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.]

Monday, October 24, 2011

Occupy Louisville: Voices from Social Justice Encampment in the Hometown of Muhammad Ali

Over the weekend, Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman visited demonstrators at Occupy Louisville, a protest inspired by Occupy Wall Street. They’ve set up an encampment right across the street from a local jail. We hear from veterans, students, social justice activists, and other community members who spent the night at the protest.

Source: Democracy Now! 

Dr. Cornel West: "We Are in a Magnificent Moment of Democratic Awakening"

Princeton University professor and renowned civil rights activist Cornel West was arrested Friday afternoon during a demonstration in Harlem against alleged racial profiling by the New York City Police Department. West joined a protest against the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy, which critics say disproportionately targets people of color. New York City police carried out 600,000 such searches last year, with 87 percent of the targets being black or Hispanic. West’s arrest in New York City comes just a week after he and 18 others were arrested on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court during a protest against the increasing role of money in politics, the same day that the new Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial was dedicated. A professor of religion and African American studies at Princeton University, West is the author of numerous books, including his memoir, "Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud."

Source: Democracy Now! 

Jailed Occupy Chicago Protesters Describe Harsh Treatment By Police, Plan To Picket Rahm Emanuel's Office

Occupy Chicago protesters are angry and plan to make their feelings known to Mayor Rahm Emanuel after many of their supporters spent 24 hours or more in jail over the weekend for refusing to leave Grant Park when it closed Saturday night.

Officers began placing metal barricades around the area of Chicago's Grant Park known as Congress Plaza about 11:10 p.m. Saturday, minutes after the park had closed. Afterward, police then went through the crowd and warned people to leave or risk arrest for remaining in the closed park in violation of a city ordinance.

Protesters were hoping to spend the night in the park, and petitioned Emanuel earlier in the week asking for a place to demonstrate without risking arrest. Apparently, they were not granted that request.

Several of the protesters who stayed inside the barricades in the park sat on the ground. Others locked arms as police circled and then began arresting people.

"One: We are the people! Two: We are united! Three: The occupation is not leaving!" demonstrators shouted. Others joined in from just outside the park.

Michele Bachmann, Husband Marcus Defend Characterizing Being Gay As 'Personal Enslavement'

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and her husband, Marcus Bachmann, sought to clarify their position on gays and lesbians in a new interview with People Magazine.

Michele Bachmann said in 2004 that being "involved in the gay and lesbian lifestyle" amounts to "personal bondage, personal despair and personal enslavement." She added that she was not "bashing" anyone.

Her husband has compared gays to "barbarians" who need to be "disciplined." He runs a Christian counseling center that has offered therapy to try to change sexual orientation, according to an undercover investigation by Truth Wins Out, a gay rights organization.

In the Oct. 31 issue of People, the couple defended themselves against accusations of harboring an anti-gay bias. "There's never been a bias," Marcus Bachmann said. "I'm no better than anyone else," Michele added.

New Obama Foreclosure Plan Helps Banks At Taxpayers' Expense

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration is introducing a new program on Monday designed to lower monthly mortgage payments for more troubled homeowners.

But a key new condition in the plan would shift the financial liability for refinanced loans from Wall Street banks to the American taxpayer. And by focusing on lower payments, the program does not confront what housing experts view as the core problem in the foreclosure crisis -- borrower debt that exceeds the value of one's home.

Faced with the weak response to the Home Affordable Refinance Program, the Obama administration is planning to open up the program to all borrowers who owe more on their mortgage than their homes' worth, commonly dubbed being underwater, and have not missed a mortgage payment. HARP had been limited to borrowers who owed up to 25 percent more than their home is worth. More than 22 percent of all home mortgages -- or 10.9 million homes -- are currently underwater, according to CoreLogic data. Fewer than 900,000 borrowers have elected to go through HARP to date.

WikiLeaks Honduras: US Linked to Brutal Businessman

Since 2009, beneath the radar of the international media, the coup government ruling Honduras has been collaborating with wealthy landowners in a violent crackdown on small farmers struggling for land rights in the Aguán Valley in the northeastern region of the country. More than forty-six campesinos have been killed or disappeared. Human rights groups charge that many of the killings have been perpetrated by the private army of security guards employed by Miguel Facussé, a biofuels magnate. Facussé’s guards work closely with the Honduran military and police, which receive generous funding from the United States to fight the war on drugs in the region.

