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.]

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Glenn Gruenhagen, Minnesota Rep: Homosexuality Is An 'Unhealthy Sexual Addiction'

A Minnesota Republican lawmaker said Wednesday that homosexuality is an addiction, even as other lawmakers push a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in that state.

"It's an unhealthy sexual addiction," said state Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen (R-Glencoe) at a press conference, according to the Star Tribune.

In The Name Of The Law: What The Police Commission Isn't Doing About Misconduct

On a Wednesday just before Christmas, Chief Louis Kealoha addressed the Honolulu Police Commission.

The police commission meets twice a month, its primary role to watch over the police department, keep track of the police chief and hear citizen complaints.

But on Dec. 5, the Honolulu chief didn’t update the commission in open session on conduct in his department, pending investigations or any disciplinary actions taken against officers.

Rajesh De, NSA General Counsel, Defends Warrantless Wiretapping Program

WASHINGTON -- One day after the Supreme Court blocked a lawsuit against warrantless wiretapping, the National Security Agency's top lawyer offered a rare public defense of the U.S. government's secret spying program. General Counsel Rajesh De's speech at the Georgetown University Law Center on Wednesday was short on specifics, but long on claims that the agency is protecting Americans' privacy.

Mido Macia Dragged By South African Police Behind Car Before He Was Found Dead

JOHANNESBURG — They bound his hands to the rear of a van, and then sped off, dragging the slender taxi driver along the pavement as a crowd of onlookers shouted in dismay. The man was later found dead.

A gut-wrenching video of the scene is all the more disturbing because the men who abused the Mozambican immigrant were uniformed South African police officers and the van was a marked police vehicle.

After 40 Years in Solitary, Angola 3 Prisoner Albert Woodfox Ordered Freed for 3rd Time in Louisiana

A federal judge has once again ordered the state of Louisiana to release Albert Woodfox, a former Black Panther who has spent more than 40 years in solitary confinement. Woodfox and Herman Wallace, another prisoner of the "Angola 3," were convicted of murdering a guard at Angola Prison. The Angola 3 and their supporters say they were framed for their political activism. On Tuesday, the same federal judge that ordered Woodfox’s release in 2008 again ruled Woodfox should be set free on the basis of racial discrimination in his retrial. It was the third time Woodfox’s conviction has been overturned, but prosecutors successfully reversed the two previous victories. The state is expected to appeal once again to keep Woodfox behind bars. We’re joined by two guests: Robert King, the third member of the Angola 3, who was freed in 2001 after three decades behind bars; and Mwalimu Johnson, a longtime member of the Angola 3 support team.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: -

You Wearing Your Hoodie Today?

Seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman one year ago today. It wasn’t the first time a young black man was killed despite being unarmed and posing no threat to his killer. At first, there was little public outcry, and it seemed as if Trayvon’s death would be swept under the rug. But within three weeks, #Trayvon was trending on Twitter, and less than a month after the shooting, the local police chief was forced to step down. It was far from the first and it certainly wasn’t the last time a young black man was killed under those circumstances. But those deaths don’t trend on social media, and police departments are running business as usual. Everyone seems to have forgotten about Trayvon and about the avoidable deaths of so many others. And that’s troubling.

Israel's Choice

Where the leaders of the State of Israel stand now, destabilized as they are by their recent failures, it becomes urgent for those who feel a lasting friendship for the inhabitants of the country to question its destiny. It should be obvious that pursuing a policy of military strength, rampant colonization and army occupation of territories conquered by warfare, and of brutal repression of Palestinian attempts to assume their identity, only blackens the image of a country that needs to find its fair place in the Middle East.

Stephane Hessel: There Is Always an Alternative to Injustice

It is a great honor to be here tonight with Stéphane Hessel, a voice of humanity and conscience in a time when such values are so dangerously imperiled. A distinguished French diplomat, leader of the resistance, survivor of Buchenwald and one of the drafters of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In February, The Nation was the first to publish in the United States his remarkable manifesto, “Indignez-vous!“—“time for outrage.” (In fact, we first published Stéphane in 2007—a dispatch he had written after visiting Gaza.)

How Private Prisons Game the Immigration System

Thirty years ago in January, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), now the biggest operator of private prisons in the world, opened its first prison, a federal immigrant detention center in Houston, Texas. Three Decades of Service to America, a page on the company’s website, features a video interview with the company’s founders looking back on that first contract. “We saw this big ol’ sign, ‘Olympic Motel,’ made an offer to lease the motel for four months,” recalls Don Hutto, who chuckles with fellow co-founder Tom Beasley, the former chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party, as they remember hastily converting the building and staffing it with family members. The night of Super Bowl Sunday, “we got our first day’s pay for eighty-seven undocumented aliens,” says Hutto, who even fingerprinted the inmates himself.

Top 4 Reasons the US Still Doesn't Have a Single Offshore Wind Turbine

Despite massive growth of the offshore wind industry in Europe, a blossoming array of land-based wind turbines stateside, and plenty of wind to spare, the United States has yet to sink even one turbine in the ocean. Not exactly the kind of leadership on renewables President Obama called for in his recent State of the Union address.

