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, September 09, 2015

14 Years After 9/11, the War on Terror Is Accomplishing Everything bin Laden Hoped It Would

Fourteen years later and do you even believe it? Did we actually live it? Are we still living it? And how improbable is that?

 Fourteen years of wars, interventions, assassinations, torture, kidnappings, black sites, the growth of the American national security state to monumental proportions, and the spread of Islamic extremism across much of the Greater Middle East and Africa. Fourteen years of astronomical expense, bombing campaigns galore, and a military-first foreign policy of repeated defeats, disappointments, and disasters. Fourteen years of a culture of fear in America, of endless alarms and warnings, as well as dire predictions of terrorist attacks. Fourteen years of the burial of American democracy (or rather its recreation as a billionaire’s playground and a source of spectacle and entertainment but not governance). Fourteen years of the spread of secrecy, the classification of every document in sight, the fierce prosecution of whistleblowers, and a faith-based urge to keep Americans “secure” by leaving them in the dark about what their government is doing. Fourteen years of the demobilization of the citizenry. Fourteen years of the rise of the warrior corporation, the transformation of war and intelligence gathering into profit-making activities, and the flocking of countless private contractors to the Pentagon, the NSA, the CIA, and too many other parts of the national security state to keep track of. Fourteen years of our wars coming home in the form of PTSD, the militarization of the police, and the spread of war-zone technology like drones and stingrays to the “homeland.” Fourteen years of that un-American word “homeland.” Fourteen years of the expansion of surveillance of every kind and of the development of a global surveillance system whose reach—from foreign leaders to tribal groups in the backlands of the planet—would have stunned those running the totalitarian states of the twentieth century. Fourteen years of the financial starvation of America’s infrastructure and still not a single mile of high-speed rail built anywhere in the country. Fourteen years in which to launch Afghan War 2.0, Iraq Wars 2.0 and 3.0, and Syria War 1.0. Fourteen years, that is, of the improbable made probable.

Syrian Refugees Crisis: Harper Says Opening 'Floodgates' Too Risky

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Stephen Harper cited security concerns on Tuesday for his refusal to commit to doing more to help refugees from the Middle East.

As provinces pledged their own funds to help alleviate the crisis, Harper deflected a question about whether he would send more staff to the region to help an already over-stretched bureaucracy.

Security is paramount and every potential refugee needs careful screening, Harper said.

Harper dodges questions on Senator Irving Gerstein’s role in Duffy Senate expense scandal

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper on Tuesday avoided answering questions about Conservative Senator Irving Gerstein’s possible role in attempts by the PMO to minimize scrutiny of Senator Mike Duffy’s expenses, which are now the subject of criminal charges.

When Harper was asked on the campaign trail if he views Gerstein’s involvement in the Duffy affair as improper or a betrayal of his trust, as Harper has deemed Nigel Wright’s actions to be, he avoided the question.

The World's Most Humble President Just Opened His House to 100 Syrian Refugee Children

The news: One hundred children orphaned by the Syrian civil war could find a home in Uruguayan President José "Pepe" Mujica's summer retreat, "a mansion and riverfront estate surrounded by rolling pastures," according to Yahoo News. That would be a welcome sight for any of the hundreds of thousands of refugees displaced by Syria's political turmoil.

The children could arrive as early as September, coming from refugee camps in the Middle East. The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) does not relocate orphans without a family member; each child would arrive with at least one relative — like an uncle, cousin or sibling. The exact number of children expected at Mujica's summer residence is still being worked out, particularly since the Uruguayan government will be responsible for all of the expenses.

Stephen Harper says Canada will not airlift refugees without proper security screening

Stephen Harper says the government is looking to improve the refugee resettlement process, but it will not airlift thousands of refugees from countries such as Syria and Iraq, where extremist organizations operate, without conducting a proper security screening.

"To help, we must ensure we screen every potential refugee carefully. We have been clear that we are willing to take more people, but we must be sure we are helping the most vulnerable.

Shocker: The CIA Isn't Sorry For Torture

WASHINGTON -- More than a year after the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to declassify its massive study on the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program -- and nearly 10 months after its gruesome executive summary was publicly released -- the CIA’s George W. Bush-era guard is still bitter.

And unsurprisingly, the former spies aren’t sorry.

In a volume to be released later this week, former CIA leaders Porter Goss, Jose Rodriguez and George Tenet, along with several other CIA leaders and lawyers, accuse the Intelligence panel’s now-minority Democrats of compiling a slanted report, and unequivocally defend the use of torture against high-level terror suspects.

