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.]

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Deceit and democracy: Do broken election promises matter? Part 2: The role of the media

This is the second of a two part series by Osgoode law professor and former NDP Member of Parliament for Toronto-Danforth, Craig Scott. Read Part 1 here.

In Part 1 of this two-part article, I initiated a discussion of the significance of election promises for our democratic political culture by first focusing on pre-budget Liberal government departures from their campaign commitments, and then by considering the Liberals' campaign plan to limit their deficit to $10 billion. I also devoted much of the piece to acknowledging an NDP government would have had an even greater challenge to meet its spending commitments, but that ultimately a transparent, frank justification for taking an unexpected $18 billion deficit as a starting point would have been an option, just as it is currently an option for the Liberal government.

Deceit and democracy: Do broken election promises matter? Part 1: Liberals with the truth

Breached promises in Tuesday’s federal budget raise questions about honesty and accountability in our electoral democracy.

Have the Liberals driven the final cynical nail into a coffin in which we should bury any pretense that campaign platform promises can be relied upon by voters? Have they banished naïveté from Canadian politics for good by yet again "proving" that the malleability of at least some campaign commitments is the price of (Liberals) keeping Conservatives from power?

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Ignores Police Board, Picks His Own Top Cop

CHICAGO — In a surprise move, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has rejected the city police board’s three picks for a new police superintendent and selected his own candidate from within the force to replace the current interim top cop.

The Chicago Sun-Times and NBC Chicago, citing unnamed sources, reported that Emanuel will appoint Eddie Johnson, a well-regarded veteran cop who currently serves as CPD’s head of patrol, to the role of interim superintendent.

“I Wouldn’t Lead It”: Understanding Trump’s Incitement to Violence

In the March 20th edition of the Wall Street Journal, political commentator Peggy Noonan reflects on Donald Trump’s saying that if he were denied the nomination by some nit-picking rule (like the rule that you must win a majority of the delegates before you can claim victory), “I think you’d have riots” and “bad things would happen.” Of course, he added, “I wouldn’t lead it.”

Bernie Sanders: Hillary Clinton’s Fundraising Is ‘Obscene’

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Sunday criticized rival Hillary Clinton’s ties to deep-pocketed donors on Wall Street and in the pharmaceutical industry.

“It is obscene that Secretary Clinton keeps going to big-money people to fund her campaign,” Sanders said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

In Donald Trump’s Worldview, America Comes First, and Everybody Else Pays

Donald J. Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner, said that if elected, he might halt purchases of oil from Saudi Arabia and other Arab allies unless they commit ground troops to the fight against the Islamic State or “substantially reimburse” the United States for combating the militant group, which threatens their stability.

“If Saudi Arabia was without the cloak of American protection,” Mr. Trump said during a 100-minute interview on foreign policy, spread over two phone calls on Friday, “I don’t think it would be around.”

Egypt’s Young “Anti-Torture T-Shirt” Detainee Finally Free After Nearly 800 Days Behind Bars

ISTANBUL — Mahmoud Hussein, detained in Cairo while wearing an anti-torture t-shirt, is finally free after nearly 800 days behind bars during which he says he was repeatedly tortured.

Hussein, who was 18 years old when he was taken into custody on Jan. 25, 2014, after attending a demonstration against both military rule and the Muslim Brotherhood, has since spent over two years in detention without being formally charged.

Louisiana Reporter Arrested for ‘Trespassing’ While Trying to Access Public Records

The mayor of White Castle, La., may have some explaining to do. Chris Nakamoto, the chief investigator of local news station WBRZ, was arrested Thursday when he attempted to legally access public files that detail Mayor Jermarr Williams’ pay—specifically, how much taxpayer money went to his travel expenses.

Earlier this week, WBRZ filed for access to the documents and obtained some of them, but Nakamoto later returned to City Hall to search for missing papers. It was then that he was arrested.

Canada's defence budget heads back to the future

"Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss," sang The Who in their 1971 classic, Won't Get Fooled Again.

Sadly, though, for geezers who recall that brave song from 45 years ago, The Who were wrong. We always get fooled again.

So meet the new defence budget. Same as the old defence budget.

