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.]

Friday, October 28, 2011

CIA, Other Spy Agencies Spent $54.6 Billion In Secret For 2011

WASHINGTON -- Congress appropriated a whopping $54.6 billion for classified intelligence operations in 2011, an increase over the previous two years.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper -- whose office was created after the 9/11 attacks to oversee the government's 16 intelligence agencies -- made the disclosure in a dry news release Friday. The top line number represents the aggregate amount of money lawmakers doled out for the National Intelligence Program's black budget last year.

"Any and all subsidiary information concerning the NIP budget, whether the information concerns particular intelligence agencies or particular intelligence programs, will not be disclosed," Clapper said, adding, "such disclosures could harm national security."

Congress appropriated $53.1 billion in 2010 to secret intelligence operations. That was a steep increase from 2009, when the intelligence community got $49.8 billion.

The Obama administration has requested $55 billion for civilian intelligence in the 2012 budget.

But that doesn't encompass all the spying carried out by the federal government. The Pentagon also spends billions on intelligence.

In fiscal year 2010 -- the first year the government released spending numbers -- civilian and military intelligence cost a record $80.1 billion.

Source: Huff 

Herman Cain: Occupy Wall Street Protesters Should 'Go Home And Get A Job And A Life'

Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain shot down the efforts of the Occupy Wall Street protesters Thursday, telling them to "go home and get a job and a life" while speaking to a crowd in Arkansas.

The former CEO of Godfather's Pizza made the comments in response to more than a dozen Occupy protesters who were gathered outside the event, according to the Tolbert Report. "Nobody knows what their cause is," Cain said before telling the activists to go home.

Cain also had harsh words for the left in general during the campaign stop, saying "the American dream has been hijacked" by liberals, "but we can take it back."

Can Newt Be the First Openly Mean President?

We are officially in the midst of a Newt Gingrich boom.

You didn't notice? ABC News, pointing out that the former House speaker has leaped to third place in the GOP 2012 contest with 10 percent support in a recent poll, reports, "For Newt Gingrich, the tides seem to have turned." The Washington Post's political über-junkie Chris Cillizza writes, "Don't call it a comeback! Actually, do. Sort of." He notes that a series of decent debate performances have vaulted Gingrich, whose campaign has been marred by profound disorganization and embarrassing revelations about Tiffany's expense accounts, into the tier between top-tier and second-tier, behind Herman Cain and Mitt Romney. So with the Newt rehab underway, it may be an opportune time to ask, is Gingrich too mean to be president?

Gingrich is by far the nastiest of the pack. Last spring, Tim Murphy and I posted a compendium of the highlights—or lowlights—of his three-decades-long career of rhetorical bomb-throwing. From the moment he was first elected to Congress in 1978, Gingrich has made mudslinging a specialty. He has routinely compared opponents to Nazis or to Nazi appeasers. (It can be confusing.) He has counseled fellow Republicans to accuse Democrats of treason. Last year, he derided President Obama for being "fundamentally out of touch with how the world works" and asked, "What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]? That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior."

NYPD Sergeants Union Blasts Protesters In Oakland For Violence

NEW YORK -- A union representing 5,000 New York City Police Department sergeants blasted Occupy Wall Street protesters on Thursday and threatened to sue them should they injure police.

"New York's police officers are working around the clock as the already overburdened economy in New York is being drained by 'occupiers' who intentionally and maliciously instigate needless and violent confrontations with the police," said Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association. Although sergeants are higher in rank than patrol officers, they do not wear the white shirts of some of the more senior officers.

Protesters have at times played confrontational cat-and-mouse games with the police, but incidents of serious violence directed against the NYPD by protesters in New York have been extremely rare.

What We Didn't Know About The War In Afghanistan

It sometimes feels as if our distant war in Afghanistan never really happened, so rarely is it analyzed or discussed any more.

Perhaps we all feel it's over and done with. But wars never let you get away that easily. One can only hide for so long from history before its inconvenient facts seek you out and demand answers.

Such is the case with "Lessons learned? What Canada should learn from Afghanistan," a 54-page study for the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and a powerful examination of our stunningly incoherent approach to that war.

The writers are two of our most respected military historians, professor emeritus Jack Granatstein and David Bercuson, of the University of Calgary, who also happen to be two well-known supporters of the war.

Ottawa looks at rewriting rules on charitable giving

Ottawa is conducting a sweeping overhaul of the way it finances charities and non-profit organizations, pledging a new era of accountability in which businesses and citizens shoulder more of the cost of giving.

The government’s lead minister for the changes said financing will come with more strings attached in an effort to ensure that organizations deliver promised social gains.

While the first steps will be small, the government’s ultimate goal is a shift in public expectations as to the role of government in assisting social causes.

