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, September 16, 2012

The separation of church and school

I grew up on the west coast, where a religious education is confined to exclusively private schools. But it wasn’t always so. When I was in grade one, Mrs. Yardley would have the class recite the Lord’s Prayer and read bible passages—and, as the only Jewish kid in class, I had to stand out alone in the hallway. It was kind of an intense experience for a six-year-old, so it’s always been disconcerting to me that Ontario has a taxpayer-funded Catholic school system. That feeling has grown exponentially over the past year, as my toddler has begun inching closer to the public-school system.

Rob Ford off and running at the mouth

There was a backyard BBQ at the Ford family compound on Friday, September 7.

And what a party it was, with beer, burgers and plenty of bluster from the big cheese himself, Mayor Rob Ford, who used the occasion to declare the 2014 mayoralty race on. The crowd cheered. Women presented their babies to be kissed. The mayor ate up the love.

Ford’s football fracas tossed to integrity commissioner

Rob Ford’s questionable use of office staff to help him coach football has landed him in hot water with the integrity commissioner.

Thursday morning a Toronto resident named Jude MacDonald filed a formal complaint with the commissioner, through the city clerk’s office, alleging that the mayor violated council’s code of conduct by using city resources to help him coach three Etobicoke youth football teams.

“He’s using staff time and he’s using his business cards and he’s using his office and he’s using office cellphones and he’s using what I would call standard office time,” MacDonald said in an interview Thursday.
“It just seems striking to me that there’s this repeat [violation] of what I think is a fairly basic tenet.”

Mayor Rob Ford to take team of Tories to Chicago

There is a lot of Tory blue in the blue-ribbon business mission Mayor Rob Ford is leading to Chicago this week.

A partial list of delegates released by the city includes former Ontario Conservative premiers Mike Harris and Ernie Eves, Janet Ecker, who served as a senior cabinet minister in both their governments, and Michael Wilson, a finance minister under former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in the 1980s.

Harris is attending as a representative of law firm Cassels Brock & Blackwell, Eves will represent Natel Strategies International Inc. and Ecker serves as president of Toronto Financial Services Alliance.

As Parliament returns, not all the action is centre stage

OTTAWA—When MPs return for a fall session Monday, potential potholes for all parties will not be found on the official order paper — they lurk on the sidelines, the sideshows that energize every Parliament away from the main stage.

Here are five that could muscle their way on to centre stage some time between now and Christmas:

Tom Mulcair and the Quebec tap dance: Pauline Marois may have been held to a minority, but that doesn’t mean the Quebec premier will not attempt to provoke Ottawa.

Protect property in constitution, says conference

OTTAWA - Politicians, academics and media personalities including Brian Lilley and John Robson from Sun News Network gathered at Ottawa's historic Lord Elgin Hotel Saturday to push for a constitutional amendment enshrining property rights in the Charter.

"Property rights are the foundation of human freedom," said Peter Jaworski, one of the organizers of the conference.

Jaworski, a professor at Georgetown University in Washington, spoke on Ontario's by-law bullies. In 2010, Jaworski's parents, who had fled communist Poland for the freedom of Canada in the 1980s, were subjected to prosecution for hosting a conference on their property on the topic of liberty. Court documents revealed to the family that bylaw officials had visited their remote, rural property several times even taking pictures of guests, writing down their licence plates all without a warrant or informing the family.

Newfoundland fertile ground for NDP

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The orange wave washed into St. John’s earlier this month, bringing 101 NDP MPs on a fall retreat and federal caucus meeting. In its wake were the national news media bringing the news from the far east of a party that is preparing to take on Stephen Harper and the Conservatives when the House of Commons opens tomorrow.

With only two MPs from Newfoundland and Labrador and dozens from other provinces it might seem an unlikely and out of the way place but, besides St. John’s being a great place to visit, there is an undercurrent that tells the story.

Russia Protests: Opposition Floods Moscow Streets In Anti-Putin Rally

MOSCOW — The first major protest against President Vladimir Putin after a summer lull drew tens of thousands of people, determined to show that opposition sentiment remains strong despite Kremlin efforts to muzzle dissent.

The street protests broke out after a December parliamentary election won by Putin's party through what observers said was widespread fraud, and they grew in strength ahead of Putin's effectively unopposed election in March to a third presidential term.

Harper Effigy Tried At 'People's Court' Protesting Government Cuts

TORONTO - A national union rallied across Canada on Saturday against government public-service cuts.

Protests, organized by the Public Service Alliance of Canada, included the staging of a so-called "People's Court" in Toronto that tried an effigy of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Mock trials were also held for efigies of Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, Ontario Tory leader Tim Hudak and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford over cutbacks to public spending.