New Wikileaks cables now reveal that the US embassy in Honduras—and therefore the State Department—has known since 2004 that Miguel Facussé is a cocaine importer. US “drug war” funds and training, in other words, are being used to support a known drug trafficker’s war against campesinos.

Miguel Facussé Barjum, in the embassy’s words, is “the wealthiest, most powerful businessman in the country,” one of the country’s “political heavyweights.” The New York Times recently described him as “the octogenarian patriarch of one of the handful of families controlling much of Honduras’ economy.” Facussé’s nephew, Carlos Flores Facussé, served as president of Honduras from 1998 to 2002. Miguel Facussé’s Dinant corporation is a major producer of palm oil, snack foods, and other agricultural products. He was one of the key supporters of the military coup that deposed democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya on June 28, 2009.

We Are All Occupiers Now: The Mainstreaming of OWS

What a difference a few short weeks can make. The early word on Occupy Wall Street was that it was a motley collection of flakes and fools. “Purpose in 140 or less,” tweeted CNN financial correspondent Alison Kosik, “bang on the bongos, smoke weed!” (She’s since deleted that tweet.) New York Times financial writer Andrew Ross Sorkin, author of Too Big to Fail, asked on CNBC’s Squawk Box, “Do we think that the whole Wall Street protest is overdone, real, not real? Were there really a lot of people down there? Were there a lot? I could never tell.” In a Times human interest column the archetypal OWS protester was “a half-naked woman who called herself Zuni Tikka.” Arch condescension was definitely the dominant tone of mainstream coverage, and maybe a bit of it was even deserved: if you’re going to protest the policies of the Federal Reserve, you should probably know what it is, and speaking just for myself, the sooner the Zuccotti Park encampment loses the drum circle, the better. Men thumping away for hours on end, girls in tank tops vaguely dancing about—it’s just not the look you want for a movement that claims to be about getting rid of hierarchy.

In any case, Zuni Tikka is definitely having a good laugh now. Eight hundred New York City arrests later, Occupy Wall Street has gone national, from LA to Phoenix to New Haven, and global too, with demonstrations and encampments in Europe, Latin America and even Australia. In London protesters camped out at St. Paul’s Cathedral. In Hong Kong dozens slept overnight in a foyer beneath the headquarters of HSBC. In Rome some 200,000 people marched, and a few smashed windows and set cars on fire. This caused Prime Minister Berlusconi to take time out from having sex with teenage prostitutes to fulminate against the violence as “a worrying signal for civil coexistence.” Hmmm, maybe he should have thought about civil coexistence before he got legislators to pass a law immunizing himself from prosecution for misdeeds in office. Because that’s the point, isn’t it? All those pundits and politicians going on about how bankers are just people, and traders have feelings too, and why don’t the 99 percent appreciate what the 1 percent has done for them, are just not looking at the world we live in now. Anyone who isn’t entirely insulated from such mundane realities as unemployment and underemployment, foreclosure, student debt and the serious increase in poverty knows what OWS is talking about: rising inequality, the impunity of the people who caused the crisis and the failure of politicians in both parties to grapple with a situation both parties helped create. OWS doesn’t need a list of demands to paint that picture. As (of all places!) the Times editorial page put it on October 8, “protest is the message.”

Braving Chaos, Parents and Kids Occupy Wall Street for a Night

Zuccotti Park, like most public places in New York City, can be dangerous late at night. Midnight attacks by street people, stolen laptops, dozing women who've been groped or propositioned: Sesame Street it is not. But with a little bit of coordinated self-policing, Occupy Wall Street can be a safe place to bed down for anyone. That, at least, was the idea on Friday night when 68 families with young children showed up at the park, blankets and cupcakes in tow, for a sleepover.

"The idea is to let parents have a voice in Occupy Wall Street, because normally they cannot be here and also be at home taking care of their families," says Kirby Desmarais, a record label owner from Brooklyn who founded the Parents for Occupy Wall Street Facebook group a few weeks ago. She was standing inside a roped-off area near the park steps—a cardboard sign dubbed it a "Child Safe Zone"—where her 18-month-old daughter and dozens of other children played with comics, alphabet blocks, and glow sticks.

The Many Walkbacks of Herman Cain

The great thing about Herman Cain is that he's a straight-talker who shoots from the hip. What's wrong with America? Stupid people are ruining it. How to fix the economy? 9-9-9, my friend. What's wrong with politics and media? People need a sense of humor.

Right on.