A Letter of Gratitude to Stephen Harper From Two Doctors

Dear Prime Minister Harper,

It is not often that the leader of a political party makes an unpopular decision to choose to do what is right instead of what is politically beneficial. We would like to be the first to thank you, Mr. Harper, for your ingenious management of your Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau promises sweeping changes to EI system

BOUCTOUCHE, N.B. — The federal Liberals are promising sweeping changes to the employment insurance system, including a reduction in premiums, though they won't cut as much as what the Conservatives have promised.

The change would see EI premiums drop to $1.65 per $100 earned from $1.88. That's less than the $1.49 rate that the Tories committed to in the 2015 budget.

The Conservative move, which would come into effect in 2017 — the same year as the Liberal vow — would create what the Tories argued was a "break even" system with the government, bringing in only what it needed to cover the cost of the EI program.

Fact-checking Stephen Harper's environmental record

The claim: "The Government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made the conservation of Canada's natural environment a top priority."
On Friday, Sept. 4, Stephen Harper unveiled his government's plans to protect the natural environment. The plan focuses on improvements to policies for hunting, fishing and snowmobiling.


Two weeks after Scotland announced it would be banning the growth of genetically modified crops on its soil, Germany is moving ahead with a similar plan. For North Americans who have long believed that all of Europe was GMO-free, reaction to the news was a confused "huh?"

Despite its rep as a non-GMO haven amongst North American health foodies, the European Union actually okays the cultivation of one GM crop on Euro soil and the import of over 50 others.

Kentucky Clerk Asks Court To Force Governor To Let Her Deny Gay Marriages

LOUISVILLE, Ky., Sept 7 (Reuters) - Lawyers for jailed Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis said on Monday they had asked an appellate court to force Governor Steve Beshear to let her refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses based on her religious convictions.

The lawyers sought emergency relief from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, asking it to grant Davis an exemption from the "governor's mandate that all county clerks issue marriage licenses," the non-profit legal advocacy group Liberty Counsel, which represents Davis, said in a news release.

Revisiting Hurricane Katrina: Racist Violence and the Politics of Disposability

Hurricane Katrina did not begin with a natural disaster. It began with the hatred that flared among white people in response to a civil rights movement that challenged white supremacy in US society. It began with a racist backlash that erupted with the killing of Emmett Till and continues to this day. Moreover, it made visible the predatory nature of disaster capitalism and its willingness to turn a disastrous event into a petri dish for the forces of neoliberalism. Katrina launched a new era in the politics of disposability.

Below is an excerpt from my book, Stormy Weather: Katrina and the Politics of Disposability, which is more relevant today - in an era that some still describe as "postracial," even as Black men, women and youth are gunned down in routine acts of state-sanctioned violence - than when it was first written.

England’s new devolution settlement may be marketed as devolution, but it is certainly not democracy

For almost a year, LocalismWatch has been trying to make sense of the government’s stated desire to give local communities a greater say in local issues. Power centralised in Whitehall has historically been the default setting for British governance, so anything that promises change has to be taken seriously. But because the devolution project is being led by people with a proven interest in keeping strategic power close to Whitehall, its components and progress need closer examination. What’s on the table, and what isn’t? Who’s at the table, and who’s not? Who will make the final decisions? And what sort of landscape is likely to emerge when the bill gets Royal Assent?

What drives Harper?

Stephen Harper is a driven man, all agree, consumed by searing resentment and anger against Eastern Canada. So everyone knows what he is. But no one knows why he is that.

Maybe it doesn’t matter. In his new book, called definitively Stephen Harper, journalist John Ibbitson writes: “The government is autocratic and secretive because it reflects the personality and world view of the Prime Minister.” And again: “The government is autocratic and secretive because it reflects the personality and world view of the Prime Minister.”


When Stephen Harper faced the media last week in response to the haunting, lifeless image of Alan Kurdi, the drowned three-year-old Syrian refugee, the Conservative leader tried to boost his compassion quotient by claiming his government will do “more of everything” to relieve a humanitarian crisis that has refocused attention on the Conservatives' anti-immigration policies, not to mention its military campaign against ISIS.

The Conservatives are pledging to admit 10,000 more Syrians if re-elected.

Uber Joins Forces With Canadian Insurance Giant Intact Financial To Create New Products

TORONTO -- One of Canada's largest auto insurance providers is working to tailor products for the Uber ridesharing service.

Intact Financial Corp. says its intention is to market the products under the Intact and Belairdirect brands.

It says more details will be provided as the products become available.

Uber offers an alternative to conventional taxi services, causing controversy and sometimes friction in communities where it operates.