Huguette Labelle: Senate Advisory Board Didn't Ensure Nominees Met Property Requirements

OTTAWA — The head of the board that recommended Senate appointments to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it wasn’t their responsibility to ensure that all the nominees met the qualifications for office.

Huguette Labelle, a highly regarded former civil servant and emeritus governor of the University of Ottawa, told The Huffington Post Canada on Friday that when her independent panel handed over 25 names to the Prime Minister’s Office as recommendations for new senators, it did not make sure that the five Quebecers on the list met property ownership requirements that apply in the province.

Time for These Two Democrats to Go

There are two Democrats whose resignation from office right now would do their party and country a service.

Their disappearance might also help Hillary Clinton convince skeptical Democrats that her nomination, if it happens, is about the future, and not about resurrecting and ratifying the worst aspects of the first Clinton reign when she and her husband rarely met a donor to whom they wouldn't try to auction a sleepover in the Lincoln Bedroom.

Poland approves large-scale logging in Europe's last primeval forest

Poland has approved large-scale logging in Europe’s last primeval woodland in a bid to combat a beetle infestation despite protests from scientists, ecologists and the European Union.

The action in the Białowieża forest is intended to fight the spread of the spruce bark beetle.

“We’re acting to curb the degradation of important habitats, to curb the disappearance and migration of important species from this site,” the environment minister, Jan Szyszko, said.

The Refugee Deal Continues Europe’s History of Dirty Dealing With Turkey

Last week, European Union leaders announced a new deal with Turkey. It was hotly anticipated for a number of reasons: Would it “solve” Europe’s refugee crisis? To what extent would the EU give in to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s demands? The deal seeks to repatriate refugees back to Turkey, which would become a “safe country.”

Highlighting Western Victims While Ignoring Victims of Western Violence

FOR DAYS NOW, American cable news has broadcast non-stop coverage of the horrific attack in Brussels. Viewers repeatedly heard from witnesses and from the wounded. Video was shown in a loop of the terror and panic when the bombs exploded. Networks dispatched their TV stars to Brussels, where they remain. NPR profiled the lives of several of the airport victims. CNN showed a moving interview with a wounded, bandage-wrapped Mormon American teenager speaking from his Belgium hospital bed.

Police carding criticism comes from all sides in wake of new rules

Organizers of the Black Lives Matter protest outside Toronto police headquarters were quick to condemn the province’s new regulation on carding after it was announced this week.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association was also less than pleased, calling the latest version a “mixed bag.”

Valeant Under Scrutiny For Doubling Price Of Assisted-Dying Drug Sold In U.S.

MONTREAL — Valeant Pharmaceuticals, accused by U.S. politicians of price-gouging, is facing criticism from assisted-dying advocates across North America for doubling the price of a drug commonly used to hasten death soon after California legalized doctor-assisted suicide.

Donald Trump And America’s ‘Second Civil War’

Despite everyone calling him a fascist, Donald Trump may have more in common with Jefferson Davis than he does with Benito Mussolini.

“What we’re seeing [with Trump’s rise] is what I would call the second Civil War,” Steve Ross, a history professor at the University of Southern California, told The Huffington Post.

An Open Letter to Dolores Huerta

“When you have a conflict, that means that there are truths that have to be addressed on each side of the conflict. And when you have a conflict, then it’s an educational process to try to resolve the conflict. And to resolve that, you have to get people on both sides of the conflict involved so that they can dialogue.” — Dolores Huerta

A Military Leviathan Has Emerged as America’s 51st and Most Powerful State

In the decades since the draft ended in 1973, a strange new military has emerged in the United States. Think of it, if you will, as a post-democratic force that prides itself on its warrior ethos rather than the old-fashioned citizen-soldier ideal.   As such, it’s a military increasingly divorced from the people, with a way of life ever more foreign to most Americans (adulatory as they may feel toward its troops).  Abroad, it’s now regularly put to purposes foreign to any traditional idea of national defense.  In Washington, it has become a force unto itself, following its own priorities, pursuing its own agendas, increasingly unaccountable to either the president or Congress.

Does anybody really believe that Jian Ghomeshi did not assault those women?

