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, February 11, 2013

Sullivan High School Students, Teacher Fighting For 'Traditional' Prom That Would Ban Gays

A group of Indiana-based parents, teens and even a teacher is fighting for a separate "traditional" prom that would ban gay students.

As NBC 2/My Wabash Valley is reporting, special education teacher Diana Medley is defending a group of Sullivan High School students who are arguing in favor of the alternate prom.

"Homosexual students come to me with their problems, and I don't agree with them, but I care about them," Medley told the news station. "It's the same thing with my special needs kids; I think God puts everyone in our lives for a reason."

Obama Worse Or No Better Than Bush At Protecting Civil Liberties, Poll Finds Amid Drone Debate

A majority of Americans believe that President Barack Obama is either worse or no better at protecting civil liberties than former President George W. Bush, a new poll conducted by The Hill found.

While 44 percent of poll respondents believe Obama has bested Bush in balancing national security and civil liberties, 37 percent said he has done a worse job and 15 percent said he has been "about the same."

Drones Memo Extends Executive Power, So Let's Just Let Skynet Decide From Now On

Last week, after Michael Isikoff obtained a 16-page memorandum detailing the legal opinions that underpin the Obama administration's program of targeted assassinations -- a program whose fatal purview extends to American citizens -- the grand debate over drone strikes and executive power and how the checks and balances work in this post-9/11 world were newly inflamed. Which is great for ratings, I guess, but we all know that John Brennan is going to get confirmed as the head of the CIA, newly re-inflamed concerns or not, right? Great. For a minute there I was worried that you might start expecting lawmakers to take this stuff seriously.

One Easy Way to Shine a Light on Dark Money

Millions of Americans took offense—and rightly so—last year as millionaires and corporations pumped billions of dollars into campaigns for the presidency, Congress and governorships across the country.
But with Congress divided and 2013 taking shape as a tale of never-ending fiscal cliffs, it seems unlikely that lawmakers will do much to rein in the Super PACs and dark money that made the 2012 campaigns among the least informative and most distorted in American history. This year’s two marquee election campaigns, for the governorships of New Jersey and Virginia, figure to be flooded with big money, and more uncontrolled spending is already on its way to the 2014 congressional races.

Keystone XL: A Presidential Decision That Could Change the World

Presidential decisions often turn out to be far less significant than imagined, but every now and then what a president decides actually determines how the world turns. Such is the case with the Keystone XL pipeline, which, if built, is slated to bring some of the “dirtiest,” carbon-rich oil on the planet from Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the US Gulf Coast. In the near future, President Obama is expected to give its construction a definitive thumbs up or thumbs down, and the decision he makes could prove far more important than anyone imagines. It could determine the fate of the Canadian tar-sands industry and, with it, the future well-being of the planet. If that sounds overly dramatic, let me explain.

Drones Targeting Chris Dorner? LAPD Won't Confirm UK Report

Suspected cop killer Christopher Dorner has become one of the first Americans in the U.S. to be targeted by surveillance drones, according to a report by the Express.

But other sources have thrown cold water on the story.

An unnamed "senior police source" told the Express, “the thermal imaging cameras the drones use may be our only hope of finding him. On the ground, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.”

Back in the hole: 'Anarchist material removed'

On the evening of January 21st, I was brought back to the hole. Not on misconduct this time, but to what is known as Administrative Segregation because the Security Manager has decided that having me on range, where I can associate with other imprisoned people, constitutes a threat to security. That is only after having spent a week in the hole for “inciting a disturbance likely to endanger the security of the institution.” I was returned to Unit 5 on the order of the provincial adjudicator. I was placed on one end of the Unit where only [some] did not participate in the protest action here that occurred on Jan 12th. I have not been provided with any basis for being removed from general population aside from the vague notion of security measures, nor have I been given any justification for being stripped of any of my so-called privileges. All I know for certain is that it was the personal prerogative of Security Manager Martin Krawczyk. On the way to the segregation unit, the Sergeant said if I didn’t write so well, I wouldn’t be in this mess -- or something to that effect. Perhaps Krawczyk and the CNCC administration have adopted the Harper-esque notion that bad public relations are synonymous with a threat to security. Regardless, it would appear that I am to be held in solitary confinement potentially indefinitely. Regardless of any particular reasons, it seems that being an anarchist organizer is now being understood as an inherent threat warranting segregation and the loss of most privileges. Given that the primary basis for this may very well be the writing I have been posting to this blog since–and prior to–my imprisonment, it feels appropriate to now post a piece I have been waiting for the right time to release. It is titled “Anarchist Material Removed.”