Conservative Popularity Canada: Harris-Decima Poll Gives Tories Edge As Parliament Prepares For Return

OTTAWA - A quiet summer has given Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives some breathing room as they head Monday into what could be an acrimonious fall sitting of Parliament.

A new poll gives the governing party a seven-point lead over the Opposition New Democrats — a cushion they may need if a second omnibus budget implementation bill sparks the same public backlash and all-out parliamentary warfare its predecessor did last spring.

Why the Public Votes for Teachers in the Chicago Strike

Rahm Emanuel has had scant contact with Ravenswood Elementary School as a neighbor, congressman or mayor. But an unpublicized tragedy there helps explain why striking teachers, not the city's famous new boss, elicited such citywide public support during his first major crisis.

The school is just up the block from where he lives; a dilapidated building with austere concrete playground adjacent to a beautiful residential neighborhood with million-dollar homes. Its students are majority low-income, given the wider area it serves, and it lacks the middle-class parent base to spur fancy auctions and other needed fundraising since virtually all the better-off families nearby send their children to private schools, as does the mayor.

Occupy, After Occupy

At the corner of Spring and Varick streets, in the ethereal white halls of a Manhattan Mini Storage, two members of the Occupy Wall Street Archives Working Group have assembled competing visions of how the movement should be remembered. Their collections look deceptively similar: cramped, high-ceilinged storage closets packed with cardboard signs, boxes, banners, and stray objects such as a mannequin, a pig mask, a miniature tent, an orange mesh police net and hundreds of unopened letters. Neither self-appointed archivist has had access to the other’s stash. They rarely even speak to each other, having undergone a philosophical falling-out—one that, as the first birthday of OWS approaches, seems to hinge on the question of whether the movement should be spoken of in the past or present tense.

Nancy Pelosi: Republicans Will Continue Obstruction If Obama Is Reelected

WASHINGTON -- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) says the partisan gridlock in Washington won't change if President Barack Obama gets reelected and the House and Senate retain their current party majorities.

"You'll see more of the same," Pelosi said during an appearance on CNN's "State of the Union." "It's really important for the public to know that the Republican obstruction of President Obama's jobs bills and whatever he was advancing, is their -- obstruction is their agenda."

Pressed again on whether anything would be different if the current power balance in Washington stays the same after November, she said, "No. It doesn't change."

Pelosi's comments contradict what Obama has predicted things would be like in a second term, should Republicans retain control of the House. As it stands, either party could win the Senate and Republicans appear poised to retain control in the House.

“I believe that if we're successful in this election, when we’re successful in this election, that the fever may break, because there’s a tradition in the Republican Party of more common sense than that," Obama said at a June campaign event in Minneapolis, Minn.

Original Article
Source: huffington post
Author: Jennifer Bendery

Challenged on Medicare, G.O.P. Loses Ground

ORLANDO, Fla. — Maria Rubin is one of the coveted independent voters in this swing state — so independent that she will not say whether she is voting for President Obama or Mitt Romney. She does share her age (63) and, more quickly, her opinion on Medicare: “I’m not in favor of changing it, or eliminating it.”

 Her attitude speaks directly to one of the biggest challenges facing the Republican ticket this year: countering the Democrats’ longstanding advantage as the party more trusted to deal with Medicare.

Treating Benghazi Like Bain

What was so bad about what Mitt Romney said about Cairo and Benghazi—and with what he keeps saying? On Thursday afternoon, a new mob was around the U.S. Embassy in Yemen, a reminder that this is not just an abstract question. There is no prohibition, at such moments, from criticizing one’s government—and there never should be—but as a major party’s nominee for President, Romney is also, by default, a participant, the leader of the opposition, and at least he had the obligation to treat this as something other than a game. It was striking to see a man who presents “apologizing for America” as the ultimate crime turning on Americans—the President, but also low-level embassy workers—at a moment of crisis. He said that a statement issued by the embassy in Cairo “apologized” to the people attacking it, and called this a “disgraceful” response; faced with the puzzle of how it could be any such thing, given that the statement in question was issued before the violence began, he said that the Embassy had been wrong to “stand by” it. Perhaps they should have apologized for it? One might call that saying sorry for saying sorry, if not for one problem: Romney wasn’t right about what the Embassy said, either. (“We have looked in vain for an ‘apology’ in the Cairo statement,” the Washington Post’s Fact Checker said.)

Canada’s MPs set to return, more polarized than ever

OTTAWA — Canada’s MPs return to their desks in the House of Commons Monday ready to do battle over who defines the political agenda leading up to the next federal election in three years.

The potentially perilous state of national unity will be front and centre as politicians confront the new reality of an aggressive separatist government in Quebec.

The proper role of government in our lives will be further sharpened as a key point of debate, as the governing Tories continue to cut the size of the federal government.

