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.]

Thursday, October 08, 2015

'Forced to fire'

None of the shots that struck Tommy Smith outside his mother’s house among the stubbled grain fields of Arcola, Illinois, came from his own gun. During his encounter with police on a chilly evening in early January, Smith, a 39-year-old hotel maintenance supervisor, never turned the AR-15 rifle against his own body.

Yet the record books of Douglas County will state that Smith killed himself.

The US Massacre in Kunduz Exposes the Bankruptcy of Obama’s National-Security Policy

The aerial destruction that rained down on a hospital complex run by Doctors Without Borders in Kunduz, a provincial capital in northeast Afghanistan, on October 3 puts an exclamation point on the story of America’s 14 years of warfare in that Central Asian country. At least 22 people were killed, among them doctors, other medical personnel, and patients, including three children, and dozens were wounded in the attack.

‘Look for Hospitals as Targets’ -- The historical record suggests that the US bombing of an Afghan hospital may not have been an accident.

“Bombing of Hospitals Called Routine.” That was the August 9, 1973, Newsday coverage of congressional hearings on “clandestine U.S. air and ground activities in Cambodia and Laos”:

U.S. commanders in Vietnam placed no restrictions on ground or air attacks against Viet Cong or North Vietnamese hospitals a Senate committee was told yesterday by several Vietnam veterans.

The Hard Truths for Canada About the Trans-Pacific Partnership

The bottom line with the TPP for Canada is that it really doesn't have a choice about whether or not to join.

The Americans and Mexicans are joining and they're taking the North American market i.e. Canada's market, the source of its prosperity, with them -- whether or not Canada agrees.

John Cummins, Former B.C. MP, Says Missing And Murdered Women 'Putting Themselves At Risk'

A former Conservative MP says missing and murdered women who disappeared along British Columbia's notorious Highway 16 were "putting themselves at risk."

Eighteen women and girls vanished between 1969 and 2006 from the stretch of road between Prince Rupert and Prince George in the northern half of the province.

John Cummins, who represented the Delta—Richmond East riding for 18 years, suggested on Tuesday that the women's choices were risky.

Harper: Niqab Ban For Public Servants Would Be Considered

OTTAWA — A Conservative government would look at banning public servants from wearing the niqab, Stephen Harper told the CBC on Tuesday.

"That's a matter we are going to examine," Harper said in an interview with Power and Politics host Rosemary Barton.

"Quebec, as you know, has legislation on this and we are looking at that legislation."

Justin Trudeau's win-win election

A few days after Justin Trudeau won the leadership of the Liberal party in 2013, a senior government minister offered a private, withering assessment.

The worst critic he’d ever seen in Parliament, he sniffed. A dilettante. A poseur. A leader so inept he would drive disaffected Liberals to the dreaded New Democrats.

If Trudeau was so weak, I asked, why had the Conservatives launched attack ads the day after he was chosen? “We had to define him,” he said.

Stage is set for ‘Anybody But Harper’ voters to coalesce behind the Liberals

There’s poetic justice, if not fairness, in this interminable campaign finally resolving itself into a knock-down, drag-out grind to the finish between the old warrior, Stephen Harper, and his young nemesis, Justin Trudeau.

A review of Tory attack ads over the past three years confirms this is the final battle the Conservative leader has long anticipated. It’s also the one the Trudeau Liberals have prepared for, husbanding their ground game for a full-on, final push to reclaim their old perch as Canada’s “natural governing party.” Every recent poll suggests that epic struggle is now upon us, with Tom Mulcair’s New Democrats slipping by the day. This means the next couple of weeks will be ugly; an alley fight, no Queensberry Rules.

Vets attacking vets, unprecedented hallmark of 2015 election politics.

OTTAWA — An unprecedented political wedge is splitting the country's veterans, who are turning on each other in the countdown to the Oct. 19 vote in ways not seen in eight decades, say advocates and historians.

Sean Bruyea, an outspoken critic of both Liberal and Conservative governments, says the last time veterans were so politicized and divided was in the aftermath of the First World War.

Danny Williams: Voters 'can't trust' Harper on TPP

Former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Danny Williams is once again asking voters to choose anyone but Conservatives in the federal election.

The former Progressive Conservative leader popularized the term “ABC” during the 2008 election campaign, after he said Stephen Harper broke a promise on transfer payments.