Insurance coverage for Uber drivers has been one of the most contentious issues in Canada, although Uber has said its policies are adequate.

Original Article
Author: CP

Dismantling the PMO’s autocracy: A ten-point plan

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau recently vowed that if his party forms the next government, he will end the centralization of power in the PMO, a trend that started with his father, Pierre Trudeau.

As the Duffy trial has made clear, the culture of secrecy and control inside the PMO is now so pervasive that it threatens the integrity of our national government. Reversing this trend should be among our highest priorities.

Suppressing our knowledge of voter suppression

That 2011 voter-suppression scandal, the "robocalls" fraud: it was all smoke and mirrors, right? So how could Harper's Conservatives have organized a fraud that never happened?
Try consulting Paul Well's book The Longer I'm Prime Minister: Stephen Harper and Canada, 2006-, published in 2013. The jury citation for an award this book won called it "impeccably researched" -- and it contains not a whisper about the scandal.

Israel plans to tear down 13,000 Palestinian Buildings in Palestine

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has produced a report [pdf] in which it finds that

“Official data released by the Israeli authorities indicate that over 11,000 demolition orders – affecting an estimated 13,000 Palestinian- owned structures, including homes -are currently ‘outstanding’ in Area C of the West Bank. These orders heighten the vulnerability of thousands of poor Palestinian households, some of whom are at imminent risk of forcible displacement.”

Exposed: Three Myths about Canada's Refugee System

Last week, the world reacted with sadness and anger to the images of Alan Kurdi's body washed up on a Turkish beach. The story hit home for many Canadians when we learnt that Alan and his family had been hoping to make it to Canada. Alan's aunt, Tima, had tried unsuccessfully to sponsor her other brother, Mohammad, and his family for admission to Canada. Faced with the legal and logistical impossibility of coming to Canada legally, Alan's parents made the excruciating, and fatal, decision to travel to Europe by boat.

Tsipras Plays Down Fears Of A Fractured Greece After Election

ATHENS, Sept 6 (Reuters) - Former Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras played down fears on Sunday that a snap election in two weeks would produce a fractured result, saying there were enough undecided voters to produce a clear winner on the day.

Tsipras resigned last month to make way for the election, hoping to secure a new mandate for a tough austerity program he agreed in exchange for an 86 billion euro bailout with the cash-starved country's creditors.

Canada must face 'long haul' military mission in Middle East: Harper

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper says Canada’s military mission in the Middle East must last for “the long haul” to defeat Jihadist extremists in the region.

As well, as political pressure mounts on the prime minister to bring more Syrian refugees to Canada, he insists this won’t solve the problem.

The Real Enemy Is Within

If you are not dedicated to the destruction of empire and the dismantling of American militarism, then you cannot count yourself as a member of the left. It is not a side issue. It is the issue. It is why I refuse to give a pass in this presidential election campaign to Bernie Sanders, who refuses to confront the war industry or the crimes of empire, including U.S. support for the slow genocide carried out by Israel against the Palestinians. There will be no genuine democratic, social, economic or political reform until we destroy our permanent war machine.

Harper Accuses Federal Leaders Of Playing 'Partisan Games' Over Syrian Refugee Crisis

TORONTO — NDP Leader Tom Mulcair may have reached out, but Stephen Harper has effectively dismissed pleas of dialogue among federal leaders over the Syrian refugee crisis.

Mulcair told a crowd at a Labour Day parade in Toronto on Monday that only Harper has the power to address the matter.

"The person who can take these decisions is the prime minister,'' he said. "My chief of staff has reached out to his to try and get a discussion rapidly.''

Secret Status Of Women Report Paints Grim Picture For Canada

Canada is falling behind the developed world in women's equality, as poverty rates climb for elderly single women and for single-parent families headed by women, says an internal report by Status of Women Canada.

According to the report, this country is in the bottom ranks in terms of the pay gap between men and women; support for child care and parental leave is well below average; the country registers 57th for gender equality in Parliament's elected members; and it lacks a national strategy to halt violence against women.

Refugee crisis: Stephen Harper rejects proposed meeting with political rivals

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper doesn't seem particularly interested in meeting with his political rivals to discuss Canada's plan for resettling refugees fleeing Syria.

"We're not going to get into partisan games on this," said Harper during a campaign stop in Toronto Monday afternoon.

"I already made announcements before these headlines that the government of Canada intends to bring in many more refugees from this area," he added, referring to an election commitment to resettle 10,000 more refugees from the Middle East. That number is in addition to the 10,000 his government previously promised in January.