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.]

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Plans To Criminalise Squatting: Hurting The Homeless Or Protecting Homeowners?

Chris began squatting six years ago after the death of his grandmother. Thrown out of her home and served with an eviction notice he couldn’t read because of severe dyslexia, he found an empty flat, then a warehouse, and set up home.

His local council provided no help. Chris was told he did not fit the criteria for homelessness and was turned away. “All they did was give me a booklet which I can’t read”, he said.

Within a month he was arrested for breaking and entering, and served 12 months in prison. On release, he squatted again because he claims he received no help from the prison service.

In the last four years he’s been arrested and sent to prison three times for breaking and entering. Now, he sleeps rough, afraid to squat again in case he gets sent back to prison.

Obama Jobs Plan Meets Early Resistance From Republicans

Following a few dismal weeks on Wall Street and talk of a double-dip recession, President Obama will soon announce a new jobs plan that is expected to include an extension of payroll tax cuts, new revenue for transportation projects and an extension of emergency unemployment benefits for the 9.1 percent of Americans who still can't find a job. Obama's campaign advisor, David Axelrod, said on Sunday that there's nothing in the proposal "that reasonable people shouldn't be able to agree on" -- but many fired-up Republicans are already preparing to reject whatever the President puts on the table.

“This is the seventh or eighth or ninth time we’ve heard the president talk about producing a plan,” Republican strategist Karl Rove said on Fox News Sunday. “And each time that he’s gotten around to tossing an idea out on the table, it has included only more spending, more deficit, more debt and the American people are fed up with it.”

Unions End the Biggest Strike in Years—but the Battle for Verizon Workers Continues

The nation’s longest and largest strike in the age of austerity ended this weekend. But the labor standoff continues as 45,000 Verizon landline technicians and customer service employees on the East Coast will return to work on Tuesday without a new contract.

The Communication Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), representing thousands of workers striking the nation’s largest wireless carrier, announced an end to the biggest walkout in recent labor history and the resumption of contract negotiations. However, at the present time, this is not a victory for the workers by any means.

After two dynamic, energetic weeks of walking picket lines and receiving no paychecks, Verizon workers are returning to work under the previous contract while revived negotiations with an obstinate standard-bearer of corporate greed make the prospect of a prolonged contract battle almost certain. Union leaders say they decided to end the strike after the company agreed to bargain seriously on contentious issues that Verizon had refused to budge on until now.

Larry Cohen, president of CWA, said the unions and the company had reached a deal “to restructure bargaining in a way that represents progress for everyone.” But the details of that agreement remain vague.

Operation Silent Snowmobile: New Vehicle Planned For Covert Arctic Ops

The Department of National Defence plans to develop a new stealth snowmobile for covert military operations in Canada's Arctic, with $550,000 set aside to build a prototype.

Ottawa has posted a public tender for a hybrid-electric snowmobile that would allow Canadian Forces soldiers to swoop silently across the frozen landscape.

The vehicle would perhaps be the most unconventional tool in the arsenal of a Conservative government promising to beef up Canada's military might in the North.

The nature of these future clandestine assignments is unclear from the federal tendering document. But one thing is clear: silence is priority No. 1.

Stephen Harper, Canada's Prime Minister, Restores Word 'Royal' To Military

TORONTO -- Canadians were thrilled when Prince William and Kate traveled across the country on their first official trip as a married couple. They barely noticed when their pro-monarchy Conservative prime minister appointed Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II's husband, an honorary admiral on his 90th birthday.

But Prime Minister Stephen Harper's decision to restore the royal name to the Canadian armed forces and other recent moves to embrace the monarchy have raised hackles in this former British colony that has largely been indifferent to the fact that the queen remains the titular head of state.

It's reflective of Harper's broader agenda to shift the country's ideological bearings from center-left to center-right – a project that lays greater stress on such traditional symbols as the monarchy, military, ice hockey and Arctic sovereignty. And there has been resistance to such moves in a traditionally liberal and increasingly diverse country.

Keystone Pipeline Protest Draws More Arrests

WASHINGTON - A Canadian woman was among as many as 50 environmental activists handcuffed and taken to jail Sunday on the second day of peaceful White House protests against TransCanada's controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

Fifty protesters are already in a downtown D.C. jail following their arrests outside the White House on Saturday, the opening day of a two-week civil disobedience campaign. They're expected to be released Monday night.

By noon on a steamy Sunday, police began arresting more demonstrators, including 68-year-old Patricia Warwick of Toronto. A 65-year-old woman from Massachusetts who's celebrating her birthday was also lead away in handcuffs from a stretch of sidewalk outside the White House.

The Price of Business as Usual

In Canada's free-trade agreement with Colombia, business and profit trump human rights.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper loves the way the government of Colombia operates. Defending the Colombia-Canada free-trade agreement that was passed in 2009 with the support of the Liberals, he ludicrously claims that concerns about human rights in that country are merely protectionism in disguise.

Harper’s dark vision of governance needs to be more widely acknowledged by Canadians.

If murdering trade unionists and human-rights activists, and driving the poor off their land by the millions to make way for “development,” is your thing, then by all means keep supporting Harper. Or, if you’re a Liberal, throw your full support behind interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae and the morally reprehensible Liberal MP Scott Brison, who seem to have no difficulty with this sort of thing either.