Public Elementary School Allegedly Waged Shame Campaign Against Students Who Don’t Believe In God

A lawsuit filed on behalf of a non-religious family details a series of actions by teachers and administrators that, even if they were not designed specifically to humiliate the family’s children, certainly should be expected to have that effect.

According to a complaint filed on behalf of the family, who is identified as the “Does,” teachers at the Swainsboro Primary School in Swainsboro, Georgia “regularly led their classes in Christian prayer,” a practice that violates the Constitution’s First Amendment. When the Doe parents complained that their children’s kindergarten and first grade teachers were leading the class in unconstitutional prayers, their teachers allegedly “told the Doe children to leave their classrooms and sit in the hallway while the rest of the class prayed.” One of the children, a first grader, said that the teacher “used her mean voice” when she told the child to leave the classroom. Meanwhile, Cel Thompson, a kindergarten teacher, allegedly “announced to the entire kindergarten class that Jamie [Doe] was not allowed to pray to God and then told Jamie to wait in the hallway while the rest of the class prayed.”

Bobby Jindal’s New Tax Plan Is A Right-Wing Nightmare

Republican presidential candidate and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal will release a tax plan on Wednesday that would eliminate corporate taxes while hiking them on the lowest-income Americans, making his proposal the most extreme to be released by a 2016 candidate thus far.

His proposal would completely eliminate corporate taxes. That goes much further than other candidates, who have all so far proposed simply lowering the corporate tax rate. It’s currently 35 percent on paper, although corporations already use a variety of loopholes, breaks, and accounting mechanisms to pay an effective rate under 20 percent.

Murder, Incorporated: Guns and the Growing Culture of Violence in the US

Nine people were killed and seven wounded recently in a mass shooting at a community college in Roseburg, Oregon. Such shootings are more than another tragic expression of unchecked violence in the United States; they are symptomatic of a society engulfed in fear, militarism, a survival-of-the-fittest ethos and a growing disdain for human life. Sadly, this shooting is not an isolated incident. Over 270 mass shootings have taken place in the United States this year alone, proving once again that the economic, political and social conditions that underlie such violence are not being addressed.

Did the US Bombing of an Afghan Hospital Cross the Line Between Screwup and War Crime?

On October 3, just after 2 a.m., a US AC-130 warplane dropped its first bombs on a Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, beginning an attack that lasted more than an hour. The strikes killed 12 MSF staff and 10 patients, including three children, and they wounded 37 others.

"Those people that could had moved quickly to the building's two bunkers to seek safety," Heman Nagarathnam, MSF's head of programs in northern Afghanistan, who was in the hospital at the time, said in a statement. "But patients who were unable to escape burned to death as they lay in their beds."

Grace Lee Boggs Was a True Radical

On Monday, Grace Lee Boggs ended a full life, by any measure, after witnessing many eras of segregation and social unrest, surviving the Great Depression and the Great Recession, experiencing the ravages of deindustrialization and climate change, and all the while, sustaining a belief in radical action.

In an interview I did with Boggs in 2014 (published in Guernica magazine and broadcast on Asia Pacific Forum), she talked about her work and that of others, as if, at nearly 100, there was still much more to do.


Eleven months to the day Michael Zehaf-Bibeau went hunting for targets in Ottawa – killing ceremonial guard Nathan Cirillo at the national war monument – another lone gunman was on the loose in Eastern Ontario, murdering three women as Renfrew County was set to host its annual Take Back The Night march.

As happened during the Parliament Hill shooting, schools, courthouses, and other public institutions were on lockdown in a number of Ottawa Valley communities on September 22. Heavily-armed police searched for and eventually arrested a suspect (Basil Borutski) in the targeted killings of Anastasia Kuzyk, Nathalie Warmerdam and Carol Culleton. All were reportedly former partners of Borutski who, according to published reports, has a lengthy criminal record (including past charges involving two of the women).

Turkey Dragged A Kurdish Man Behind An Armored Vehicle. Then It Got Worse.

The Turkish government has entered damage control mode after the release this weekend of images that appear to show authorities dragging the body of a dead Kurdish man by the neck behind an armored vehicle.

The disturbing images have garnered coverage in top international news outlets. And the Turkish government's response has been nearly as disquieting as the images themselves.

Europe Takes Major Stand Against U.S. Data Surveillance

A new ruling could make it harder for American organizations to harvest data from European citizens.

In a landmark decision Tuesday, the Court of Justice of the European Union struck down the so-called "Safe Harbor" agreement, which for nearly 20 years has allowed firms to easily transfer information across the Atlantic. While that information runs the gamut from payroll data to Google search information, the decision is largely meant to stifle the United States National Security Agency's unfettered access to data.

