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.]

Sunday, January 27, 2013

On Sovereignty

Let's begin with a little Latin. Terra nullius means land belonging to no one.  That's what the Europeans claimed the Americas were back when they "discovered" them.

A papal bull (really) invented something called the "Doctrine of Discovery" to validate the European claim over terra nullius. It said pagan souls don't count as human; therefore their lands are uninhabited and can be discovered and claimed by Europeans.

Neat, huh?

Boy Scouts Troop Drops Gay-Inclusive Non-Discrimination Pledge After Threats

A Maryland-based Boy Scout troop has backed down on its non-discriminatory pledge toward gay participants after pressure from its regional council.

As Mother Jones reported, Pack 422 of Cloverly, Md. had "anonymously voted and overwhelmingly approved" to adopt a non-discrimination statement, which declared that the group would not discriminate "against any individual or family based on race, religion, national origin or sexual orientation."

Kim Jong Un, North Korea Leader, Vows Strong Action

SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un convened top security and foreign affairs officials and ordered them to take "substantial and high-profile important state measures," state media said Sunday, fueling speculation that he plans to push forward with a threat to explode a nuclear device in defiance of the United Nations.

Israeli Official Hints Pentagon Plans May Make Lone Strike on Iran Unnecessary

JERUSALEM — Israel’s departing defense minister, Ehud Barak, said that the Pentagon had prepared sophisticated blueprints for a surgical operation to set back Iran’s nuclear program should the United States decide to attack — a statement that was a possible indication that Israel might have shelved any plans for a unilateral strike, at least for now.

 In an interview conducted at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and published by The Daily Beast on Friday, Mr. Barak was asked if there was any way Israel could go to war with Iran over what many in the West believe is a nuclear weapons program without dragging in the United States.

Crime and No Punishment

PBS's Frontline had a terrific show last night called the "Untouchables" and was another report on the fact that not one single Wall Street bank or executive has been criminally prosecuted for any conduct related to the largest financial collapse since the Great Crash of 1929. Watch the show here.

While that's bad enough, what's worse is watching the most senior so-called law enforcement officials in our country offer one pathetic excuse after another for why they have so grossly failed to do their job. To non-lawyers or non-professionals, these excuses may seem reasonable or plausible, but frankly none of them withstand the simplest scrutiny. That is why none of those senior officials will subject themselves to a public debate or "unfriendly" audience where real questions -- and follow-up questions -- are asked and they aren't allowed to spin or squirm their way out of answering.

Aaron Swartz, Financial Fraud and the Justice Department

Many people have been asking about the Justice Department's priorities in the wake of the suicide of computer whiz and political activist Aaron Swartz. As has been widely reported, the Justice Department was pressing charges that carried several decades of prison time against Swartz. He was caught hacking M.I.T.'s computer system in an apparent effort to make large amounts of academic research freely available to the public.

Venezuela Prison Riot: More Than 60 Reportedly Killed

CARACAS, Venezuela -- The death toll has risen to 61 following fierce gunbattles between inmates and National Guard troops at a Venezuelan prison, a hospital director said Saturday. About 120 more people were wounded in one of the deadliest prison riots in the nation's history.

Penitentiary Service Minister Iris Varela said Saturday that officials had begun evacuating inmates from the Uribana prison in Barquisimeto and transferring them to other facilities, but she did not provide an official death toll.

Canadians left wanting by budget officer: Flaherty

OTTAWA - Canadians have yet to benefit from the work of the parliamentary budget officer, five years after the Conservative government created the office, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said.

But the minister couldn't say whether the perceived lack of reward is a consequence of the office's mandate, or of Kevin Page, the man his party appointed as the office's first leader five years ago.

Berlusconi Defends Mussolini For Supporting Hitler At Holocaust Memorial

ROME — Former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi praised Benito Mussolini for "having done good" despite the Fascist dictator's anti-Jewish laws, immediately sparking expressions of outrage as Europe on Sunday held Holocaust remembrances.

Berlusconi also defended Mussolini for allying himself with Hitler, saying he likely reasoned that it would be better to be on the winning side.

