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, October 16, 2011

Occupy Toronto planning event for stock exchange opening

Occupy Toronto campers waking up after their first overnight stay say Sunday’s events will include more marches and planning for a big splash when Bay Street opens Monday.

Toronto’s St. James park is now tent city central for the Occupy Toronto movement. Some protesters were woken awake by the loud church bells at 8 a.m. as the camp stirred to activity to a nippy fall morning. In one corner, a guitarist sang as he strummed a tune, while other volunteers walked around with boxes laden with breakfast snacks.

“We need more toilet paper,” yelled out one of the overnight campers to the organizers prioritizing supplies.

Much of the noon-time general assembly will focus on logistics, said spokesperson Eric Wilson, a 26-year-old farmer from Peterborough, Ont.

Riots in Rome as Wall Street protests go global

ROME—Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets across the globe on Saturday to denounce bankers, politicians and businessmen for ruining the world’s economies, with violence breaking out in Rome as angry protesters torched cars and smashed bank windows.

Galvanized by the Occupy Wall Street movement, the protests began in New Zealand, touched parts of Asia, spread to Europe, and ultimately resumed at their starting point in New York.

The demonstrations by the disaffected coincided with the Group of 20 meeting in Paris, where finance ministers and central bankers from major economies were holding talks on the debt and deficit crises afflicting many Western countries.

While most rallies were small and barely held up traffic, the Rome event drew tens of thousands of people and snaked through the city centre for kilometres.

The 99 Percent Rise Up

How did Occupy Wall Street suddenly become Occupy Los Angeles? Occupy Cleveland? Occupy Janesville? Occupy Pocatello? How did a sleep-in beneath the skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan inspire kayakers clad as Robin Hood to paddle up the Chicago River under a banner reading, Wall St. Takes From the 99%. Gives to the Rich? And how did those giant cutouts of JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon end up dancing with all those San Franciscans chanting, “Make banks pay”? Despite what Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain suggests, it was not some “orchestrated” attempt to deflect blame from the flawed policies of the Obama administration. It was not the media looking for a “left-wing Tea Party.” And it certainly was not a poll-tested, focus-grouped PR campaign that billionaire-funded front groups employ to gin up movements.

Occupy Wall Street started small, took a beating from the cops and struggled for weeks to get the attention of the political class, the media and even its own natural allies. The only thing going for this unlikely intervention has been the pitch-perfect resonance of its founding premises. The American people understood Occupy Wall Street, and began to embrace its promise, long before the mandarins who presume to chart our national discourse noticed that everything was changing. That’s because the generators of this movement—and it is a movement—have gotten three things right from the start:

The Treasury's Smart Plan to Get the Government Out of Home Financing

Once upon a time, when the housing market was thriving, investors loved mortgages. They didn't care if they were prime, subprime, privately financed, or government-backed -- their love seemed unconditional. Investors threw so much money at housing that a gigantic bubble inflated. But then, it popped. Investors got burned: the mortgages they trusted turned out to be poisonous. Billions of dollars in losses from toxic securities nearly killed the investors. So the relationship ended on very bad terms. Even now, most investors will only look at mortgage securities if they're disguised as Treasuries. But the Treasury reportedly has a pretty slick idea to get these estranged lovers together again.

How Do You Jumpstart a Dead Market

Right now, the government backs something like 90% of new mortgages. Back when the housing market was thriving, private label mortgage-backed securities -- those not backed by the government -- were responsible for funding roughly 40% of mortgage originations. Three years after the crisis, the private label market remains virtually dead.

Deconstructing Rick Perry's Energy and Jobs Plan

The centerpiece of Rick Perry's economic plan, released this morning, is a pledge to create 1.2 million energy jobs. Mitt Romney has already promised to create nearly 1.5 million energy jobs. Why do we keep hearing numbers in this ballpark? And are they plausible?
The figures appear to come largely from a study prepared by the consultants Wood Mackenzie and published last month by the American Petroleum Institute (API). (Perry explicitly footnotes it in his plan.) That study found that "U.S. policies which encourage the development of new and existing resources could, by 2030... support an additional 1.4 million jobs".  About 1.2 million of those are based on expansion of U.S. production by 6.0 million barrels per day of oil and 22.4 billion cubic feet of gas per day by 2030, along with approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. (The rest come from future U.S.-Canada pipelines). The study projects interim impacts of 700,000 new jobs by 2015 and 1.1 million by 2020.

No Federal Help For Virginia Town After 3 Disasters

LOUISA, Va. -- Residents of this rural community just outside Richmond know they may be lucky, seeing as how no one died in the earthquake, hurricane and tornado that have hit back-to-back-to-back in the past few months. That doesn't mean they aren't bitter: "Louisa cares: Because the feds don't," read Friday's headline atop the local newspaper.