Trans-Pacific Partnership: No time-outs allowed in the class struggle

With 14 days to go in the election campaign, Stephen Harper announced the conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, a comprehensive economic integration deal pushed by the U.S., that will cover 12 countries including Japan, but excluding China.
The TPP constructs an American-led trade bloc aimed at China. It is protectionist: designed to inhibit Chinese encroachment into advanced trade areas such as patents and trademarks, pharmaceuticals, digital software, telecommunications, and government procurement.

New report warns of growing income gap in Toronto

Toronto’s much-vaunted status as one of the world’s “most livable” cities masks the reality that a sizable underclass of people is missing out on the benefits of life in the Big Smoke, according to a new report on the social and economic standing of the city.

Published Tuesday by the Toronto Foundation, the “Vital Signs 2015” report surveyed recent data from Statistics Canada, academic research and other sources to analyze the quality of life in the city, based on factors such as access to transit, affordable housing, well-paying and stable jobs, sense of belonging and health.

Islamophobia, the niqab and dog-whistle racism in the Canadian election

The danger with dog-whistle politics is the very real, very violent anger and emotions it unleashes.
We are seeing this in the ugly and racist campaign the Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois are disgracefully waging against the very small number of women of the Islamic faith who chose to wear the niqab face veil.
For many months now the Conservatives have been seeking to shift the focus from real issues -- like the economy, the environment, senate scandals, etc. -- to this total non-issue. They appear to be succeeding.

Harper government partnered with industry group fighting CRA over KPMG case

The Harper government forged a partnership with a major Canadian accounting association, formalizing it as an adviser to the Canada Revenue Agency, at the same time as the group was fighting the CRA in court to shield the files of multimillionaires who had stashed money offshore.

Revenue Minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay trumpeted the alliance in November 2014 as a "new era of information and collaboration" between the Canada Revenue Agency and Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada.

Canada Election 2015: Is The TPP Deal A Political Play For The Conservatives?

OTTAWA — The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is a bit of a rare bird in Canadian politics, a long-running government negotiation that suddenly lays the golden egg in the middle of an election campaign.

For about 15 minutes, Stephen Harper suggested he wasn't about to milk the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal for all it was worth in political capital.

Big Business Holding $2.1 Trillion In Profits Offshore To Avoid Paying Taxes, Study Finds

The 500 largest American companies hold more than $2.1 trillion in accumulated profits offshore to avoid U.S. taxes and would collectively owe an estimated $620 billion in U.S. taxes if they repatriated the funds, according to a study released on Tuesday.

The study, by two left-leaning non-profit groups, found that nearly three-quarters of the firms on the Fortune 500 list of biggest American companies by gross revenue operate tax haven subsidiaries in countries like Bermuda, Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

The Many Ways Women Are Beaten Down in America

In 1955 Mrs. Dale Carnegie, whose husband wrote the best-seller “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” advised her fellow housewives: “The two big steps that women must take are to help their husbands decide where they are going and use their pretty heads to help them get there. Let’s face it, girls. That wonderful guy in your house – and in mine – is building your house, your happiness and the opportunities that will come to your children.”

Why Wouldn't a Public Broadcaster Air a National Election Debate?

Hubert Lacroix, the president of the CBC, recently placed the future of Canada's national public broadcaster on the electoral map with comments aimed at sparking a renewed debate on future funding models. Lacroix disputed claims that low ratings are to blame for the CBC's financial struggles, instead pointing to the need to consider alternative fee schemes, including new levies on internet providers or supplementary charges on television purchases.

How Tories Dumped Your Interests at the Pump

Oil prices have plunged by 50 per cent since last year, but you would never know that looking at what people are paying at the pump. What gives?

Don't ask the Conservatives. They halted the department in charge of telling us how much their Big Oil backers are profiting from those market-defying high prices.

This transatlantic trade deal is a full-frontal assault on democracy

Remember that referendum about whether we should create a single market with the United States? You know, the one that asked whether corporations should have the power to strike down our laws? No, I don't either. Mind you, I spent 10 minutes looking for my watch the other day before I realised I was wearing it. Forgetting about the referendum is another sign of ageing. Because there must have been one, mustn't there? After all that agonising over whether or not we should stay in the European Union, the government wouldn't cede our sovereignty to some shadowy, undemocratic body without consulting us. Would it?