful as you can imagine squalid emergency living quarters might be—homes consisting of tent, tarp, tin, sheets, plywood, some cardboard—after three years of dust, dirt, sewage, torrential storms and, to top it off, Hurricane Sandy, which killed at least fifty-four people in Haiti.

Does the NRA Really Have 4 Million Members?

Whenever the National Rifle Association is accused of extremism, it trots out the claim that it represents a large chunk of America's gun owners. Last week, it said it has 4.2 million members and counting. Though the group doesn't publish its membership rolls and didn't respond to questions about its size, there's a lot of anecdotal evidence that it is making itself out to be bigger than it truly is.

Gay Marriage Protests In France Draw Thousands

PARIS — Holding aloft ancient flags and young children, hundreds of thousands of people converged Sunday on the Eiffel Tower to protest the French president's plan to legalize gay marriage and thus allow same-sex couples to adopt and conceive children.

The opposition to President Francois Hollande's plan has underscored divisions among the secular-but-Catholic French, especially more traditional rural areas versus urban enclaves. But while polls show the majority of French still support legalizing gay marriage, that backing gets more lukewarm when children come into play.

Government caves to lobbying pressure on anti-spam law

Canada’s anti-spam legislation was back in the news last week as the government unveiled revised regulations that may allow for the law to finally take effect next year. Canada is one of the only developed economies in the world without an anti-spam law and lengthy delays have created considerable uncertainty.

RCMP Failed To Track Internal Misconduct For Years

The head of the RCMP admitted that Canada’s national police force neglected to keep tabs on hundreds of cases of serious misconduct committed by Mounties across the country for years.

Commissioner Bob Paulson acknowledged that an access to information request by CBC News inadvertently revealed that not even senior leaders in the RCMP could say with confidence whether incidents of misconduct that include assaults, impaired driving, and fraud were a problem in the force.

There's a way to liberate First Nations

OTTAWA -- It was a shocking yet powerful development in the ongoing tensions between First Nations and the rest of Canada.

After an audit of the Attawapiskat First Nation was leaked to the media -- an audit that showed the reserve did not have the documents to account for more than 400 financial transactions between 2005 and 2011 -- the welcome mat to Chief Theresa Spence's compound on Victoria Island was pulled away.

Islander without transportation denied EI benefits

MONTAGUE — Like most Islanders, Marlene Giersdorf wants to be gainfully employed and take care of her nine-year-old son.

But the humble pride of the single mom exploded into tears here Friday when she took to the streets with a one woman protest and handmade signs.

Idle No More: Joining Canada's civil rights revolution

Is this finally the moment that Canada's First Nations' civil rights revolution has genuinely begun?

In the U.S., despite a series of failed uprisings, black Americans endured slavery and segregation for centuries until the great civil rights movement of the 1960s led to unprecedented progress, though the struggle for justice and equality is far from complete even now. The history of aboriginals in Canada is a similar chronicle of injustice and discrimination, and despite repeated attempts over the decades to fight back -- think Oka or Caledonia or the Lubicon -- inequality and humiliation remain the daily fare for most.

The power of the round dance

There was a special moment for me today between my heart and the sky. Toronto weather reports for today screamed rain so, before leaving for today's round dance at Dundas Square in the heart of the city, I stopped and put a little tobacco down to ask Creator to hold off on the rain until after our round dance was over.

Sure, we had a contingency plan to move from Dundas Square to the Eaton Centre lobby, but we prayed for the best, thankfully wishing we could dance under all of creation.

Idle No More: Grassroots mobilization challenges entrenched status quo

The remarkable Idle No More movement is the biggest and most important national outpouring of grassroots Aboriginal anger ever seen in Canada. Not since the late 1960s when Indians (as they then referred to themselves) and Metis confronted governments with demands for justice has such a dramatic and passionate expression of resistance been seen.

As the movement continues to grow we can only speculate on what its longer term outcome will be. Many movements begin with such spontaneous explosions of pent up anger and frustration. The successful ones find their feet quickly and are able, through collective leadership, to focus their energy and passion on a unifying vision and on some organizational form to press for its realization. Idle No More will be no different.

Idle No More, Enbridge No More: On 'divisions' and the power of social movements

Friday was an historic day for the struggle of Indigenous peoples in Canada, as the #J11 global day of action inspired by Idle No More saw over 250 actions take place worldwide.

Much of the media discussion, however, has been on the 'divisions' -- all because AFN Grand Chief Shawn Atleo and others met with Harper while many Chiefs boycotted the brief session with the prime minister.