The plan is inspired by British Prime Minister David Cameron’s Big Society experiment, in which social responsibilities that traditionally fell to the state are put in the hands of the citizenry and private sector.

What Brazil knows that we don’t

This week we are wondering whether the government of Canada thinks it’s more important to talk or to act.

Every now and then, Stephen Harper’s government phones up some experts and asks them to lead a panel and come up with smart advice. Then it ignores the advice. In 2008 it asked a businessman named Red Wilson for advice on making Canada more competitive. Wilson offered 65 recommendations. Most were never implemented. This fall there are new reports, from businessman Tom Jenkins on corporate R&D, and from career soldier Andrew Leslie on the structure of the military. We’ll see whether they do better.

Meanwhile, every week brings a new panel. In October, Ed Fast, the trade minister, was in China announcing a panel to come up with advice on “an international education strategy.”

The “goal” of such a strategy, the news release’s headline said, would be “Stronger Ties with World’s Best and Brightest in Priority Markets.” And how important would the strategy be? Glad you asked. It would be “critical to Canada’s continued economic growth and prosperity,” Fast said. It’s a good panel, as these panels always are. Its chairman is Amit Chakma, who has been making waves as the president of my alma mater, the University of Western Ontario. It’s supposed to report early in the new year.

At which point the horse will already have well and truly left the barn.

Feds want to destroy long-gun registry records to appease ‘tinfoil hat’ elements of gun-owning community, says Champ

PARLIAMENT HILL—Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government is set to destroy massive records on owners of rifles and shotguns to appease “tin-foil hat” elements of the gun-owning community, says a prominent human rights lawyer.

Ottawa lawyer Paul Champ, who represented a Parliament Hill journalist in a long court battle getting access to government records, said the government, which plans to destroy the records after a bill terminating the long-gun registry clears Parliament, told The Hill Times on Thursday the government is likely trying to “pander” to rifle and shotgun owners who fear a successive government may try to use the data base, containing records on seven million firearms, to seize the guns.

Mr. Champ said the claim by Public Safety Minister Vic Toews (Provencher, Man.) that the aim is to prevent another government from reinstating the registry is not believable, since by then, with 2015 the earliest possible time a different government could be elected, the information would be out of date and unreliable.

Any new registry would have to be started essentially from the ground up.

Michael Den Tandt: F-35 project is ‘slowly unravelling’

OTTAWA — The Conservative government’s controversial F-35 jet fighter project, plagued by delays, cost overruns and now economic turmoil in Europe, is at growing risk of being sharply curtailed or shelved — the defence minister’s protestations notwithstanding.

“It just seems like it’s slowly unravelling,” said an industry insider who specializes in aircraft procurement. “It’s a mess.”

Peter MacKay has doggedly championed the Royal Canadian Air Force plan to purchase 65 “fifth-generation” Lockheed Martin Lightning stealth fighters to replace Canada’s aging fleet of CF-18s. Last week MacKay sought, with only limited success, to deflect reports that the first batch of planes built by Lockheed will be incapable of communicating in Canada’s far North.

This minister has a knack for projecting blithe confidence. But in this instance he is increasingly offside with other members of the cabinet and with the Prime Minister’s Office, sources familiar with the situation say.

Kevin Libin: What the West wants next

Spend enough time driving around Alberta and you might still spot, on the very occasional older model vehicle, the yellow, Reform-era bumper sticker: “No Kyoto, no wheat board, no gun registry.” Those were radical enough ideas back in the mid-’90s that angry Westerners felt it important to brandish them rebelliously on their pickups and minivans.

They might as well scrape them off now: Canada’s obligations under the Kyoto accord have been tossed aside; the Conservatives’ bill to deregulate the wheat board is en route to a third reading in the House; and the government tabled a bill to kill the gun registry Wednesday.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper came to Ottawa with a checklist of Western grievances he had committed to relieving. At the time it seemed like a long one. Turns out it wasn’t: After little more than five years in power, what early priorities he hasn’t scuttled — such as the Reform party’s one-time tendencies toward social conservative policy and populist democratic reforms — he’s nearly finished. He’s adding Western seats (as well as Ontario) in the House of Commons, and has almost reached the limit on Senate reform — setting term limits, encouraging provincial elections — at least till someone next has the nerve to reopen the Constitution.

Canada may buy nuclear submarines

Harper government considers mothballing 4 British-made diesel subs

CBC News has learned the Harper government is considering buying nuclear submarines to replace its problem-plagued fleet of diesel-powered subs, all of which are currently awash in red ink and out of service for major repairs.
The four second-hand subs Jean Chrétien’s Liberal government bought from the British navy in 1998 for $750 million were portrayed at the time as the military bargain of the century.
Instead, they have spent almost all of their time in naval repair yards, submerging Canadian taxpayers in an ocean of bills now totalling more than $1 billion and counting.
One of the subs, HMCS Chicoutimi, has been in active service of the Royal Canadian Navy exactly two days in the 13 years since it was purchased from the Brits.
The Chicoutimi caught fire on its maiden voyage from the U.K. to Canada, killing one sailor and injuring a number of others.

