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.]
It is a fitting irony that in the same week that the British government agreed to negotiate compensation for the torture of thousands of Kenyans under colonialism, a right-wing party devoted to returning the nation to its former glory would emerge as the major victor in local elections. The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) won 147 council seats in recent midterm elections, coming in third in the national popular vote and perilously close to defeating the ruling Conservatives. It is a party in favor of a monocultural Britain and against immigration, multiculturalism and membership in the European Union. To demand that Britain be Great again, as UKIP leader Nigel Farage does, willfully disregards how that greatness came about and who paid for it. As the nineteenth-century French philosopher Ernest Renan wrote, “The essential characteristic of a nation is that all its individuals must have many things in common and must have forgotten many things as well.”
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia made a point of emphasizing during the Bush v. Gore arguments in December 2000 that there is no federal constitutional guarantee of a right to vote for president. Scalia was right. Indeed, as the reform group FairVote reminds us, “Because there is no right to vote in the U.S. Constitution, individual states set their own electoral policies and procedures. This leads to confusing and sometimes contradictory policies regarding ballot design, polling hours, voting equipment, voter registration requirements, and ex-felon voting rights. As a result, our electoral system is divided into 50 states, more than 3,000 counties and approximately 13,000 voting districts, all separate and unequal.”
He’s probably the first person ever to lose his job because of his Harvard PhD dissertation: Jason Richwine, let go by the Heritage Foundation on Friday. The problem: he co-authored their position paper opposing immigration reform; and then somebody discovered that his PhD thesis at Harvard’s Kennedy School was dedicated to the proposition that Hispanics have lower IQs than white people. Not even the Heritage Foundation wanted to go there—so after two days trying to answer embarrassing questions, he left quietly.
Congress has a long road ahead on immigration reform. The Senate Judiciary Committee has started to consider some 300 amendments challenging the nearly 900-page long bill crafted by the Gang of Eight. Lawmakers are hopeful that legislation will pass both houses by the end of summer. But from now until then, the detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants may continue full force. A group of advocates is now making a renewed call on President Obama to suspend deportations of those people who would gain status in the bill’s final version later this year.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is by no means alone in her belief that the U.S. government should give college students the big-bank treatment.
More than 250,000 MoveOn.org members have signed a petition demanding Congress set student loan interest rates at the same level as that offered to big banks by the Federal Reserve, a proposal put forth in Warren's first-ever Senate bill last week.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on Monday that he would pull support from his own immigration reform bill if his fellow Judiciary Committee members voted to include LGBT provisions.
The immigration legislation put forward by the bipartisan "gang of eight" doesn't address the problems faced by binational same-sex couples, who under the Defense of Marriage Act cannot petition for green cards for their foreign national partners.
The high and wildly varying prices for hospital services revealed by President Barack Obama's administration last week likely aren't going away any time soon because the antiquated system that generates them is intricately threaded throughout the health care system, according to industry representatives.
Pat Buchanan has a plan to win more white voters for the GOP.
In an article published by the website World Net Daily last week, Buchanan describes increased black voter turnout and Latino demographic growth as a “crisis for the Grand Old Party.” To combat it, the conservative pundit implies that the Republican Party should adopt a new version of the “Southern Strategy” revolving around immigration.
The Southern Strategy, first adopted by Richard Nixon, aimed to cultivate the support of Southern voters in part by appealing to racial tensions while avoiding overt racism. The strategy played a key role in alienating African-American voters from the GOP.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative's top executive called a "massive and unprecedented intrusion" into how news organizations gather the news.
The records obtained by the Justice Department listed outgoing calls for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and the main number for AP reporters in the House of Representatives press gallery, according to attorneys for the AP. It was not clear if the records also included incoming calls or the duration of calls.
The New York Times, Slate and Al Jazeera have recently drawn attention to the adjunctification of the professoriate in the US. Only 24 per cent of the academic workforce are now tenured or tenure-track.