Light is just beginning to flicker at the end of the tunnel: On Tuesday, outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told a gathering of offshore industry leaders he was optimistic the long-embattled Cape Wind project would break ground before year's end. And in early January industry advocates managed to convince Congress to extend a critical tax incentive for another year.

Supreme Court Poised to Declare Racism Over

Pop champagne: Racism is over.

"There is an old disease, and that disease is cured," Bert Rein, the attorney leading the legal challenge to the Voting Rights Act—the landmark law intended to ensure all Americans can vote—told to the Supreme Court on Tuesday. "That problem is solved."

Rein represents Shelby County, Alabama, one of the jurisdictions covered by a key section of the Voting Rights Act called Section 5. Under Section 5, parts of the country with histories of discriminatory election practices have to ask for permission—or "preclearance," in legal terms—from the Justice Department before making any changes to their voting rules. But the South, where most of the covered jurisdictions are, has changed, Rein said, and the law, although once justified, is now unfair and unconstitutional. The five conservative justices on the Supreme Court seemed to agree. "The Marshall Plan was very good too," argued Justice Anthony Kennedy, "but times change."

Canadian Economy Running Out Of Sources Of Growth

Help wanted: The Canadian economy seeks a new driver of economic growth.

The position must be filled immediately to replace sectors – housing, consumer spending and government stimulus – that led the country out of recession but which are exhausted after three years of pumping out a recovery.

Albert Woodfox's inhumane imprisonment in Angola continues

Albert Woodfox has been in solitary confinement for 40 years, most of that time locked up in the notorious maximum-security Louisiana State Penitentiary known as "Angola." This week, after his lawyers spent six years arguing that racial bias tainted the grand-jury selection in Woodfox's prosecution, federal Judge James Brady, presiding in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana, agreed. "Accordingly, Woodfox's habeas relief is GRANTED," ordered Brady, compelling the state of Louisiana to release Woodfox. This is the third time his conviction has been overturned. Nevertheless, Woodfox remains imprisoned. Those close to the case expect the state of Louisiana, under the direction of Attorney General James "Buddy" Caldwell, to appeal again, as the state has successfully done in the past, seeking to keep Woodfox in solitary confinement, in conditions that Amnesty International says "can only be described as cruel, inhuman and degrading."

Canada's banking regulations under attack in EU trade deal

According to a short news piece by Canadian Press, "Canada is struggling to maintain the traditional standards it imposes to protect financial services in Canada from foreign control and financial instability." CP obtained a February 1 version of the services chapter of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, which was circulated to EU member states, showing that "Canada's vaunted banking system is on the negotiating table."

A separate article in the Wall Street Journal elaborates on the news, saying "Canadian negotiators are pushing for the financial sector to be broadly exempted from commitments in a trade pact they are hammering out with the European Union," and that this is "one of the key sticking points in the talks, according to people familiar with the matter." How to handle financial regulations is "among half a dozen outstanding issues that negotiators on both sides are grappling with in Brussels this week," says WSJ.

Looking back in perplexity: Where did Alberta's money go again?

There aren't many surprises in Alberta -- at least if you've been paying attention.

However, apparently paying attention is something you can't expect either the government or the media to do.

Consider the news in the Edmonton Journal earlier this week that "Experts have warned of 'Bitumen Bubble' for years."

Well, yeah…

Conservative Sen. Duffy found one-page Senator’s living expenses form unclear, had to file it annually

PARLIAMENT HILL—The Senate residency form that Conservative Senator Mike Duffy originally claimed was confusing and led to what he said was a “mistake” in claiming a Prince Edward Island summer cottage as his primary residence and allowing him to claim an estimated $30,000 since September 2010 as secondary residence expenses in Ottawa, must be filed every year, according to the detailed Senate rules about housing and travel expenses.

A copy of the rules that the Senate provided The Hill Timesalso calls for any Senator who claims secondary residence expenses in the National Capital Region must include “required documentation” while filing the annual residence declaration. But the rules are unclear whether the information must include documented evidence about the primary residence.

Fascism in the Church: Ex-Priest on "The Pope’s War," Clergy Abuse and Quelling Liberation Theology

As Pope Benedict XVI steps down today, we turn to a former Catholic priest who was silenced and expelled by the pope, then-Cardinal Ratzinger, in the 1980s. Matthew Fox chronicles his story in the book "The Pope’s War: Why Ratzinger’s Secret Crusade Has Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved." Pope Benedict’s tenure was marked by several scandals, most notably his handling of the widening sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, including allegations that he ignored at least one case of abuse while serving as a cardinal. Documents show that in 1985 he delayed efforts to defrock a priest convicted of molesting children. "I’ll take the pope at his word here when he says he’s tired. I would be tired, too, if I left as much devastation in my wake as he has," Fox says. "I think that the Catholic Church as we know it, the structure of the Vatican, is passé. We’re moving beyond it. And it’s become a viper’s nest. It’s really sick, what’s going on, obviously — the cover-up of the pedophile priests."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Boeing touts fighter jet to rival F-35 — at half the price

In a dogfight of defence contractors, the hunter can quickly become the hunted. It's happening now to the F-35.