But whenever one of his zesty hip-shots misses, Cain generally doubles back on himself and has to figure out, on the spot and with the cameras rolling, what it was he meant in the first place. "I think it has created an image of him as not being up to this task," Karl Rove said Monday on Fox News.

Rule Change Would Allow Government to Lie About Whether Records Exist

A proposed rule to the Freedom of Information Act would allow federal agencies to tell people requesting certain law-enforcement or national security documents that records don't exist—even when they do.

Under current FOIA practice, the government may withhold information and issue what's known as a Glomar denial that says it can neither confirm nor deny the existence of records.

The new proposal—part of a lengthy rule revision by the Department of Justice—would direct government agencies to "respond to the request as if the excluded records did not exist."
Open-government groups object.

"We don't believe the statute allows the government to lie to FOIA requesters," said Mike German, senior policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposes the provision.

The ACLU, along with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and said the move would "dramatically undermine government integrity" by allowing a law designed to provide public access to government to be twisted.

Why Homelessness Is Becoming an Occupy Wall Street Issue

As anyone knows who has ever had to set up a military encampment or build a village from the ground up, occupations pose staggering logistical problems. Large numbers of people must be fed and kept reasonably warm and dry. Trash has to be removed; medical care and rudimentary security provided—to which ends a dozen or more committees may toil night and day. But for the individual occupier, one problem often overshadows everything else, including job loss, the destruction of the middle class, and the reign of the 1 percent. And that is the single question: Where am I going to pee?

Some of the Occupy Wall Street encampments now spreading across the US have access to Port-o-Potties (Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC) or, better yet, restrooms with sinks and running water (Fort Wayne, Indiana). Others require their residents to forage on their own. At Zuccotti Park, just blocks from Wall Street, this means long waits for the restroom at a nearby Burger King or somewhat shorter ones at a Starbucks a block away. At McPherson Square in DC, a twentysomething occupier showed me the pizza parlor where she can cop a pee during the hours it's open, as well as the alley where she crouches late at night. Anyone with restroom-related issues—arising from age, pregnancy, prostate problems, or irritable bowel syndrome—should prepare to join the revolution in diapers.

Michael Moore & Cornel West on OWS, Iraq & the Progressive Discontent Obama Faces in ’12 Vote

As Occupy protests against inequality and corporate greed continue across the United States and around the world, we’re joined by Michael Moore, Academy Award-winning filmmaker and activist, and Princeton University Professor Cornel West. "We expect [President Obama] to do the work of the people," Moore says. "The people are not going to go away. So he can either go down as a historic president, who become the FDR of this century, or he can be remembered as the man who was in the pocket of Goldman Sachs." West added, "What we’re trying to do is connect what’s going on on Wall Street with what’s going on in Harlem... If in fact we continue to have this kind of magnificent movement here and around the world, we want to be able to connect the corporate greed not just on Wall Street, but in the military-industrial complex, the prison-industrial complex, and the corporate-media multiplex."

Source: Democracy Now! 

Taking liberties: When elite representatives define 'national security'

This is the first in a new column series on "national security" and civil liberties in Canada and abroad that seeks to focus on specific cases as well as the overall framework in which serious human rights abuses have been justified in the name of security.

Just after Thanksgiving, Montreal's Westin Hotel played host to a gathering of high-powered Federal Court judges, NGO heads, lawyers, academics, and members of Canada's torture-complicit spy service, CSIS. Coming together under the predictably dry title "Terrorism, Law and Democracy: 10 years after 9/11," the conference sought to determine "whether Canadian law has successfully preserved fundamental rights and values of substantive and procedural justice while at the same time contributing to anti-terrorism."

This collegial-sounding gathering -- entry to which was restricted to those who could shell out the $895 entrance fee -- appears to have been one of those periodic gabfests where elite representatives determine the responsible manner in which the rest of us will perceive terms like "terrorism" and "national security". Importantly, attendees were safely insulated from the most compelling voices of the past 10 years: those who have been victimized by numerous conference participants. The latter included judges who have presided over secret hearings, spies whose organization falsely labels individuals security threats, and academics who produce papers defending arbitrary detention.

Indeed, Canadians Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati, and Muayyed Nureddin, who three years ago this month were found by a secretive federal inquiry to have been tortured with the complicity of Canadian government agencies, including CSIS, were not on any of the panels. Nor were Abousfian Abdelrazik and Omar Khadr, both tortured with CSIS complicity. Benamar Benatta, an Algerian refugee rendered to torture by Canadian hands on Sept. 12, 2001, wasn't there to talk about how his Charter rights had been violated either, nor were Adil Charkaoui and Hassan Almrei, whose bogus secret trial security certificates were finally quashed after a decade-long struggle. Mohammad Mahjoub, Mahmoud Jaballah, and Mohamed Harkat, who are still facing deportation to torture without being able to see the secret "case" against them, were similarly absent.