The federal government has refused to help foot the $18 million tab for the damage from the disaster trifecta, most of which was caused by the earthquake, leaving people to host fundraisers and help out neighbors because few homes and businesses had insurance. But they say they can't do it alone.

Many look at how bad things could have been and note no one was killed in any of the disasters that began when the 5.8-magnitude earthquake began in Louisa County on Aug. 23 and rumbled all along the East Coast. The hurricane and tornado were far less destructive – the former bringing mostly heavy rain and wind gusts, the latter damaging only a plantation home dating to the 18th century. Still, they hope they're in the clear for a while.

"What's next and how much more does the good Lord think we can take?" asked 44-year-old Fran Grimm, as she helped set up for a community fundraiser in a muddy field near the local high school that closed after suffering cracked walls and damage to the roof from the earthquake. "It's a miracle that no one was hurt."

The disasters were themselves unlikely phenomena.

Occupy Times Square: Occupy Wall Street Protesters Swarm Midtown

NEW YORK, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Thousands of anti-Wall Street protesters rallied in New York's Times Square on Saturday, buoyed by a global day of demonstrations in support of their monthlong campaign against corporate greed.

Inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement, protests on Saturday started in Asia and rippled through Europe back to the United States and Canada. Protesters fed up with economic inequality took to the streets in cities from Washington, Boston and Chicago to Los Angeles, Miami and Toronto.

After weeks of intense media coverage, the size of the U.S. protests on Saturday have been smaller than G20 meetings or political conventions yielded in recent years. Such events often draw tens of thousands of demonstrators.

In New York, where the movement began when protesters set up camp in a Lower Manhattan park on Sept. 17, organizers said the protest grew to at least 5,000 people as they marched to Times Square from their makeshift outdoor headquarters.

"These protests are already making a difference," said Jordan Smith, 25, a former substance abuse counselor from San Francisco, who joined the New York protest. "The dialogue is now happening all over the world."

Occupy Wall St. comes to Canada

One of the first arrivals early this morning at Bay and King, the financial district launch spot for today’s Occupy Toronto demonstration, was a transgendered woman named Stephanie who parked her silver Dodge Dakota SLT pickup truck on the southwest corner, erected a hefty P.A. system, a microphone and stand, and began blasting dated top-40 hits at high volume into the gathering crowd. At one point, Robert Palmer’s “Simply Irresistible”, from 1988, welcomes the arrival of young people in Guy Fawkes masks and skinny jeans.

Her sound equipment, pink Roots sweatshirt and skirt, as well as her wide shoulders and commanding style, evidently persuaded police and at least a few protestors to identify her as a principle organizer. Officers stopped on their bicycles to discuss with her the route the protestors would march. “We’re going to shut down a few streets and make some noise,” Stephanie told someone nearby. “They’re giving us no hassle.”

The corner had over a period of an hour or so become bloated with people—perhaps a thousand, but it was hard to tell. Not far away, a young boy, maybe 10 or 11, stood with his brother as the backdrop for a television reporter’s standup. The boy wore a black baseball cap perched backwards on his head; a tuft of blond hair popped out from the front. He looked healthy and middle class. “We are the 99 per cent,” his sign read.

“What time is it,” Stephanie asked someone. “Ten-thirty? I think we should start moving.” Another organizer with red hair said the idea was to wait a little longer. A young woman with dark hair strode up. “I just came back from Wall Street,” she told Stephanie, referring to the Occupy mobilization that for the past month has been headquartered in lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park, near New York’s financial district, protesting greed and inspiring echo movements across North America, including this one.

Occupy protesters united by frustration, participants say

Activists set up a small tent city in St. James Park Saturday evening, preparing to bunk down for the first, uncertain night of the Occupy Toronto demonstration.

The demonstration, which attracted more than 2,000 people, mimics one in New York, where protesters have occupied a park near Wall Street since Sept. 17 to show their frustration with the growing gap between the wealthiest 1 per cent and the everyone else. More took place across Canada, and hundreds of similar protests were held around the world.

As darkness fell in Toronto, about 200 activists broke away from the main group with shouts of "Take it to the streets." They charted a winding course through the city's downtown core, pausing at Dundas Square before returning to St. James Park. At about 7 p.m., police set up a truck equipped with at least two video cameras at the north end of the park. Constable Tony Vella said police use the images to make tactical decisions and as evidence, if needed.

Meanwhile, some activists fretted over a suggestion that police might raid the park overnight or early Sunday morning in search of illegal substances. "Please be careful, be smart, and let's keep this park safe," an organizer told the group during the meeting.

The paycheque-to-paycheque life of a flight attendant

Alison Kjertinge was 8 years old and a Grade 3 student in Mississauga in 1971 when she first laid eyes on a flight attendant. She thought she was the coolest, most beautiful creature in the world.

In those days, they were called stewardesses, and Kjertinge spent the entire Toronto to London flight mesmerized by the woman with pouffy hair and blue eyes who was so kind to her. Right then and there, she knew what she wanted to be when she grew up.