Is Tory penchant for capping Commons debate efficient – or arrogant?

For the fifth time since they took office as a majority government in May, the Conservatives have limited debate on a key piece of legislation.

This week it was the dismantling of the gun registry. Before that it was the bill to end of the wheat board’s monopoly, the omnibus crime bill and two budget bills.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is determined to push these items – some of which have been on his agenda for a very long time – through Parliament with as little opposition input as possible.

But the tactic has New Democrats crying foul.

“This will be the fifth time in 38 days of sitting that time allocation has been imposed,” Opposition House Leader Joe Comartin said Thursday when it became apparent that debate on the gun registry legislation would also be cut short.

"Blood on the Tracks": Brian Willson’s Memoir of Transformation from Vietnam Vet to Radical Pacifist

Today we spend the hour with a man who put his life on the line twice: once when he served in the Vietnam War and again when he came back. On September 1, 1987, Brian Willson took part in a nonviolent political action outside the Concord Naval Weapons Station in California. He sat down on the train tracks along with two other veterans to try to stop a U.S. government munitions train sending weapons to Central America during the time of the Contra wars. The train didn’t stop. Willson suffered 19 broken bones, a fractured skull and lost both of his legs. "Before, I had spent many months in Nicaragua in the war zones, and I had been to El Salvador talking to guerrillas and talking to human rights workers, understanding the incredible extent of murders that were going on and maimings and displacements, because of fear of being murdered," Willson said. He decided, "I have to at least escalate my own nonviolent occupation, if you will, of the tracks." In retrospect, Willson added, "I regret that I lost my legs, but I don’t regret that I was there. I did what I said I was going to do... Following orders, I discovered, is not what I’m about." Today, he is traveling the country visiting solidarity protests with Occupy Wall Street, where some of his fellow protesters are also veterans. He’s also been talking about his new memoir, "Blood on the Tracks: The Life and Times of S. Brian Willson." On the West Coast, he completed much of the tour on his handcycle.

Source: Democracy Now! 

E. B. White on the Bonus Army

Both Frank Rich, in New York magazine, and Brent Cox, at the Awl, this week use the Bonus Army—an encampment, in 1932, of thousands of veterans of the First World War and their supporters in Washington—as a way of offering historical perspective on the Occupy Wall Street movement. The Bonus Army was big news in those waning days of the Hoover Administration and, in the summer of 1932, E. B. White devoted three Comment columns to the protest and the economic woes it highlighted. While deeply sympathetic to the plight of the jobless in the Great Depression (see this Comment from earlier in the year), White was largely dismissive of the Bonus Army.

The protests had begun with a simple demand: the early payment of a “bonus” due to veterans in 1945, to help them through the Depression. But that message was mixed with more general calls for jobs and even revolution. In the first of his columns, published in the issue of June 25, 1932, White, like many of Occupy Wall Street’s critics, took the protesters to task for their lack of focus:
In a democracy, there are a thousand, ten thousand groups…. Each has its own particular sorrow and its grievance; there exists no common tyranny against which to rebel, not even the tyranny of hard times. If you mixed bonus marchers with Kentucky miners, they would probably spend the rest of their lives arguing about what to rebel against.

Meet the 0.01 Percent: War Profiteers

There's the top 1% of wealthy Americans (bankers, oil tycoons, hedge fund managers) and there's the top 0.01% of wealthy Americans: the military contractor CEOs.

If you've been following the War Costs campaign, you already know that these corporations are bad bosses, bad job creators and bad stewards of taxpayer dollars. What you may not know is that the huge amount of money these companies' CEOs make off of war and your tax dollars places them squarely at the top of the gang of corrupt superrich choking our democracy. These CEOs want you to believe the massive war budget is about security -- it's not. The lobbying they're doing to keep the war budget intact at the expense of the social safety net is purely about their greed.

In many areas, including yearly CEO salary and in dollars spent corrupting Congress, these companies are far greater offenders than even the big banks like JP Morgan Chase or Bank of America.

Hispanic Kids Being Bullied In Alabama Immigration Law's Wake

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- It was just another schoolyard basketball game until a group of Hispanic seventh-graders defeated a group of boys from Alabama.

The reaction was immediate, according to the Mexican mother of one of the winners, and rooted in the state's new law on illegal immigration.

"They told them, `You shouldn't be winning. You should go back to Mexico,'" said the woman, who spoke through a translator last week and didn't want her name used. She and her son are in the country illegally.

