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, January 02, 2012

Palestinian Officials Denounce Impending Direct Talks With Israel

JERUSALEM -- On the eve of the first face-to-face talks between Palestinian and Israeli officials in more than a year, officials on both sides seemed to be positioning themselves for the meetings to disappoint, with Palestinian officials in particular denouncing the talks as a waste of time.

"I don't think people should have any expectations or hold their breath in any anticipation," Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization's executive committee and frequent critic of her group's policies, told The Huffington Post Monday.

Saeb Erekat, the top Palestinian negotiator, and Yitzhak Molho, the chief negotiator on the Israeli side, are set to meet Tuesday in Amman, in talks that were quietly arranged by officials in Jordan, along with the Quartet of sponsoring nations -- the European Union, the United Nations, Russia and the U.S.

But both Erekat and Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli government, made it clear over the weekend that the talks would begin with both sides deeply divided, even over the very premise of their meeting.

While Palestinians have said they will not engage in formal peace talks until Israel suspends settlement activity, the Israelis insist that they would only negotiate without such preconditions.

Office Of Religious Freedom: Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird Office From Critics Who Question Need For It

OTTAWA - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says his department's new Office of Religious Freedom won't become a vehicle for playing domestic politics in Canada's immigrant communities.

Baird is dismissing criticism the new office could lead to an uncomfortable mix of religion and politics.

The Tories announced the creation of the office in their election platform last spring, but have yet to roll out details of the new entity, to be housed within Foreign Affairs.

The government is expected to formally announce the new office early this year.

Baird has high hopes for the new office, even though it will come with a modest $5-million price tag, including a relatively minuscule $500,000 budget for operations.

Alex Neve, the head of Amnesty International Canada, says that while religious persecution "is a serious human rights concern right around the world," he's not confident about the government's approach to the new office.

Original Article
Source: Huff 

Conservativism, Compassion, and Cruelty

Through a story of personal tragedy and the virtues of small-town life, voluntarism, and compassion, the New York Times' David Brooks has written a column that unwittingly exposes our nation's outrageous cruelty and callousness.

In his December 30 column, "Going Home Again," Brooks tells the story of Ruthie Leming, a school teacher and mother of three daughters in St. Francisville, Louisiana (population 1,765), who last year, at age 40, was diagnosed with a virulent form of cancer. Brooks understandably laments the tragedy and applauds Ruthie's community, which rallied around her and her family as her health deteriorated.

"There were cookouts to raise money for her medical care," Brooks reports. On April 10 last year -- officially "Ruthie Leming Day" -- "more than half the town went to a fund-raising concert" to help pay her medical expenses.

Brooks describes other ways that Leming's friends and neighbors came to her aid. At the fundraising concert, for example, someone brought a camper trailer "so Ruthie would have a place to rest and take oxygen." And when Leming died on September 15 of this year, "more than 1,000 people signed the guest book at the funeral." Brooks quotes Ruthie's husband Mike, an Iraq war veteran and a fireman, whose friends helped him get through the tragedy. "We're leaning, but we're leaning on each other," he said. Each year on Christmas eve, Ruthie and her mother would put candles on the graves in the local cemetery. But her mother couldn't bring herself to do it this year. When she drove by the cemetery, however, the candle flames were aglow; one of Ruthie and Mike's neighbors had taken it upon herself to maintain the tradition. "They will never know what this meant to me," the mother said.

Indian Police Arrest 2 Men For Sacrificing Child

NEW DELHI -- Two men have been arrested in central India for allegedly killing a 7-year-old girl and cutting out her liver in a ritual sacrifice to ensure a better harvest, police said Monday.

Lalita Tati disappeared in October and her dismembered remains were found a week later, Rajendra Narayan Das, a senior police officer in the Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh state, told The Associated Press.

Police arrested two men, both poor farmers, last week and they told police they killed the girl to appease their gods and get a better harvest, Das said.

Tati was walking home after watching television at a neighbor's house when she was kidnapped, Das said. The two men confessed to cutting her open and removing her liver as an offering.

Das said the police had gathered enough evidence, apart from the confessions, to charge the two with murder. They would face life in prison or even the death sentence if convicted.

The men were described as "tribals," a term referring to the region's indigenous people, most of whom remain mired in poverty and illiteracy.

Human sacrifices are rare in India but get prominent attention every few years. A deep belief in traditional healers, or witch doctors, is common in mostly tribal Chhattisgarh.

Original Article
Source: Huff 

Fender benders in government vehicles cost feds millions, analysis shows

OTTAWA - If the federal government wants to cut costs, it may want to put bureaucrats through driving school.

The government's books show fender benders involving federal vehicles in recent years cost taxpayers $28 million in repairs or write-offs.

An analysis by The Canadian Press of the government's audited financial statements since the 2000-01 fiscal year found thousands of federal vehicles have been in accidents.

At least 8,511 motor-vehicle accidents have been reported in the Public Accounts of Canada. However, the actual tally is probably higher than that since not all departments report the number of collisions in a given year.