Much of the coverage has focused on the sub-poverty wages of adjunct faculty, their lack of job security and the growing legions of unemployed and under-employed PhDs. Elsewhere, the focus has been on web-based learning and the massive open online courses (MOOCs), with some commentators celebrating and others lamenting their arrival.
The recent publication of Frédéric Bastien's book La bataille de Londres either delivers a constitutional bombshell or a tempest in political teapot all depending on your perspective. The impact of the book, written in French and published in Québec by Éditions du Boréal, has been felt primarily in la belle province. Its primary focus is the period between the 1980 sovereignty referendum in Québec and the 1982 patriation of the Canadian Constitution. Bastien, a historian, charts the political currents in both Ottawa and London as then prime minister Pierre Trudeau sought to head off further separatist challenges by repatriating the Canadian Constitution -- formerly the British North America Act of 1867, an act of the British Parliament -- eventually replacing it with the Constitution Act of 1982, an act of the Canadian Parliament. The Constitution Act was endorsed by the legislatures all Canadian provinces save that of Québec (then governed by the Parti Québécois under premier René Lévesque).
Deep in the weeds of the Pentagon's response to a lawsuit detailing a nasty list of sex crimes perpetrated against several women in uniform is a phrase that neatly sums up the U.S. military's view of why civilian courts have no business considering such accusations.
"There can be no question," says the Pentagon's legal brief last year, that the rapes and assaults were "incident to the military service" of the women involved.
There's been a dearth of substantive policy debated and alternatives offered during British Columbia’s election campaign. Transit, education, health care, social welfare, housing -- these and other burning issues have received too little attention.
Of more substance has been the debate over proposals to build or expand two tar sands pipelines from Alberta to coastal export terminals. The two leading parties have staked out more or less opposing positions. The Liberals are in favour and the New Democratic Party is opposed (a caveat being the NDP silence on Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline expansion that would see a portion of the tar sands product delivered to U.S. refineries just south of the border at Vancouver.)
When I was posted to the Middle East about a dozen years ago, there was a truism about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that went like this: “We all know the solution; it’s just a matter of getting there.”
The self-evident “solution” followed the outlines of the Camp David talks led by Bill Clinton, which seemed to point towards a separate Palestinian state at peace with Israel in the West Bank and Gaza. This was all supposed to be negotiated between the government of Israel and the quasi-government of the Palestinian Authority.
It should be no surprise that the federal government can’t account for $3.1 billion in national-security spending. When you are splurging public fear money, as Canada has been since 2001, what’s a few billion?
I’m not the only Canadian concerned about the track we’re on when it comes to security spending in our democracy, where we’ve been overwhelmed by the mythology of threat. Questioning where the money goes is akin to treason. No wonder it goes astray.
Pope Francis has just named hundreds of new saints in a special canonization Mass in St. Peter’s Square. Based on the latest information, it appears that none of them are members of the Canadian Senate.
The Red Faced Chamber has demonstrated again that Liberal David Dingwall was not the only aquarium creature in Canada who thought he was ‘entitled to his entitlements’. They have again demonstrated with Bill Clinton that fellatio is not sex. It all depends on what “is” is.
NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans police hope a $10,000 reward and blurry surveillance camera images will lead to arrests in a Mother's Day shooting that wounded 19 people and showed again how far the city has to go to shake a persistent culture of violence that belies the city's festive image.
Angry residents said gun violence – which has flared at two other city celebrations this year – goes hand-in-hand with the city's other deeply rooted problems such as poverty and urban blight. The investigators tasked with solving Sunday's shooting work within an agency that's had its own troubles rebounding from years of corruption while trying to halt violent crime.
OSLO, May 12 (Reuters) - The habitats of many common plants and animals will shrink dramatically this century unless governments act quickly to cut rising greenhouse gas emissions, scientists said on Sunday after studying 50,000 species around the world.
In Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi masterpiece “Minority Report,” set in the year 2054 and released nine months after the attacks of September 11, 2001, homicide-squad detectives no longer spend their time tracking down people who have committed murder. Instead, they go after people who are about to commit murder, swooping down to stop them in the nick of time. Spielberg’s police officers don’t fight crime, they fight “Pre-Crime.” They don’t catch killers, they catch pre-killers.
The enormous anti-terror establishment that the United States has created in the years since 9/11 has a similar purpose. Its vast, sprawling, expensive array of governmental, quasi-governmental, and nominally private institutions and their tools—high tech, like ubiquitous surveillance cameras, satellites, wiretaps, computer algorithms, facial-recognition software, drones, and data collection and analysis on a global scale; lower tech, like networks of agents, bags of cash, and airport security checkpoints—are designed primarily to stop acts of terrorism before they happen. That turns out to be a good deal more difficult than investigating such an act once it occurs.
In 2008, Karina Encarnacion, an eight year-old girl from Missouri, wrote to President-elect Barack Obama with some advice about what kind of dog he should get for his daughters. She also suggested that he enforce recycling and ban unnecessary wars. Obama wrote to thank her, and offered some advice of his own: “If you don’t already know what it means, I want you to look up the word ‘empathy’ in the dictionary. I believe we don’t have enough empathy in our world today, and it is up to your generation to change that.”
This wasn’t the first time Obama had spoken up for empathy. Two years earlier, in a commencement address at Xavier University, he discussed the importance of being able “to see the world through the eyes of those who are different from us—the child who’s hungry, the steelworker who’s been laid off, the family who lost the entire life they built together when the storm came to town.” He went on, “When you think like this—when you choose to broaden your ambit of concern and empathize with the plight of others, whether they are close friends or distant strangers—it becomes harder not to act, harder not to help.”
Did you hear those two cheers last week from the unlikely direction of progressive economists and their admirers? Who could blame them?
Since 2010, austerity devotees had loudly hailed a study by two Harvard economists, Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, that concluded that excessive debt in any country would lead to a catastrophic collapse in growth. Here was the latest excuse for those who lusted after smaller governments and shrunken public expenditures to continue doing what they were doing anyway.
Hundreds of job cuts at Agriculture and Agri-Food announced last week are further targeting science and innovation inside government, say union leaders.
“Basically, they’re doing away with research. If you’re not going to facilitate industry, creating a gimmick for sale in two years, they don’t want to hear from you. Basically every research program that sort of put Canada ahead worldwide in agriculture, these guys just don’t see a value for any more,” said Bob Kingston, president of the Agriculture Union, which represents 235 of the affected Agriculture workers.
The fact that the federal auditor general cannot find how or whether $3.1-billion was spent on anti-terrorism activities and the federal government cannot account for it illustrates that Parliament’s system for approving funds and reporting on them is “disjointed and convoluted” and MPs have lost the ability to “follow the money,” say opposition MPs.
“The current controversy over the $3.1-billion ‘MIA’ is a graphic illustration of how MPs have lost the ability to ‘follow the money.’ The estimates are nearly incomprehensible, the departmental reporting is sketchy and inconsistent, and the auditing after the fact often raises more questions than answers,” NDP MP Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, Man.), chair of the Government Operations and Estimates Committee, told The Hill Times. “How do we know if the approved spending met its intended objectives or if it was even used for the approved purpose? We don’t. And I think governments like it that way.”
The federal government says it will introduce legislation to fix widespread “irregularities” in voting day procedures following an Elections Canada report that found there was a “systemic problem” of “non-compliance” in the last general election when registering voters, but opposition MPs say the majority-governing Conservatives are “ragging the puck” on moving forward with amendments to the Elections Act.
“Conservatives just keep ragging the puck on a bill. They have no urgency,” NDP House Leader Nathan Cullen (Skeena-Bulkley Valley, B.C.) told The Hill Times last week.