I disagree with something Stephen Harper said about the Saskatchewan robocalls

Well, okay, I disagree with lots of things Stephen Harper says, but the latest is his opinion that robocalls recently made in Saskatchewan on behalf of the Conservative Party do not violate CRTC rules. The calls in question use the pretext of public opinion research to push political spin -- kind of a soft core dirty trick.

On January 30, 2012, Saskatchewan residents received robocalls advising that proposed changes to the province's riding boundaries would pit urban areas against rural ones, and offend "Saskatchewan values." The Conservative Party opposes the boundary changes and initially denied that it had anything to do with the calls.

Tax avoidance: Legality vs morality

A British company is the latest major multinational that stands accused of massive tax avoidance and depriving one of the world's poorest countries of billions of dollars.

The Zambian subsidiary of Associated British Foods has confirmed it paid virtually no tax in the past five years.

A report by ActionAid states the company's revenue from its Zambian operation is being funneled into tax havens including Ireland, Mauritius and the Netherlands.

Israel detains women over prayer shawls

Israeli police have detained 10 women at one of Judaism's holiest sites for wearing prayer shawls, which Orthodox tradition sees as solely for men, authorities confirm.

Among those detained on Monday at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City was Susan Silverman, a reform rabbi who is a sister of the famous US comedian Sarah Silverman, and her teenage daughter, police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld has said.

High CEO Pay Relies On 'Self-Serving Myth': Report

A new report undermines a common rationale for paying chief executives huge sums.

The notion that CEOs will jump ship lured by the offer of better pay in another country is a "self-serving...myth," concludes research published Monday by the High Pay Centre, a London-based think tank.

The GOP “civil war” is going to make both sides rich

If you haven’t been paying attention to rubbernecking reports on the most recent “GOP civil war,” because you’ve been paying attention to more important stories like the DoJ targeted-killing white paper or the disastrous retooling of once-promising NBC sitcom “Up All Night,” here’s what you’ve missed: A couple of well-funded conservative groups made a big deal about being mad at a new well-funded conservative group, giving all the groups involved a wonderful new sales pitch for their fundraising efforts.

SEC Revolving Door Fuels Wall Street's Too Big To Fail Problem

WASHINGTON -- The steady flow of officials from the Securities and Exchange Commission into top corporate jobs feeds a regulatory culture of weak law enforcement and preferential treatment for big banks, according to a new report from the Project on Government Oversight.

The group, a non-partisan investigative watchdog, said information it obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request shows 419 former SEC employees filed at least 1,949 disclosure statements revealing that they planned to represent a private-sector client with SEC business from 2001 to 2010. SEC employees are only required to file disclosure statements for the first two years after leaving the agency.

Canadians giving up on the world of work

The glaring contrast between employment numbers, and the unemployment rate, was highlighted by last week's labour force numbers from Statistics Canada (capably dissected elsewhere on this blog by Angella MacEwan).

Paid employment (i.e. employees) declined by 46,000. Total employment (including self-employment) fell by 22,000. Yet the unemployment rate fell to 7 per cent -- its lowest level since late 2008.

Fewer people were working, yet the unemployment rate declined. What gives?

Especially during times of economic weakness, the official unemployment rate is a bad measure of the state of the overall labour market, for familiar reasons: to qualify as officially unemployed, an individual has to be considered to be "participating" in the labour market. If you are not working, participation requires an active job search. A non-employed person who gives up looking, is no longer in the labour market -- conveniently disappearing from the official jobloess tally.

The Brazeau affair highlights Harper's Senate hypocrisy

The Brazeau affair -- sad, repugnant and bizarre all at the same time -- shines a light on two aspects of Canadian politics that desperately need some exposure.

One is what it reveals about the state of "official" aboriginal politics and its relationship to the Canadian state.

The other, the almost exclusive focus of the media, is the grotesque hypocrisy of Prime Minister Stephen Harper regarding the Senate. The question most asked in post-Brazeau flame-out is how was it possible that Harper, the strategic genius and control freak (with a $10 million staff at his command) could have chosen this guy as a senator?

Homeowners stung by botched 'rent to own' scheme

A Calgary couple is warning home sellers to beware of real estate rent to own schemes, where unlicensed agents offer to find buyers to rent or lease to own homes.