Spanish-speaking parents say their children are facing more bullying and taunts at school since Alabama's tough crackdown on illegal immigration took effect last month. Many blame the name-calling on fallout from the law, which has been widely covered in the news, discussed in some classrooms and debated around dinner tables.

Justice Department officials are monitoring for bullying incidents linked to the law.

"We're hearing a number of reports about increases in bullying that we're studying," the head of the agency's civil rights division, Thomas Perez, said during a stop in Birmingham.

New Social Justice Index Places U.S. Near Bottom

WASHINGTON -- A central concern for those in the Occupy movement -- that the economic system in the U.S. is rigged in favor of the well-off -- has been corroborated by a major new survey of developed nations.

When it comes to social justice -- defined here as the ability each individual has to participate in the market society, regardless of their social status -- the United States ranks near the bottom of 31 developed countries, the Thursday report from Bertelsmann Foundation found.

It's one thing if you live in a market economy where everyone has the same shot at success. It's quite another if fortune favors the fortunate. And the new survey found that when it comes to "equal opportunities for self-realization," the U.S. ranks 27 out of 31 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development member states, well behind not just Northern European countries like Norway and Denmark, but even countries like Hungary, Poland, Italy and France. The only countries whose citizens fare even worse are Greece, Chile, Mexico and Turkey.

Herman Cain's Distrust Of Minimum Wage Goes Back To Restaurant Days

WASHINGTON -- Questioning America's minimum wage has somehow become a rite of passage in the Republican presidential primary.

Michele Bachmann has said she wouldn’t rule out lowering it. Ron Paul has predictably said it should be eliminated entirely. And Rick Perry, in his book "Fed Up!: Our Fight to Save America from Washington", has rued the role the commerce clause played in "creating national minimum-wage laws" and "establishing national labor laws."

But when it comes to battling our $7.25-an-hour wage floor, these contenders have neither the vision nor the resume of current frontrunner Herman Cain.

In his plan for economic "Opportunity Zones," Cain offers a slate of proposals aimed at revitalizing depressed pockets of the country, including zero capital gains and payroll taxes within qualifying areas. Although it doesn’t say so explicitly, the Cain campaign's primer on opportunity zones also suggests the possibility of rolling back minimum-wage laws in impoverished areas.

"Minimum wage laws prevent many unskilled and inexperienced workers (i.e. teens) from getting their first job and prices them out of the market," the plan says, listing a number of potential "solutions" to urban poverty.

Scott Walker Developing Plan To Allow Guns In Wisconsin State Capitol

The administration of Republican Gov. Scott Walker is developing a plan to allow guns in most parts of the Wisconsin State Capitol, reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Under the plan, the state Supreme Court hearing room would not allow guns.

Walker signed a bill allowing the public to carry concealed weapons, provided they pass a four-hour training course and a background check. That law takes effect Nov. 1.

During the protests over a bill curtailing most collective bargaining rules last February, the administration installed metal detectors at the Capitol but removed them in June.

Florida recently allowed concealed carry permit holders to carry weapons into more parts of the Capitol.

Kentucky, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Utah, Minnesota, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Texas and Virginia all allow guns in state Capitols with varying restrictions ranging from nothing to only allowing guns with permission from state police.

Source: Huff 

Attack On Gay Student By Bully At Union-Scioto High School In Chillicothe, Ohio, Caught On Video

A shocking video of a gay student being beaten at Union-Scioto High School in Chillicothe, Ohio, has surfaced reports Channel 6 WSYX news.

In the clip, which was filmed on a cell phone and then posted to Facebook, the attacker, who has not been named, can be seen waiting for the gay student, who wishes to remain anonymous, in a classroom.

Once the student arrives, the bully begins severely beating "the holy living crap out of him," says his mother.

Even though the boy tried to get away and asked "Why are you doing this?" the attack continued.

WSYX reports the student received a possible concussion and a chipped tooth.

The student also says that the perpetrator wrote "Check out the definition of a faggot" on his Facebook page two days earlier.

Long-Gun Registry: Quebec Says It Will Fight Harper Government On Destroying Data

QUEBEC - The Harper government's plan to not only kill the long-gun registry but subsequently bury its data has run into resistance in Quebec, which wants to bring the controversial program back from the dead.

The provincial government says it intends to keep using the gun registry on its territory and will fiercely oppose plans to destroy the data.

Speaking at a news conference in Quebec City, Public Security Minister Robert Dutil refused Wednesday to rule out legal action among his options.

A spokesman later explained that the province's Plan A is to maintain a repectful dialogue with Ottawa and negotiate a mechanism to save the records. If that fails, Plan B options will be weighed.

Quebec had already announced months ago it wanted to keep using some kind of long-gun registry if the Harper government killed the federal version, as expected.

But this week Ottawa made it clear that, in addition to destroying the registry, it would also eliminate the data compiled over the past decade.