Dying to be remembered: Poisoned peacekeeper considers hunger strike

As a Canadian paratrooper in the former Yugoslavia, Pascal Lacoste learned to hold in his pain. But even today, sometimes the pain is just too great.

"I need someone now," he writes on his Facebook profile one summer morning, leaving his address and phone number for the world to see. "I'm half-conscious."

He gets $50 a week from the Canadian government to pay for homecare, and for the rest he must rely on his friends. "It's hard for my social life, because my friends say, 'Pascal always wants something from us.'"

He wishes it didn't have to be that way.

Decision-making without politics? It was too good to last

Who would ever have guessed that the key decision on $33 billion worth of federal investment could be made without meddling politicians? But that’s what happened with the shipbuilding project. And wasn’t it refreshing? Federal cabinet ministers eschewed the age-old practice of wrangling over the spoils of a government program. With them out of the way, rational decisions could be made and were made. The right yard won.

But only minutes after the announcement and as the non-political part wrapped up, normal politics resumed. Defence Minister Peter MacKay wandered onto the low road, backhanding the provincial government and Premier Darrell Dexter for lobbying for the contracts.

Saying the $1.4-million Ships Start Here campaign had “zero impact” and that it “was just like pouring that money into Halifax Harbour,” MacKay the political animal had reverted to type. The NDP is enemy No. 1 for the federal Tories and Dexter is a New Democrat who has power, influence and positive poll numbers. If you’re a Tory, you’re taking a shot at Dexter.

It’s Finance Minister Flaherty versus Budget Officer Page

PBO Kevin Page says recent questions raised over his impartiality are a distraction from the real issue: Canada’s rising debt is outpacing economic growth.

Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page, the man whose reports have been politically explosive to the federal government, is standing up for his office’s track record after members of the government recently criticized him and raised questions about his personal judgment and impartiality.

Mr. Page recently accepted an invitation to present his office’s latest report on fiscal sustainability at the Vancouver Island University on Oct. 11. He said he believed that the event was non-partisan, but at the last minute it was brought to his attention by a reporter with The Globe and Mail that it was organized by the university’s Young Liberals and the party’s local riding association as a party fundraiser. While working on the story, The Globe and Mail subsequently received an email from the event organizer, Mike McDowall, also vice-president of the federal Liberal association for Nanaimo-Alberni, to say that the plans had changed and that all proceeds would go to pay for costs and any other profits raised would go to the local Nanaimo food bank.

Chemical bomb tossed into Occupy Maine encampment

PORTLAND — Portland police are looking for the person who threw a chemical bomb at the Occupy Maine encampment in Portland during the early morning hours today.

Sgt. Glen McGary said police responded around 4 a.m. today to an explosion in Lincoln Park at Congress and Pearl streets.

Though no one was injured, McGary said the homemade bomb, which consisted of chemicals poured into a plastic Gatorade container could have caused serious injury.

Occupy Maine, which is protesting corporate greed, has erected about three dozen tents in the 2.5-acre park. McGary said the bomb was thrown into the camp’s kitchen, a tarped area where food is cooked and served.

Occupy Maine, which began in Monument Square, is aligned with the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Last Friday, a group of Occupy Maine protesters stood outside the Bank of America Branch at One City Center to demonstrate against big banks and corporations.

Source: Press Herald 

Police Brutality Charges Sweep Across the US

Officer Michael Daragjati had no idea that the FBI was listening to his phone calls. Otherwise he would probably not have described his arrest and detention of an innocent black New Yorker in the manner he did.

Daragjati boasted to a woman friend that, while on patrol in Staten Island, he had "fried another nigger". It was "no big deal", he added. The FBI, which had been investigating another matter, then tried to work out what had happened.

According to court documents released in New York, Daragjati and his partner had randomly stopped and frisked a black man who had become angry and asked for Daragjati's name and badge number. Daragjati, 32, and with eight years on the force, had no reason to stop the man, and had found nothing illegal. But he arrested him and fabricated an account of him resisting arrest. The man, now referred to in papers only as John Doe because of fears for his safety, spent two nights in jail. He had merely been walking alone through the neighbourhood.