The Power of Idle No More's Resurgent Radicalism

The remarkable Idle No More movement is the biggest and most important national outpouring of grassroots aboriginal anger ever seen in Canada. Not since the late 1960s when Indians (as they then referred to themselves) and Métis confronted governments with demands for justice has such a dramatic and passionate expression of resistance been seen. As the movement continues to grow we can only speculate on what its longer term outcome will be. Many movements begin with such spontaneous explosions of pent up anger and frustration. The successful ones find their feet quickly and are able, through collective leadership, to focus their energy and passion on a unifying vision and on some organizational form to press for its realization. Idle No More will be no different.

Harper government spends ‘for partisan political reasons,’ retail politics, says How Ottawa Spends editor

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is not an ideologue obsessed with small government, but a pragmatist focused on visible spending with a political payoff, says Christopher Stoney, one of the country’s leading experts on federal government spending, and co-editor of How Ottawa Spends 2012-2013: The Harper Majority, Budget Cuts, And The New Opposition.

When looking at the Harper government after almost seven years, “It’s hard to pick out a particular definitive fiscal policy because I think it is inconsistent. I think the only consistency is, is that it plays very much for partisan political reasons, rather than thinking about what might be in the best interests of the economy,” said Prof. Stoney in an interview with The Hill Times.

Idle No More takes on Harper’s dismantling of First Nations’ home base

OTTAWA—For a century up until the 1990s, Indian residential schools sought to distance native children from their culture, languages, and parents. Yet in under seven years, the Harper government is coming closer to getting a new native generation away from a culture of collective reserve lands being commonly owned, moving incentives away from reliance on traditional aboriginal economies, and downgrading any special relationship aboriginals believed they had with the Crown.

Time has come for First Nations to be partners in resource development

SQUAMISH, B.C.—In my six years as the chair of the First Nations Financial Management Board, I have spent many hours consulting First Nations and I have noticed big changes in those conversations.

When I first started, the conversations were usually about fiduciary duty under the Indian Act. Today the conversations are about financial autonomy and the emerging aboriginal economy. This should not be a surprise because the board I represent and its governing legislation were initiatives originating with First Nations.

The heroes and zeroes of First Nations uprising

GATINEAU, QUE.—Every political crisis throws up heroes and villains and the showdown provoked by Theresa Spence’s hunger strike and the Idle No More movement is no exception.

For some, Spence is still a hero, although her reputation has been tarnished for many Canadians, perhaps unfairly, over revelations of shoddy, if not shady, book-keeping by her Attawapiskat band council.

PBO’s term ends March 24, feds dragging feet on finding successor, says Page

Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page, known in some parts as “dead man walking” for his hard-hitting, critical reports on government spending, will finish his term on March 24, but he says government appears to be dragging its feet on finding his successor.

“None of us know what’s going on,” said Mr. Page.

House decides not to cut MPs’ office budgets, frozen for next three years

The Commons Board of Internal Economy has hit rewind on its controversial decision to reduce MPs’ $284,700 basic annual office budgets as part of the House’s strategic and operating review to find $30.3-million in savings from the Commons’ $441-million overall budget by 2014-15, and instead the MOBs will be frozen for the next three years.

Idle No More movement led by aboriginal women

Aboriginal women are leading the Idle No More movement, which activists say is as much about challenging traditional aboriginal leadership as it is about challenging the federal government.

Supporters of the month-old national aboriginal movement say that indigenous women’s traditional status as decision makers is part of the reason that First Nations and aboriginal women have had such a prominent role in Idle No More.

Feds’ failure to consult with First Nations underlying theme of Idle No More, says lawyer Morning Bull

The Idle No More movement has established itself as a powerful new force on the federal political scene in Ottawa. But while the aboriginal grassroots movement’s opposition to the government’s budget bill, C-45, has garnered the majority of attention, it has raised the red flag on a number of other bills currently before Parliament, including Bill C-27  and Bill S-8, and First Nations lawyer Faye Morning Bull says the underlying theme is the government’s failure to properly consult with First Nations on legislation.

Federal-First Nations relations yet to reach an all-time low, but ‘with continued stupidity we could make it that way’: former Indian Affairs DM

Former bureaucrats of Indian Affairs and Northern Development are questioning the federal government’s tactics in dealing with First Nations chiefs and the Idle No More movement after the release of an audit critical of financial management on Northern Ontario’s Attawapiskat reserve just days before Prime Minister Stephen Harper was to sit down with First Nations leaders.

The leaked audit report was first reported by the CBC on the morning of Jan. 7, and was officially released less than three hours later by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development (AAND).

A year of extreme weather could put the heat on Ottawa’s environmental indifference

Sometimes a scientific study so exhaustive, so authoritative and so alarming arrives in the public discourse that it simply cannot be ignored.