All we really learned from today's not guilty verdict on all four counts of sexual assault and one count of choking against Ghomeshi is that a prosecution team, working within a broken justice system, couldn’t convince what seems a less-than-sensitive judge.

Two questions emerge. On the micro level, how could the Crown have been so inept?

In Trump’s World, Women Have Always Been Objects

The tagline for the 2016 GOP race might as well be, “Make America Misogynist Again.”

On Wednesday night, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz got into a Twitter spat. After a conservative anti-Trump SuperPAC ran a gross, slut-shaming ad which used a half-naked photograph of Trump’s wife Melania, Trump threatened to “spill the beans” on Cruz’s wife, Heidi, presumably because he thought Cruz was behind the ad. (The SuperPAC is not affiliated with the Cruz campaign, though it is backing Cruz against Trump.)

Ted Cruz Reveals The ‘Religious Liberty’ Plan His Hate Group Buddies Came Up With

In his bid for the presidency, Ted Cruz (R) has consistently surrounded himself with some of the most extreme social conservatives in the country. In addition to appearing beside these individuals at various events, he also recruited a Religious Liberty Advisory Council — what Fox News’ Todd Starnes calls a “faith-based Justice League.”

What Bill Gates Isn't Telling You About GMOs

The food industry's fight to stop Vermont from labeling genetically engineered foods is heading to the floor of the US Senate.

And the spotlight on labeling is underscoring the need for our country to have a more honest conversation about GMOs.

Two recent videos illuminate the deep divide between the stories we hear from opponents and proponents of the controversial food technology.

We’re learning the wrong lessons from Brussels — and it’s going to cost us

In the wake of Brussels — at least for now — we’re back in the bad old days of the War of Civilizations narrative.

In the face of terror most foul, fury and vengeance are once more in the air. It’s not quite Christianity versus Islam, but it’s close.

Some anecdotal evidence. Two comments on a story in The Independent, worlds apart, suggest that two great swaths of humanity are once again on an unnecessary and tragic collision course.

Koch Brothers Attempt to Kill Single-Payer Health Care in Colorado

Colorado's efforts to become the first state to pass a public, universal health care system are facing stiff opposition from right-wing organizations, many of which are funded by or affiliated with brothers Charles and David Koch.

As expected, these moneyed interests are doing everything they can to stop the state from amending its constitution with a ballot referendum, Amendment 69, which would implement a statewide version of "single-payer" health care. If approved, ColoradoCare would cover every resident, regardless of employment or ability to pay. In October, organizers submitted enough signatures to put the amendment on the ballot. The vote will take place on Election Day this year.

Israeli Rights Group Releases Video of Soldier Executing Wounded Palestinian Suspect

An Israeli soldier was arrested on Thursday after a rights group published clear video images of him shooting a wounded, immobilized Palestinian suspect in the head following a knife attack in the West Bank city of Hebron earlier in the day.

The graphic, distressing video was posted online by B’Tselem, an Israeli group that provides cameras to Palestinians to help them document human rights abuses in the West Bank territory that has been under military rule since Israel first occupied it in 1967.

The South Carolina Senate Created a “Refugee Registry” That Is Exactly What It Sounds Like

The latest episode in the national freak-out over Syrian refugees is playing out in South Carolina, where the state senate has overwhelmingly passed a bill that would create state refugee registry and require state law enforcement agencies to investigate incoming refugees.

New Bill Would Eliminate Law Enforcement On Public Lands, Despite Risks Of Violent Extremism

Just one month after the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) introduced a bill to abolish the law enforcement capacity of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forest Service officials. The bill proposes to instead transfer all law enforcement powers on U.S. public lands to local sheriffs, thus implementing a major demand of anti-government extremists — many of whom think sheriffs have more authority over local matters than the federal government.

Flint Investigation Lays Blame For Water Crisis Squarely On The State

An investigatory panel tasked by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) laid the blame for the contamination of Flint’s drinking water with lead and other toxins on the state in a final report released Wednesday. “[T]he state is fundamentally accountable for what happened in Flint,” it states. “The Flint water crisis is a story of government failure, intransigence, unpreparedness, delay, inaction, and environmental injustice.”