“It sounded exactly like what we were looking for,” said homeowner Maxine Henry. “But it was awful, and you feel awful for having been duped into such a scheme.”

Too big to jail, Washington's new line on Wall Street

American politicians love to talk about "holding people accountable." Here in Washington, someone is always sternly holding someone else accountable.

The phrase should enter the political aphorism hall of fame, along with "frank exchange of views," "at an appropriate time," and of course the granddaddy of them all: "What the American people truly want is…"

John Brennan CIA drone hearing repeats hideous history

Americans’ failure to learn from their own history was never painted more brightly than now. John Brennan, the man in charge of counterterrorism, the man who chooses targets for assassination — no trial, no public sentencing, no explanation — showed up at his CIA confirmation hearing wearing PoW and 9/11 bracelets and a smirk.

I would admit to despair were it not for my shock and awe at the mess that has been made of a great democracy in a country I still bemusedly love from a distance. Oh you Americans, you crazy helicopter-parented delinquent kids!

Scrap rules that block best teachers from getting jobs

In schools, some of the best teachers connect with students through relationships that develop with a common language, an ease of teaching math or even a shared fascination for retro television shows like Dr. Who. These intangible connections create the bedrock of educational success by keeping students engaged in school life.

So when given the chance, principals hiring teachers for long-term contracts, such as those filling maternity leaves, look beyond general qualifications. They want a teacher whose character and talents fit the needs of students in their school. Quite simply, it’s good for the kids.

The Olive Fights the Occupation

“During hard times, we have survived off olive oil,” says Ahmed Sourani from the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee.

“Including during the last war,” says Sourani, referring to the 23 day war Israel waged on Gaza three years ago. “Many people who couldn’t leave their homes had only bread and olive oil to sustain them for long periods.”

Even during the first Intifadah (Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation), olives and olive oil were vital to survival. “They enabled many thousands of very poor Palestinian families to survive,” recalls Sourani. “When the Israeli army imposes curfews on us, preventing us from leaving our homes, it is our main food source. Most students take za’atar (wild thyme) and olive oil sandwiches to school for their lunch.”

Campus campaign targets fossil fuel energy industry

University campuses have long been beacons of society, exemplifying the striving for a better world. As places where we can ask the tough questions of our time, universities are uniquely placed to challenge injustice.

In the 1980s, more than 155 campuses decided it was immoral to profit from injustice. They pulled their investments from companies engaged in apartheid-era South Africa, and upped the moral and financial cost of operating in that country.

A Toronto casino is opposed by RioCan, despite Paul Godfrey at OLG

Casino advocates hoping to bring a gambling mega-complex to central Toronto have suffered a one-two punch, with a right cross coming from a surprising source — big developers. Especially stinging was the rejection of a downtown casino by RioCan Investment Trust, chaired by none other than Paul Godfrey, Ontario’s foremost casino booster.

Ouch! But RioCan is right. Weaknesses in the pro-casino pitch are increasingly clear. And it’s up to responsible city councillors to respond with a well-deserved knockout blow.

Man hunt for ex-soldier who shot police chief's daughter and killed policeman

They believe burly, heavily-armed Christopher Dorner is holed-up in the wilderness of California’s snow-capped San Bernardino mountains 80 miles east of Los Angeles.

The burnt-out shell of his pick-up truck was discovered in the nearby resort of Big Bear, where residents and tourists have been warned to stay indoors as the search continues.

Obama weighing executive actions on housing, gays and other issues

President Obama is considering a series of new executive actions aimed at working around a recalcitrant Congress, including policies that could allow struggling homeowners to refinance their mortgages, provide new protections for gays and lesbians, make buildings more energy-efficient and toughen regulations for coal-fired power plants, according to people outside the White House involved in discussions on the issues.

Marc Garneau Talks Student Debt, Promises To Ease Financial Burden

OTTAWA - Liberal leadership hopeful Marc Garneau is proposing to make it easier for students to shoulder record debt loads after they graduate.

The Montreal MP would do away with the current requirement that post-secondary students begin paying off their student loans six months after graduation, whether or not they've found a job.

Airline safety: Watchdog warns that Canadians are at ‘unnecessary risk’ of runway overruns

Canada’s transportation safety watchdog is sounding the alarm about runway overruns, worried that foot-dragging by Ottawa on implementing tougher safety regulations and an unwillingness by airports to install safety measures are endangering the public.

