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.]

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The “Hood Robin” Economy

In 1973, if you put the 1 percent of the country that had made the most money in a room and got them to empty out their pockets, you’d see 8 percent of all the money paid out in wages over the last year falling to the floor. If you’d repeated that exercise in 2008, you’d find 18 percent of the economy’s income on the ground. You’d better have a pretty big room.

But that’s what makes the rich different from you and me: their riches. The problem is that since 1973 median wages have been stagnating. Inequality isn’t just rising because the rich are getting richer. It’s rising because the rest of us, by and large, aren’t. If median household incomes had risen between 1974 and 2008 by as much as they rose between 1949 and 1973, the median family would be making well over $100,000 a year by now. In such a world, we might wonder about inequality, but we’d have less reason to worry about it.

But the rest are not getting richer. The question is whether the two phenomena are connected: Has the economy gone Hood Robin, with median wages stagnating because the folks at the tippy-top are channeling more and more of the economy’s gains into their own bank accounts? Or have the rich and famous moved into their own economy, and whatever is going on with median incomes is a different problem that will require different solutions?

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The Jobless Economy

Christina Romer, former member of U.S. President Barack Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, accuses the administration of "shamefully ignoring" the unemployed. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman echoes her concerns, observing that Washington has lost interest in "the forgotten millions." The unemployed in the U.S. have been ignored and forgotten, but they are far from superfluous. Over the last two years, out-of-work Americans have played a critical role in helping the richest one per cent recover trillions in financial wealth.

Obama's advisers often congratulate themselves for avoiding another Great Depression – an assertion not amenable to serious analysis or debate. A better way to evaluate their claims is to compare the U.S. economy to that of other rich countries over the last few years.

In terms of sustaining economic growth, the United States is doing better than nearly all advanced economies. From the first quarter of 2008 to the end of 2010, U.S. gross domestic product growth outperformed that of every G7 country except Canada.

But, when it comes to jobs, U.S. policy-makers fall short of their rosy self-evaluations. Despite the fact that the U.S. is the country with the second-highest economic growth, Paul Wiseman of The Associated Press reports that "the U.S. job market remains the group's weakest. U.S. employment bottomed and started growing again a year ago, but there are still 5.4 per cent fewer American jobs than in December 2007. That's a much sharper drop than in any other G7 country." According to an important study by Andrew Sum and Joseph McLaughlin, the U.S. boasted one of the lowest unemployment rates in the rich world before the housing crash. Now, it has the highest.

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Late Delivery for Canada's F-35s?

First they cost more than expected, now they're later than expected. Will they be worth the wait?

Delivery of Canada's new F-35 fighter jets could be delayed beyond its expected date of 2016 due to ongoing development problems in the U.S. In the meantime, according to the Defence Department, Canada will continue flying its CF-18s, which are scheduled to retire between 2017 and 2020. Critics of the F-35 program -- the costliest military acquisition in Canadian history -- believe the delay is proof of the government's dwindling credibility on the issue. Steve Staples, president of the Rideau Institute, an organization that is opposed to the F-35 deal, said,“The public should have no faith in what the government or military is saying about the F-35.” After insisting the jets would cost $75-million each, the government acknowledged they would cost more but would not estimate a new price.


Justice Department Asks Court To Lift Ban

MADISON, Wis. — State attorneys asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Friday to immediately vacate a Madison judge's decision striking down Republican Gov. Scott Walker's contentious collective bargaining law.

Judge Maryann Sumi invalidated the law on Thursday after finding Republican legislators violated Wisconsin's open records law during the run-up to passage in March. The decision came in a lawsuit Democratic Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne filed challenging the law.

The state Justice Department is representing the Republicans. The agency's attorneys asked the state Supreme Court to take the case and the court set oral arguments on whether it should make a move for June 6. Deputy Attorney General Kevin St. John said in a letter to the justices late Friday they need to act now.

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Brandon Ross Charged With Murder After Police Fatally Shoot 15-Year-Old Companion

A 16-year-old boy has been charged with murder after a Chicago police officer fatally shot his 15-year-old friend Wednesday on the South Side.

Brandon Ross and his friend Tatioun Williams allegedly robbed a man at gunpoint in the 7000 block of South Cregier Avenue Wednesday evening, and were confronted by police officers a short time later, the Chicago Tribune reports.

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Canada Post Strike Looms In Face Of Stalled Negotiations

OTTAWA (CP) -- The union executive for urban workers at Canada Post said it would meet with its bargaining committee on the weekend to plan their next move as there was a pause in talks aimed at averting a strike.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers issued a statement that said there was little progress in negotiations Friday on issues such as staffing, workload and safety.

"There is no indication that CPC (Canada Post Corp.) is prepared to seriously discuss the real problems facing postal workers," the CUPW statement said. "For CPC management these negotiations are mainly about eliminating sick leave and imposing less pay and benefits on workers."

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Ford’s subways will require tolls and grants

It will likely take new road tolls and congestion charges and other revenue tools to help deliver “the biggest transit deal in North America, or perhaps the world,” says the man hired to pave the path toward the $4 billion Sheppard Subway.

As such, claims that the private sector will step in and build the line on their own are not realistic, says Gordon Chong, ex-city councillor, ex-chair of GO Transit, ex-TTC commissioner and now chair of the Toronto Transit Infrastructure Ltd., the dormant investment arm of the transit company.

As well as tolls, there will need to be increased government grants, unprecedented development fees, revenue tools not used here before, plus the public-private partnership Mayor Rob Ford covets in order to make the project happen, Chong said in an interview.

As he moved into an empty and surplus section of City Hall this week, Chong’s reality check is a sobering reminder of how many hurdles stand in the way of a subway-building future he and others crave.

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G8 and the Internet

The irony couldn't be more obvious. After staging a piece of political theater called the E-G8, which French President Nicolas Sarkozy used as a platform to champion the notion of much tougher government control over the Internet, the president today will welcome to the analog G8 meeting in Deauville, representatives from the interim governments of Tunisia and Egypt.

Without the Internet, and social media in particular, the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt would simply have never occurred.

Sarkozy's problem is that, like other political leaders, he doesn't like a medium over which the government does not have final authority. With the Internet's arrival, lofty concepts such as freedom of speech and freedom of thought are actually gaining traction. Prior to this, freedom of speech was meaningful only to those who powerful people who could use the printing presses and broadcast media.

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Corporate Donations Ban Unconstitutional, Judge Rules

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- A U.S. judge has ruled that the campaign finance law banning corporations from making contributions to federal candidates is unconstitutional, saying that a recent Supreme Court decision gives companies the same right to donate as individual citizens enjoy.

In a ruling issued late Thursday, U.S. District Judge James Cacheris tossed out part of an indictment against two people charged with illegally reimbursing donors to Hillary Clinton's 2006 Senate and 2008 presidential campaigns.

Cacheris says that under the Supreme Court's landmark Citizens United decision last year, corporations have the right to give to federal candidates.

The ruling from the federal judge in Virginia is the first of its kind. The Citizens United case had applied only to corporate spending on campaign activities by independent groups, such as ads run by third parties to favor one side, not to direct contributions to the candidates themselves.

Cacheris noted in his ruling that only one other court has addressed the issue in the wake of Citizens United ruling. A federal judge in Minnesota ruled the other way, allowing a state ban on corporate contributions to stand.

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