The world's largest defence contractor, Lockheed Martin, is trying to convince wavering U.S. allies — including Canada — to stick with its high-tech, high-priced and unproven F-35 stealth fighter. But the F-35 is way behind schedule, way over budget and, now, it's grounded by a mysterious crack in a turbine fan.

Military supply ships $1.5B over budget, watchdog says

Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page has calculated the cost of replacing the military's two Protecteur-class supply ships and come up with a figure 60 per cent higher than what the Harper government had budgeted for the purchase.

In a report released Thursday, the total cost for the supply ship portion of the goverment's much-heralded shipbuilding strategy is calculated according to a cost risk range of between $2.7 billion and $6.3 billion.

Star investigation: Mt. Sinai’s top doctor quits amid ORNGE scandal

Mount Sinai’s top doctor has quit amid revelations his Toronto hospital paid ORNGE founder Chris Mazza $256,000 in public money — with no proof Mazza did some of the work for which he was paid.

“We regret this unfortunate situation,” Mount Sinai president Joseph Mapa said in a statement to the Star on Wednesday. He sent an internal note to hospital colleagues saying it was with a “heavy heart” he accepted Dr. Tom Stewart’s resignation as physician-in-chief and director of the medical/surgical intensive care unit.

Palestinians Dispute Israel’s Findings on a Prisoner’s Death

JERUSALEM — The Israeli Health Ministry said Sunday night that preliminary autopsy findings could not determine the cause of death of a 30-year-old Palestinian prisoner, which Israeli officials had at first attributed to a heart attack. But Palestinian officials said the lack of heart damage coupled with bruising on the man’s chest, back and neck suggested that he was tortured during interrogation.

 “The signs that appeared during the autopsy show clearly that he was subjected to severe torture that led immediately to his death,” Issa Qaraka, the Palestinian minister of prisoner affairs, said at an evening news conference in Ramallah, after being briefed by a Palestinian pathologist who attended the autopsy of the prisoner, Arafat Jaradat, who died Saturday.

Citizen's Initiative exciting counter-force to water privatization in Europe

Hello from snowy Vienna. We have had a wonderful day. Over 300 people and a lot of media attended this important conference today. People in Europe have been fighting water privatizations for over a decade and have started a process of reversal, leading to the remunicipalization of many water services, including some major cities, such as Paris.

But in a classic example of what Naomi Klein calls the shock doctrine, the European Commission and the European Central Bank are using the financial crisis to promote an “austerity” program that includes privatization of water services in a number of countries. Already, water prices have been dramatically raised in some cities, leading to water service cut offs and even evictions.

Thomas Mulcair: EI Crackdown Just A Conservative Political Game

OTTAWA - The federal government has been setting annual targets — with dollar totals — for investigators looking into improper Employment Insurance payments since 1993, say officials with the Human Resources Department.

And door-knocking by Service Canada officials, currently taking place at the homes of 1,200 EI recipients across the country, has been done regularly in the past.

Opposition claims that the Conservative government is on a "witch hunt" against the unemployed have dominated the House of Commons this week.

‘Robocalls’ staffer to oppose Sun News Network’s application

Michael Sona, a former Conservative staffer linked to the Guelph robocall by Sun News Network, has applied to appear before the CRTC to oppose the network’s request for must-carry status.

Sona submitted his application on Tuesday, complaining that Sun TV personality Brian Lilley named him in connection with the Guelph robocall without giving him the opportunity to comment, a breach of proper journalistic practices.

Stephen Harper’s not-so-permanent majority

Canadian conservatives are giddy with the notion that Canada is moving in their direction. A new book by Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson argues that our country’s population has undergone a seismic shift toward the political right, a situation that will make Stephen Harper and his heirs “perpetually dominating.” The Big Shift inoculates itself against critique by asserting that anyone who doesn’t recognize this new national order is part of an out-of-touch clique they call “The Laurentian Elites.”

At the risk of seeming to fall into this category, I’d say that it’s actually the book’s authors who are missing the larger trend.

Crown corporation weighing in on NDP housing bill surprises critics

OTTAWA - A Crown corporation's decision to publicly comment on an NDP-backed bill is raising questions about whether the Conservative government is using the public service for partisan aims — again.

The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp. claims on its website that the New Democrats' proposal for a national housing strategy will cost "$5.5 billion per year in rental subsidies alone."

Opposition leader calls for end to EI cuts

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair announced Wednesday he is beginning a cross-Canada rallying effort to protest against employment insurance cuts and the government's plan to send inspectors to the homes of some EI recipients.

Ratcheting up the rhetoric at a press conference held in the foyer of the House of Commons, Mulcair called the civil servants tasked to make house calls the "Harper Macoutes."