Two-thirds of the overall cost of collisions came from the Mounties. Vehicle accidents involving members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police cost the government $18.8 million.

Imam Al-Khoei Foundation, NYC Islamic Center, Reportedly Attacked

NEW YORK — Authorities say they are investigating a report that a Molotov cocktail was thrown at an Islamic center in New York City.

The Fire Department of New York says a blaze outside the Imam Al-Khoei (al-HO'-ee) Foundation building in Queens was brought under control quickly after a call came in at about 9 p.m. Sunday. No injuries were reported. There were minor damages to a door.

Fire marshals and police are investigating the purported attack.

The building on the Van Wyck Expressway in the Jamaica section houses a school and religious spaces.

Police say they are also investigating whether there are possible links to fires at a deli about four miles away and two nearby homes.

Original Article
Source: Huff 

Ron Paul: Civil Rights Act Of 1964 'Destroyed' Privacy

WASHINGTON -- Despite recent accusations of racism and homophobia, Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) stuck to his libertarian principles on Sunday, criticizing the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964 because it "undermine[d] the concept of liberty" and "destroyed the principle of private property and private choices."

"If you try to improve relationships by forcing and telling people what they can't do, and you ignore and undermine the principles of liberty, then the government can come into our bedrooms," Paul told Candy Crowley on CNN's "State of the Union." "And that's exactly what has happened. Look at what's happened with the PATRIOT Act. They can come into our houses, our bedrooms our businesses ... And it was started back then."

The Civil Rights Act repealed the notorious Jim Crow laws; forced schools, bathrooms and buses to desegregate; and banned employment discrimination. Although Paul was not around to weigh in on the landmark legislation at the time, he had the chance to cast a symbolic vote against it in 2004, when the House of Representatives took up a resolution "recognizing and honoring the 40th anniversary of congressional passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964." Paul was the only member who voted "no."

Year of Global Uprisings From the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street: A Special Look Back At 2011

Today we look back at 2011 — a year that saw the U.S. killing of Osama Bin Laden, the ouster of a dictator in Egypt and the death of one in Libya, the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan and the expansion of the secret U.S. drone war in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Arabian Peninsula. As U.S. troops leave Iraq, thousands of private security contractors remain to guard the U.S. embassy — the largest in the world. The Horn of Africa was hit by the region’s worst drought in decades as the devastating impact of extreme weather was felt across the globe, while the world’s most powerful countries continue to refuse to join in a pact to address climate change. However, 2011 may be most remembered as a year of global uprisings. From the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street, millions of people took to the streets to oppose repressive regimes and an unjust economic system. We spend the hour today looking back at the protest movements that shaped 2011.

Source: Democracy Now! 

Occupy Fredericton Camp Remains Despite Eviction Notice

An Occupy protest camp remains in front of Fredericton City Hall despite a Saturday eviction order.

A number of the protesters rang in the new year in Phoenix Square and many have been staying in front of city hall around the clock to raise awareness about social inequality.

The group has a boxy tent made of tarps and a wood frame, a structure the city says is in violation of several bylaws.

Protester Julian Renaud said that information was contained in a letter which was hand delivered by Fredericton Mayor Brad Woodside Saturday.

“He told us verbally that in three days we would be forcibly removed, but he didn't put that in writing,” Renaud said.

But protesters say they need the camp for protection from the elements and that the location they’ve chosen is essential because it is close to the local government and is a high traffic area.

Mayor Woodside said he has given up trying to negotiate with the group.

“It was very evident at last night's meeting with them that they have no intention of leaving the site,” Woodside said. “Two more people have now moved in and are calling it their home.”

Renaud said he hopes Occupy Fredericton can get a temporary injunction to stop the camp from being taken down on Tuesday. However, the group’s lawyer is out of town until Thursday.

Original Article
Source: Huff 

Conservatives laying groundwork for Office of Religious Freedom

The Harper government is preparing to carve out a new role for Canada as a champion of religious rights abroad, another sign of the Conservative shift in foreign policy and one that has roots in the tragic 2011 assassination of a Pakistani cabinet minister.

Early in 2012, the Tories will finally flesh out a campaign promise to install the Office of Religious Freedom within the secular confines of the Department of Foreign Affairs – a controversial pledge that has drawn accusations of vote pandering and blurring lines between church and state.

The Conservatives are unapologetic about making a defence of the right to worship a central objective of Canadian foreign policy, noting, as a recent Pew Centre study found, that assaults around the world on religious freedom have increased in recent years.

They say however it was a charismatic Pakistani foe of religious persecution that helped clinch their decision to create the office – a man who visited with Prime Minister Stephen Harper only weeks before he was shot dead in Islamabad.

Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic, was the first Pakistan minister for minority affairs and the only Christian serving in the Islamic state’s cabinet when he died on March 2, 2011. A militant Islamist group claimed responsibility for killing Mr. Bhatti, who had been urging reform of blasphemy laws.