The federal government’s fourth bill to address matrimonial property rights on First Nations reserves will likely pass by the end of this month, but critics say it’s “deeply flawed” and doesn’t take into account the resources necessary to support Bill S-2’s implementation.
“Without all the other pieces like housing and mediation, this is not an answer to violence against women. We have to do more and the government needs to have listened. They haven’t listened before, and they haven’t listened in this committee and they’re just ramming it through with really serious repercussions if they would only talk to First Nations women,” said Liberal MP and aboriginal affairs critic Carolyn Bennett (St. Paul’s, Ont.), who is currently sitting on the House Status of Women Committee that is studying Bill S-2, First Nations Matrimonial Real Property Rights Bill.
Over the last couple weeks, scientists and environmentalists have been keeping a particularly close eye on the Hawaii-based monitoring station that tracks how much carbon dioxide is in the atmosphere, as the count tiptoed closer to a record-smashing 400 parts per million. Thursday, we finally got there: The daily mean concentration was higher than at any time in human history, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported Friday.
The federal byelection in Labrador boils down to a choice: a former cabinet minister who says he'll wield influence in Ottawa, versus Liberal and NDP challengers who say they'll chart a new course for political change.
It has also been cast as the first test of how fledgling Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair stack up on the campaign trail.
Henry White, who runs Bert's Barber Shop in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, knows how he'll vote.
OTTAWA — The Conservative party is sending email to some public servants at work promoting the government’s economic action plan and linking them to a website that asks which party they intend to vote for in the next election.
The Union of National Defence Employees has complained about the practice after one of its members received the political solicitation on their public service email account, while another received it at their home email account. The union is still trying to determine how many more such promotional messages have been sent to government emails.
JERUSALEM—Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will seek alternate sleeping arrangements when travelling after receiving a sky-high bill for installing a customized bed on a recent flight to London, officials close to the Israeli leader said.
Netanyahu found himself facing a public uproar on Sunday after Channel 10 TV reported over the weekend that he had spent $127,000 in public funds on a special sleeping cabin for the five-hour flight to attend Margaret Thatcher’s funeral last month.
Neat fact: If the federal government were to take all of the money it pours into various forms of financial aid each year, it could go ahead and make tuition free, or close to it, for every student at every public college in the country.
Will it ever happen? Ha. Not unless Bernie Sanders somehow leads a Latin American-style coup down Pennsylvania Avenue. But one of the reasons I argued for the idea a couple of months back was that it would allow us to finally stop burning money subsidizing obscenely expensive tuition at dubiously worthwhile private institutions. At the time, I singled out the for-profit college industry, which has been rightfully savaged for devouring federal aid dollars while charging poor students backbreaking prices.
As Mother’s Day approached, Charlene Fletcher, mother of two, found herself occupied with the needs of other families, attending to the crush of shoppers last week at the Walmart in Duarte, Calif., where she works.
On Mother’s Day itself, she would be in the store, making sure shoppers had one last chance to pick up a heart pendant or a personalized mug for mom. For the past four years, Fletcher has had to work every Mother's Day, along with every New Year's Eve, and nearly every weekend.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has defended the Conservative’s continued spending on the ‘economic action plan’ advertisements, saying that Canadians are entitled to know what their government is doing.
The Conservatives recently put out a tender for a major new ad agency contract that could see the ads continue until 2016.
He disappeared more than a decade ago, just 18-years-old and teaching abroad, separated from his family for the first time in life. His mother and father, sick with worry, heard nothing. For all they knew he was dead. Then, one day they opened a newspaper and learned their son was being held in a military prison run by the US of A, accused of -- but never charged with -- being an enemy of the state.
Were Abdurahman al-Shubati a U.S. citizen, his case would be featured on CNN, his face plastered on television screens next to a graphic listing his days in prison without trial. Some go-getting entrepreneur would be selling yellow wristbands with his name and "#solidarity" printed on them. The president, affecting the right level of empathy for the family and strong but stately anger toward his captors, would be telling us: "Never forget" and "There will be justice."