The media mogul, whose conservative forces are polling second in voter surveys ahead of next month's election, spoke to reporters on the sidelines of a ceremony in Milan to commemorate the Holocaust.

From Welfare Queens to Disabled Deadbeats

If you want to understand the trouble Republicans are in, one good place to start is with the obsession the right has lately developed with the rising disability rolls. The growing number of Americans receiving disability payments has, for many on the right, become a symbol of our economic and moral decay; we’re becoming a nation of malingerers.

Ontario Liberal leadership convention: new leader needs to reach out to unions — and fast, leaders say at protest

Ontario’s union leaders should be among the first invited to meet with premier-designate Kathleen Wynne in order to ease the labour tension that has gripped the province — and, in particular, its schools — says the president of the high school teachers’ union.

“I hope (the Liberals) listen and that they request a meeting with all of the union presidents right away — especially in the education sector — to try and work out some of the hard feelings that exist right now, to rebuild relationships,” said Ken Coran, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, in an interview after speaking to the thousands who gathered at Allan Gardens for a mass labour rally held as the governing Liberals chose their new leader.

The high stakes of Indigenous resistance

The blossoming of the Idle No More movement signals the return of Indigenous resistance to the political and social landscape of Canada and Quebec.

With its origins in Saskatchewan in October 2012, this mass movement has taken on the federal government and more specifically the adoption of Bill C-45.[1] Its origins lay not in the work of established organizations such as the Assembly of First Nations (although the AFN supports the initiative), but in a grassroots mobilization that has arisen in several parts of the country. This process echoes other recent citizen mobilizations such as the student carrés rouges in Quebec and the worldwide Occupy movement.

A guide to the Idle No More movement, treaties and legislation

Idle No More marches. Chiefs and the prime minister at odds over treaties. Liquid diets in teepees on the Ottawa River. It's easy to be confused about all that has happened in the last six weeks among Canada's aboriginal people.

But that's not surprising because the issues at stake are among the most complex and most important our nation faces today. Many of them are the issues Canada has been facing for decades but have never been adequately addressed. Here is a short, by no means exhaustive, primer looking at the movement, treaties and the legislation at the centre of the debate.

There’s lots of confusion about Bill C-45 and the Idle No More movement

Holed up inside for the last few weeks with a chest infection, I’ve spent my time examining the coverage of the Idle No More movement.

I’ve read countless articles. Reviewed comments on social media sites (including reading a staggering 1,021 comments for one article alone on the CBC website). And what I have concluded so far is there is a lot of interest in this issue, but a lot of confusion about what exactly the “issue” is.

Gun control march in Washington draws thousands

WASHINGTON—Thousands of people, many holding signs with the names of gun violence victims and messages such as “Ban Assault Weapons Now,” joined a rally for gun control on Saturday, marching from the Capitol to the Washington Monument.

Leading the crowd were marchers with “We Are Sandy Hook” signs, paying tribute to victims of the December elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn. Washington Mayor Vincent Gray and other city officials marched alongside them. The crowd stretched for at least two blocks along Constitution Avenue.

Rob Ford verdict chilling effect: Can you afford to fight City Hall?

Step one when considering a conflict-of-interest lawsuit against your mayor (or any municipal politician): find a way to avoid being crushed under huge legal fees.

Without securing funding from supporters in the community, Elias Hazineh says he would never have launched his suit against Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion. “As it stands now, unless you have deep pockets, you can see corruption happening in front of you and be able to do nothing about it,” he said.

Schools Background Check Visitors In Illinois For Criminal Record

Visitors to schools in a suburban Chicago, Ill., district are now required to undergo a background check as part of added security measures in the weeks following last month's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

Frankfort School District 157-C has installed a $2,000 system that uses a visitor's state-issued ID or driver's license to conduct an instant criminal background check through a national database, WLS reports. Those who clear the check will receive a visitor's badge with photo -- those who don't will be alerted to school officials.

North Carolina Proposal Would Ban Welfare Recipients From Buying Lottery Tickets

North Carolina lawmakers have drafted legislation that would ban welfare recipients and people in bankruptcy from buying lottery tickets in the state, according to several news reports.