And sometimes the timing and content of such a study merely confirms what should be evident to any thinking person anywhere on this planet.

Canadian anti-Idle No More racism grows online

Is Canada more racist than we think?

It turns out that writing a column about Idle No More and the ongoing battle by Indians in Canada for fair treatment attracts racists the way a wet lawn calls out to worms.

I had always thought that one of the joys of Canadian life was its abhorrence of racism. But judging by some of the email I received and the comments I read online elsewhere, it’s getting a bit Mississippian around here.

French planes bomb north Mali city of Gao as more countries join battle against Islamists

BAMAKO, MALI—French fighter jets bombed rebel targets in a major city in Mali’s north Sunday, pounding the airport as well as training camps, warehouses and buildings used by the Al Qaeda-linked Islamists controlling the area, officials and residents said.

The three-day-old French-led effort to take back Mali’s north from the extremists began with airstrikes by combat helicopters in the small town of Konna. It has grown to a co-ordinated attack by state-of-the-art fighter jets which have bombarded at least five towns, of which Gao, which was attacked Sunday afternoon, is the largest.

Quebec students support Idle No More, welcome 'Native Spring' of 2013

This statement was issued today by L'Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ).

Last year the streets of Quebec vibrated to the rhythm of hundreds of thousands of marching feet, as our student strike against an increase in university tuition fees blossomed into the political awakening of a society.

Idle No More flexes its muscles in day of action: 'We could shut down the country if we really wanted to'

Idle No More again flexed its muscles across the country yesterday, the third and largest Indigenous day of action since the grassroots movement began one month ago, on International Human Rights Day.

Blockades, round dances and protests sprouted in dozens of cities from coast to coast, bringing Native and non-Native supporters out into the streets to demand a fundamental change in the relationship between Canada and Indigenous Peoples.

How NRA’s true believers converted a marksmanship group into a mighty gun lobby

In gun lore it’s known as the Revolt at Cincinnati. On May 21, 1977, and into the morning of May 22, a rump caucus of gun rights radicals took over the annual meeting of the National Rifle Association.

The rebels wore orange-blaze hunting caps. They spoke on walkie-talkies as they worked the floor of the sweltering convention hall. They suspected that the NRA leaders had turned off the air-conditioning in hopes that the rabble-rousers would lose enthusiasm.

Zero Dark Thirty Is a Despicable Movie, Even if Bigelow and Boal Didn't Intend It That Way

I finally saw Zero Dark Thirty last night, which according to my film critic friends means that only now am I actually allowed to opine on it. (I don't agree, having Tweeted up a storm about its evidently pro-torture ethos already.)

Letter to Stephen Harper

Dear Stephen Harper,

Please stop playing political games and allowing ideology to interfere with responsible decision-making. While you've been busy casting aspersions against individual First Nations leaders, selling off our country, enabling the continued degradation of the environment, and ignoring the basic principles of democracy, First Nations people in Canada have been waiting for you to demonstrate even a shred of integrity and leadership by taking real steps to meet our country's commitments to them.

NDP leader calls on Attawapiskat chief to end hunger strike

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair is calling on Chief Theresa Spence to end her hunger strike, saying progress has been made towards respecting First Nations treaty rights and the focus should now be on pressuring the government to act.

“I would sincerely call upon Chief Spence to realize that there has been a step in the right direction, to try and see now if we can keep putting pressure on the government to follow through,” Mulcair said during an interview with CTV’s Question Period.

Beijing, China Air Pollution Hits Hazardous Levels

BEIJING (AP) — Air pollution readings in China's notoriously polluted capital were at dangerously high levels for the second straight day Saturday, with hazy skies blocking visibility and authorities urging people to stay indoors.

Local officials warned that the severe pollution in Beijing — reportedly the worst since the local government began collecting data a year ago — was likely to continue until Tuesday.

Verizon Copyright Alert System Would Throttle Internet Speeds Of Repeat Online Pirates

Guilty of online piracy? Verizon may slow your high-speed Internet service to a crawl.

The company is considering punishing subscribers who illegally share movies or songs on the Internet by temporarily throttling their Web service to dial-up speeds.

Idle No More co-founder supports Spence, not blockades

A co-founder of the Idle No More movement says while she supports the efforts of fasting Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, she does not condone the blockade of rail lines and highways to draw attention to the protests.

Sylvia McAdam, a professor at First Nations University of Canada and one of the four founders of the now-global movement, describes Idle No More as a peaceful protest.

Idle No More: A chance to repair a sad legacy

The truth about stories, says the author and son of a Cherokee Thomas King, is “that that’s all we are.”