Tim Hudak’s criminal past

Ontario Conservative candidate Tim Hudak thinks pot smokers are criminals and wants to see them punished. He's also admitted to smoking pot. Which means…

This week, Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak was unveiling his proposal to create an absolutely useless grow-op registry when he was asked if he’d ever smoked dope. Of course he has, and he said so. That became the news.

Almost right away, the people I follow on Twitter and whatnot were all like, “why does anyone still care if a politician has smoked a bit of pot. Haven’t we all? Yawn.”

The answer to why we should still care is in Maclean’s this week, in a story about our spending on crime and our crime rates (that’s not yet online):
Cannabis arrests jumped 13 per cent in 2010 to 75,126. Of those, almost 57,000 were for simple possession, a 14 per cent jump from the year before. (The statistics reflect cases where the arrest was the most serious charge a person faced, not the thousands more where a pot charge was tacked onto a string of more serious crimes.)

Prepare for post-election pain, no matter who wins Ontario vote

No matter who wins on voting day, brace yourself for the morning after — Ontario’s day of financial reckoning.

Forget all the campaign rhetoric from politicians pledging to bring the province’s finances under control without inflicting pain. They all know better, and so should you.

As you read this, a complete rethink of government services is being carried out by a little-known fiscal commission labouring in the shadows. Pain is probably unavoidable, regardless of who wins power on Oct. 6.

The commission is no stealth mission, but it is flying under the radar. Its mandate, embedded in the last budget, is to seek out government waste and identify services for privatization.

Perry Mines Texas System to Raise Cash

Two years ago, John McHale, an entrepreneur from Austin, Tex., who has given millions of dollars to Democratic candidates and causes, did something very unusual for him: he wrote a $50,000 check to a Republican candidate, Rick Perry, then seeking a third full term as governor of Texas. In September 2010, he did it again, catapulting himself into the top ranks of Mr. Perry’s donors.       

Mr. McHale, a Perry spokesman said after the initial donation, “understands Governor Perry’s leadership has made Texas a good place to do business.”

Including, it turned out, for Mr. McHale’s business interests and partners. In May 2010 an economic development fund administered by the governor’s office handed $3 million to G-Con, a pharmaceutical start-up that Mr. McHale helped get off the ground. At least two other executives with connections to the firm had also given Mr. Perry tens of thousands of dollars.

Mr. Perry leapt into the Republican presidential primary this month preceded by his reputation as a thoroughbred fund-raiser. But a review of Mr. Perry’s years in office reveals that one of his most potent fund-raising tools is the very government he heads.

As industry encroaches, Yukoners make last stand to preserve unspoiled wilderness

BONNET PLUME LAKE, YUKON—In the long, often biting, argument over the Peel River wilderness, few places rouse more passion than a region below Aberdeen Canyon, where nature still has the upper hand over humans.

Here the Wind, Bonnet Plume and Snake Rivers reach like long fingers across a mountainous landscape.

They put a lifelong grip on anyone lucky enough to feel their touch.

The only way in is by air. There’s a steady, growing traffic of helicopters and float planes ferrying mining exploration crews to and from remote camps or dropping off well-heeled hunters and adventurous paddlers with their canoes and kayaks.

Michele Bachmann Seeks To Broaden Appeal

GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Pigeonholed as a right-wing disciple, Michele Bachmann is offering herself as a presidential candidate who can unite the GOP's disparate base and appeal to Republicans of all ideological stripes.

"Fiscal conservatives – I'm one of those. National security conservatives – I'm one of those. Social conservatives – I'm one of those. And the tea party – I'm one of those," the Minnesota congresswoman said repeatedly in South Carolina this past week.

The line, now standard fare as she visits early primary states, provides a window into her strategy of selling herself as more than just a social conservative crusader.

Bachmann's ability to overtake rivals Mitt Romney and Rick Perry in the GOP nomination contest may depend on whether she can attract support beyond her core evangelical and tea party constituencies, which gravitate toward her strong stances on cultural issues.

Sitting on a Powder Keg

Globalization has lead to a problematic gap between haves and have nots.

One of the defining characteristics of globalization is its tendency to produce winners and losers by polarizing communities – economically, socially, and politically – within and between nations.

Globalization's benefits have been privatized, while its costs have been socialized. The appearance of severe inequalities – in incomes, opportunities, and future prospects – after decades of generally narrowing gaps, has been one of the most worrisome consequences. The triumph of neo-liberalism has social democracy on the run most everywhere, and not least in Canada. However much this may please special-interest groups such as business communities and the wealthy, a smaller state almost inevitably translates into program and service reductions for the disadvantaged and those least able to defend their interests.

For the past several years, I have spent about a month a year teaching at the London Academy of Diplomacy at the University of East Anglia. During those very pleasant interludes, it has struck me that London has become a world city primus inter pares – a cosmopolitan global crossroads and network node for business, finance, culture, and education. If you are lucky enough to find yourself in a position to benefit from its status as a world city, London presents vast possibilities, and is a wonderful place to live and work. There is really no place quite like it, and these features make the rioting there, and in other U.K. cities, all the more disturbing.