The bill draft would punish vendors for selling lottery tickets to someone who they know is on welfare or in bankruptcy, according to ABC 11 in Raleigh. The lawmakers behind it believe it's counterproductive for the government to accept money from welfare recipients who are struggling to get by.

Chinese media expands Africa presence

Fresh evidence of China's growing media footprint in Africa rolled off printing presses for the first time in Kenya last month.

Hitting news stands in Nairobi alongside the established likes of Daily Nation and the Standard was an African edition of China's biggest English-language newspaper.

The launch of Africa Weekly by the China Daily in December is the latest move by a Chinese state media company to expand on the continent. In April 2011, the Xinhua news agency partnered with a Kenyan network operator to provide news for mobile phones. That was followed nine months later by CCTV Africa in Nairobi, the first broadcast hub to be established by China Central Television (CCTV) outside Beijing.

Mali's 'war without images'

By now the images are familiar. Military airplanes from a rich industrial nation taking off to bomb an insurgency. Irregular fighters with AK-47s riding pickup trucks. Foreign journalists standing in front of the national monument telling you the latest. Turn on the news coverage of the Mali conflict and you would be forgiven for thinking you have seen all this before.

Dozens arrested after Azerbaijan protests

Police have arrested about 40 activists demonstrating in Azerbaijan's capital Baku against President Ilham Aliyev's government, and in support of residents of a northern town were protests were crushed earlier this week.

More than 100 protesters gathered in central Baku on Saturday, some chanting "Freedom!" and calling for the resignation of Aliyev.

Eight Ways to Take Part in Idle No More

As everyone should know though many don't, there are massive issues facing First Nations across Canada, with perpetual crises in everything from housing to education to health care. But the most crippling issue underpinning those crises is, in my opinion, the sense of helplessness and dependency that has long dominated our communities. We have been held back by a feeling of defeat. No longer. Perhaps the greatest value of Idle No More amongst First Nations is the way it's lighting a fire in people who used to think change was impossible, and the sense of hope, agency and urgency it's giving them as a new Canada struggles to emerge.

Attawapiskat didn't Mismanage Funds, Harper -- You Did

The government was wrong in its response to the crisis in Attawapiskat and its ongoing attempt to divide Canadians with misleading information is shameful. Federal court ruled
this morning the that the Conservative government's response to the crisis in Attawapiskat was unreasonable and failed to look at any remedy other than the appointment of a Third Party Manager.

Rather that own up to their mistake the Conservative government says it is "disappointed" with the decision. What will it take for this government to take responsibility for its own incompetence?

Mississippi Abortion Clinic Gets License Warning

JACKSON, Miss. -- Mississippi's only abortion clinic said it received notice Friday that the state Health Department intends to revoke its operating license.

However, the clinic, Jackson Women's Health Organization, is not expected to close anytime soon.

Under a state administrative procedures law, the clinic can remain open while it awaits a hearing by the department. That could be more than a month away.

Scott Walker: Electoral Vote Proportional Allocation An 'Interesting' Idea

WASHINGTON -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) did not rule out allocating the state's electoral votes proportionally Saturday.

"It's an interesting idea," he told a Newsmax interviewer at the National Review Institute Summit in Washington after speaking at a lunch. "I haven't committed one way or the other to it. For me, and I think any other state considering this, you should really look at not just the short-term but the long-term implications. Is it better or worse for the electorate?

Rob Ford wins conflict of interest appeal

Rob Ford can keep his job as mayor of Toronto.

In a stunning decision released Friday morning at 10:30 am, a three-judge panel of the Ontario Divisional Court overturned the November ruling that kicked Ford out of office for violating conflict of interest law.

The mayor appealed the ruling in court on January 7, and many observers predicted he would have a hard time beating the case.

No room in homeless shelters during cold alert

As Toronto entered the fourth day of an extreme cold weather alert on Thursday, homeless people trying to escape the frigid temperatures reported that there was no room for them in city shelters.

When the alert was issued on Monday, it automatically triggered emergency measures from the Shelter Support and Housing Administration that are designed to cope with higher numbers of people seeking respite from subzero temperatures. Among them were increased outreach to homeless people in the downtown core, the distribution of TTC tokens at drop-in centres, and the addition of 172 emergency beds throughout the system.