One way to make a problem go away -- at least temporarily -- is to ignore it. It's also the way to make problems grow over time.
For most governments, ignoring problems away isn't easy. It requires a thick skin in the face of criticism, a disengaged electorate, a compliant media, and a lack of immediate consequences. Sadly, those four conditions exist in Canada.
In Stephen Harper's Canada, the art of wilful ignorance has reached new heights, muzzling independent voices where they can, while attacking those who dare challenge the PMO’s control. But to dumb down the dialogue and maintain policy based solely on populist ideology, you have to go after the information sources.
The Senate is in crisis, one former member of the upper house said after audits into suspicious spending found that a trio of senators together wrongly collected more than $190,000 in housing allowances.
“It’s a crisis in the Senate,” said Lowell Murray, who sat for 32 years as a Progressive Conservative in the Senate.
The gravity of the moment that comes with holding your child for the first time -- looking into their eyes, rocking them to sleep, allowing their breath to fill your heart, marveling at how nature has taken a part of you and a part of your husband to create someone uniquely beautiful -- the seriousness of that moment, is only eclipsed by the moment you discover your little boy or little girl is forever gone, just a few hours after watching them wave back at you from the school bus window.
North Korea has replaced its hawkish armed forces minister with a younger general. The move comes as the US and South Korea launch new naval war games, which Pyongyang decried as “blackmail” and a “provocation.”
General Kim Kyok-sik – who reportedly ordered the 2010 shelling of a South Korean island – was appointed to his post last November. In a Monday report, state news agency KCNA announced that the relatively unknown General Jang Jong-nam is the new minister of the People's Armed Forces. The general was previously the top military commander of a province of North Korea.
The deteriorating situation in Guantanamo - where a mass hunger strike has been unfolding for over two months - continues to raise the eyebrows of human rights groups. Prominent activist Medea Benjamin discusses with RT why the prison is still not closed.
Twenty-four hunger strikers are now receiving enteral feeds, with three people "being observed in the detainee hospital," according to Guantanamo Bay Public Affairs Director Lieutenant Colonel Samuel E. House. His most recent report put the official number of hunger strikers at 100.
CHICAGO — One of the most liberal members of the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg could be expected to give a rousing defense of Roe v. Wade in reflecting on the landmark vote 40 years after it established a nationwide right to abortion.
Instead, Ginsburg told an audience Saturday at the University of Chicago Law School that while she supports a woman's right to choose, she feels the ruling by her predecessors on the court was too sweeping and gave abortion opponents a symbol to target. Ever since, she said, the momentum has been on the other side, with anger over Roe fueling a state-by-state campaign that has placed more restrictions on abortion.
Rand Paul on Saturday accused President Obama of working with "anti-American globalists" to "plot against our Constitution."
The email blast was sent on behalf of the National Association on Gun Rights and heavily criticized the president's gun control efforts. Here's a snippet of the email, courtesy of the Washington Post's Ezra Klein.
If business leaders ever wonder why a chunk of the public disdains business, and calls for higher corporate taxes or sector-specific increases (higher royalty rates for energy and mining, higher stumpage fees in forestry), or just increased business taxation in general, here’s a clue: too many companies are addicted to corporate welfare.
Crony capitalism is problematic all on its own. Addiction to it only reinforces the perception that businesses can’t be bothered to compete on merit, in an open market, but prefer to plead for political favours and protection at taxpayers’ expense.
Naked, sweaty cyclists could soon be bathing in the City Hall parking garage.
On Friday, council voted to restart construction of a bike station in the building’s underground parking lot, a project that gained notoriety when the mayor and his brother fiercely criticized the fact that it will include showers.
Despite Mayor Rob Ford’s objections however, the project passed easily by a vote of 26-5.