The rate of runway overruns in Canada is twice the world average — and four times the world average when runways are wet.

An overrun occurs when a landing aircraft exceeds the available runway, running off the end.

Brazeau, Harper and Idle No More

The Brazeau affair -- sad, repugnant and bizarre all at the same time -- shines a light on two aspects of Canadian politics that desperately need some exposure.

One is what it reveals about the state of "official" aboriginal politics and its relationship to the Canadian state.

The other, the almost exclusive focus of the media, is the grotesque hypocrisy of Prime Minister Stephen Harper regarding the Senate. The question most asked in post-Brazeau flame-out is how was it possible that Harper, the strategic genius and control freak (with a $10 million staff at his command), could have chosen this guy as a senator?

Brazeau Just Latest Thrown Under Bus by Harper

"Obviously, the situation with Senator Brazeau is terrible. It is extremely appalling and disappointing, and we all feel very let down," murmured the prime minister in Burnaby on Friday. "Obviously, over a recent period, something has been going very wrong."

Obviously. And I wager that is how we will be encouraged to remember Patrick Brazeau -- through the lens of his own moral failings. Not as a carefully selected cog in a larger machine, but as an individual whose alleged predisposition toward lust and violence finally caught up with him, dashing our hopes and trust.

NDP's Path to Big Win

Even the tightest recent polls suggest the New Democratic Party under Adrian Dix's leadership is on track to win a massive majority, taking some 58 of the province's 85 constituencies, maybe more.

Much can change with 13 weeks to go before May 14 when British Columbians vote -- a final stretch that will include a throne speech, legislative sitting, budget, platform releases, campaign period, debates and blanket advertising from parties and their supporters -- but for now the NDP's path to victory looks clear.

Conservatives will breathe ‘sigh of relief’ when Page is gone, says Tory MP Rathgeber

Treasury Board President Tony Clement says the Parliamentary Budget Office is an important resource and the government doesn’t want to see it axed, but one Conservative MP has acknowledged that his party’s members and the government will be “breathing a sigh of relief”  when Kevin Page’s term ends in March.

“No, I think that this is an important institution of Parliament and what it deserves is someone who is credible. The next candidate should be credible and non-partisan. That’s what we would hope will come out of this process,” said Mr. Clement (Parry Sound-Muskoka, Ont.).

Wanted for Killing 3, Christopher Dorner’s Claims of Racism, Corruption Resonate with LAPD’s Critics

A manhunt is continuing in California for Christopher Dorner, the former Los Angeles police officer accused of shooting three people dead. In his online manifesto, Dorner threatened to wage "unconventional and asymmetrical warfare" against a police department he accused of racism and corruption. He was fired from the police department in 2008 after being accused of falsely claiming his training officer kicked a mentally ill suspect in the course of an arrest. On Friday, the LAPD announced it would reopen its investigation of Dorner’s firing and his claims. We’re joined by journalist and activist Davey D, who says, notwithstanding the allegations of murder, Dorner’s manifesto "has opened up old wounds or it’s reaffirmed what people have long suspected or have experienced in terms of [police] brutality. ... I’m really curious as to whether or not these allegations that he has raised, where he names dates, times and places and names, whether or not they actually check out. And I think that needs to be really investigated, above and beyond the immediate scenario which led to his firing."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: -

Conservative MPs in Saskatchewan, Alberta file objections with riding boundary changes, but Lukiwski says it’s not partisan

Changes to electoral boundaries in Alberta and Saskatchewan have raised objections from Conservative MPs in the provinces, but Tory MP Tom Lukiwski says it’s “not a partisan issue whatsoever.”

Opposition MPs, meanwhile, have cried foul after the Conservative Party was forced to confirm last week that it was behind a push poll opposing changes to Saskatchewan’s redistribution plans to voters in the province, and Deputy Liberal Leader Ralph Goodale (Wascana, Sask.) said Conservatives are trying to “politicize” the process.

Senate under attack, Supreme Court weighs Senate’s future, PM to continue to appoint Senators

While the government has asked the Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of reforming the Senate, the Upper Chamber’s reputation is under fresh national attack following the criminal charges laid against former Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau last week and news reports that two other Senators are skirting residency requirements for monetary gain. But until the top court rules on the Senate questions, the Prime Minister’s Office says it is business as usual for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to continue to make appointments to the Upper Chamber when 14 seats become open by 2015.