Chicago Teachers Strike A Push-Back To Education Reform

CHICAGO –- Two weeks before teachers here went on strike, shutting down the third largest school system in the nation, a teenage boy was shot and killed in a rough neighborhood on the South Side.

At Morrill Math and Science Specialty School, the shooting prompted teacher Monique Redeaux to scrap her regular social studies lesson, a unit on Christopher Columbus. Instead, she guided her seventh- and eighth-grade students through a discussion on violence and inner-city poverty.

The boy who was killed had been enrolled at the school the previous spring, and several of Redeaux’s students were with him when he was shot. Some felt vulnerable to potential retaliation amid talk that the shooting was perhaps gang-related. Even those who had not known him were shaken and disturbed.

South Africa Mine Strikes: Police Fire Tear Gas, Force People Into Shacks

MARIKANA, South Africa -- Police firing rubber bullets and tear gas sent men, women and children scattering as they herded them into their shacks in a crackdown on striking miners at a platinum mine.

Saturday's show of force follows a South African government vow to halt illegal protests and disarm strikers who have stopped work at one gold and six platinum mines northwest of Johannesburg. The strikes have destabilized South Africa's critical mining sector.

JPMorgan, Bank Of America Probed Over Money-Laundering Allegations: New York Times

NEW YORK -- Regulators are investigating whether several major U.S. banks failed to monitor transactions properly, allowing criminals to launder money, according to a New York Times story. The newspaper cited officials who it said spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the federal agency that oversees the biggest banks, is leading the money-laundering investigation, according to the Times. The report said the OCC could soon take action against JPMorgan Chase & Co., and that it is also investigating Bank of America Corp. Money laundering allows people to make money – often obtained illegally – appear like it came from another source.

Israel-Iran War Not On The Horizon, Official Says

JERUSALEM, Sept 15 (Reuters) - A senior Israeli official signalled on Saturday that there would be no unilateral attack on Iran in the coming weeks, saying that international pressure had kept Tehran's controversial nuclear programme in check.

Speculation that Israel might attack Iranian atomic facilities alone, and soon, has soared given an unusually public dispute with the United States about how much time to allow for negotiations and sanctions to run their course before considering military action.

Benjamin Netanyahu: Some Iran Containment Supporters 'Set A New Standard For Human Stupidity'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke out against those who have suggested a policy of containment would work in the case of nuclear Iran.

"Iran is guided by a leadership with an unbelievable fanaticism," he told NBC's David Gregory, in an interview that will air on Sunday's Meet The Press. "You want these fanatics to have nuclear weapons?"

He denounced the notion that going to war with Iran would be worse than a nuclear Iran.

Looming Nexen deal reveals fault lines in Tory camp

As he prepares the ground for a likely approval of the takeover of Nexen Inc. by a Chinese national oil company, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is cementing his government’s transformation from anti-communist China-skeptics to business-oriented pragmatists eager to pursue an economy-first Asia policy.

CNOOC Ltd.’s groundbreaking $15.1-billion deal for Calgary’s Nexen has revealed a continuing fault line in the Conservative caucus, pitting the more ideologically driven members who distrust the undemocratic regime in Beijing against their colleagues who want to expand trade and investment ties with the fast-growing Asian powerhouse.

How the arts in Canada lost its mojo

Talk within Canada's arts communities today has become as predictable as office politics, a projection of disengaged management fueled by personal anxieties. Discussions revolve vaguely around the need for "interpretive creativity" and "strategic innovation," and, naively, for more public funding. This is a huge problem for the industry's future.

It happened because arts associations and administrators have become risk-averse and lazy, unable to accept that art-as-a-possible-profession is broken. Their cheerleading is out of touch with how our culture defines value. And if they can't harness 21st Century energies, they'll die.

Detroit Three review CAW wage proposal as strike looms

The Canadian Auto Workers union says it's making progress with one of the three North American-based automakers on a wage proposal for new hires as a strike deadline looms with General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.

The CAW has threatened job action if there is no deal by midnight Monday, but the national secretary-treasurer, Peter Kennedy, says one of the companies, which he did not name, is reviewing the union proposal following talks Saturday morning in Toronto.

Canada shutters 3 embassies for the day over safety woes

Canadian and U.S. embassies across the Middle East took precautions against continued violent protests over the weekend, while Libya said it has rounded up some 50 people in connection with the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

Canada closed three of its embassies for the day on Sunday — in Egypt, Libya and Sudan, where anti-U.S. protests have turned violent — citing continued security concerns.

Environment Minister eyes overhaul of law protecting at-risk wildlife

After 10 years of ups and downs, the legislation that protects precarious wildlife is ready for an overhaul that will kick into high gear this fall, Environment Minister Peter Kent says.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Mr. Kent said he wants to spend the next few months figuring how to make the Species At Risk Act more efficient.