It’s a notion at least as old as the Psalms. “We spend our years as a tale that is told.” And in our lifetimes, we’re shaped and guided by the stories we hear about who we are, where we come from, what we might be.

But stories can also be dangerous, King said in his Massey Lectures of 10 years ago. “So you have to be careful with the stories you tell. And you have to watch out for the stories you are told.”

HarperCons play hunger games

There’s no better evidence of the sad Us vs. Them attitude poisoning what’s left of political dignity in Canada than the vitriol being spewed in conservative circles over Attawaspikat First Nation chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike.

We have respected national newspaper columnists (or at least Christie Blatchford) calling Spence’s hunger strike and demands for a meeting with the Prime Minister, an act of terrorism. All the drumming and smudging to coincide with that effort, and that the Idle No More movement that smells like a refried Occupy, are mere theatrics to opinion shape-shifters in the conservative press.

Making petrol out of fresh air?

Aberdeen, Scotland - With one of the world's most famous railway lines, Stockton-on-Tees has already given birth to one transport revolution. On September 27, 1825, it carried the first ever passenger rail service along its 40km route through industrial north-east England - changing the world forever.

Today, it is at the centre of another technological breakthrough that some scientists and engineers believe could be just as significant as steam locomotion.

Noam Chomsky: The responsibility of privilege

Linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky remains as vigorous as ever at the age of 84.

His popularity - or notoriety as some would say - endures because he is still criticising politicians, business leaders and other powerful figures for not acting in the public’s best interest. At the heart of Chomsky’s work is examining the ways elites use their power to control millions of people, and pushing the public to resist.

Time for a hard look at the role of media in fostering neo-colonialism

The cacophony of nonsense emanating from several sides last week was so deafening, key messages were lost in the din.  As a service, I have answers to the top three questions you may have seen in media last week concerning First Nations.

First, the big one: is the improvement in record keeping that occurred in Attawapiskat since Chief Spence was elected proof of fraud?

Freedom to Connect: Aaron Swartz (1986-2013) on Victory to Save Open Internet, Fight Online Censors

Cyber activist and computer programmer Aaron Swartz took his life on Friday at the age of 26. We air an address of Swartz’s from last May where he speaks about the battle to defeat the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA — a campaign he helped lead. "[SOPA] will have yet another name, and maybe a different excuse, and probably do its damage in a different way. But make no mistake: The enemies of the freedom to connect have not disappeared," Swartz said. "Next time they might just win. Let’s not let that happen."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Aaron Swartz, co-founder of Reddit, dead at 26

NEW YORK—Computer prodigy Aaron Swartz, who helped develop RSS and co-founded Reddit, has been found dead weeks before he was to go on trial on federal charges that he stole millions of scholarly articles in an attempt to make them freely available to the public.

Swartz, 26, hanged himself in his Brooklyn apartment, his family in Chicago confirmed in a statement Saturday. He was pronounced dead Friday evening at home in the Crown Heights neighbourhood, Ellen Borakove, spokeswoman for New York’s chief medical examiner, said.

Arielle and Shawnee McPhail, Lesbian Couple, Handed Anti-Gay Letter From Restaurant Owner

A lesbian couple dining at a North Carolina cafe was handed a letter that decried homosexuality as being against God's will.

Arielle and Shawnee McPhail went to The Sting Ray Cafe in New Bern on Dec. 4, according to WCTI 12. On their way out, restaurant owner Ed McGovern approached the couple and handed them a letter asking them to reevaluate their lives.

Harper meets with business leaders to discuss economy

TORONTO - Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he will consult with business leaders across Canada to discuss the economy in the year ahead.

Harper met with eight businesswomen in downtown Toronto on Saturday to kick off what he says will be a series of roundtable talks.

The prime minister says the meetings will focus on his government's top economic priorities and allow the business sector to voice ideas on how to boost the economy.

A release from Harper's office says Canadians will also have an opportunity to participate through online consultations.

Original Article
Author: The Canadian Press 

First Nations, Harper meeting only Round 1 in long, hard haul

OTTAWA—Over the past few days, while National Chief Shawn Atleo was buffeted by harsh division between chiefs, protesters in the streets and a hunger protest with no obvious resolution, there were “fleeting” moments when he wondered whether he should stick with the job.

He persevered, inspired by the people he meets regularly on reserves.

Israeli election Netanyahu’s to lose as voters focus on economic issues

The only thing Israelis are more passionate about than politics is cottage cheese, a household staple whose spiking prices brought 300,000 to the streets in August 2011.

But next week’s election is a more tepid affair than usual, and even inflammatory attack ads can’t put the voters’ zeal back on the boil, as most see the results in advance. With days to go, Israelis are more interested in last week’s cold weather than the usual issues.