She’s done it. At 48, she flies with Air Canada and loves it, both the flying and the company. With an honours degree and four languages, she gets to fly international routes that include Sydney, Tokyo, Beijing and London.

What she doesn’t love is the monthly reviews of her budget that usually leave her tearing her hair out. She’s a divorced mother of two with 27 years at Air Canada who makes $46,300 a year when she flies.

“I’m very careful with a dollar, but we still live paycheque to paycheque,” Kjertinge said in a recent telephone interview from Guelph, where she was visiting family (she grew up in Mississauga). She flies out of Vancouver.

“I’m not slamming Air Canada. I’m the best-case scenario and I have good routes, but if I’m struggling, I look at younger staffers who make much less and wonder how they do it. They started just like me — with stars in their eyes.”

Anita Perry, Rick Perry's Wife, Blames Obama Administration For Son Losing Job

Anita Perry, the wife of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, said she sympathized with the unemployed Friday because her son resigned from his job at Deutsche Bank to campaign for his father, reports CNN.

"He resigned his job two weeks ago because he can't go out and campaign with his father because of SEC regulations," she said at a Pendleton, S.C. diner, in response to a middle-aged voter who lost his six-figure job and now works as a handyman. "My son lost his job because of this administration," she added. CNN reports that the SEC recently adopted stricter rules for investment advisers undertaking political activity.

However, Thursday she said that he eagerly resigned. She recalled when her husband brought the family together to discuss his run for president last May. "So, our son Griffin Perry is 28. He loves politics, and he just couldn't wait. He said, 'Dad, I'm in! I'm in! I'll do whatever you need me to do. I'll resign my job. I'll do what you need me to do,'" she said in a speech at North Greenville University.

ABC News reported that the 28-year old recently quit his job to start an independent consulting firm and to focus on campaigning for his father. He lives in Dallas with his wife, who works as an attorney.

Lake Erie's Toxic Algae Bloom Seen From Space: Green Scum Rampant In The Great Lakes (PHOTOS)

Toxic algae is sucking the oxygen out of Lake Erie.

The lake is currently undergoing one of the worst algae blooms in decades, turning the water a scummy bright green. According to NASA, blooms like this did occur in the 1950's and 60's, but now phosphorus from farms, sewage, and industry have fertilized the waters.

After the 60's, increased regulations and improvements in agriculture and sewage treatment limited the phosphorus and helped to control the blooms. However, the shallower Western basin near Detroit has been more susceptible to the algae than other deeper areas.

The exact reason behind the bloom is a bit unclear, but scientists believe it could be linked to increased rainfall and, believe it or not, mussels. It seems the types of mussel, zebra and quagga that have invaded the lake feed on phytoplankton instead of algae, making it even easier for the blooms to occur, according to NASA.

Tax Cuts For Wealthy Americans Cost Treasury $11.6 Million Every Hour: Report

Tax cuts for America’s top earners are costing everyone, every hour of every day, a new report from the National Priorities Project finds.

Tax cuts for the wealthiest five percent of Americans cost the U.S. Treasury $11.6 million every hour, according to the National Priorities Project. America’s top earners will get an average tax cut of $66,384 in 2011, while the bottom 20 percent will get an average cut of $107.

The report comes as party leaders wrangle over the best way to curb the nation’s budget deficit, protesters around the world demonstrate against income inequality and corporate greed and Republican presidential candidates offer their economic plans to voters. Former pizza company CEO and Republican presidential candidate, Herman Cain, has been getting lots of attention in recent weeks for “999 Plan” which would cap the corporate, income and sales tax rates at 9 percent.

President Barack Obama unveiled his deficit reduction plan last month, which aims to curb the national debt through a combination of tax cuts and increased spending. The plan includes a proposal to increase taxes on millionaires -- the so-called Buffett rule, name for famed billionaire investor Warren Buffett. In an August op-ed in The New York Times, Buffett argued that lawmakers should put an end to tax breaks for the “super-rich.”

Ford still befuddled with budget

After many weeks of wrangling over the core service review and with many more debates to come, Mayor Rob Ford took the opportunity yesterday to reinforce his position on the city’s fiscal crisis.

And his position will come as no surprise.

Toronto cannot reach its full potential until it gets its debt situation under control, Mr. Ford told the crowd, invited by the Empire Club of Canada, at an event sponsored by the National Post.

“The sad truth is that we are losing the ability to make our own decisions,” Mr. Ford warned the audience at Toronto’s Royal York Hotel. According to the Mayor, years of balancing the books only with unexpected windfalls and one-time revenues have left Toronto with $4-billion in debt, plans to borrow an additional $2-billion and annual debt-servicing costs that will climb 50%, to more than $600-million, by 2014. That mounting figure, says the Mayor, combined with the city’s structural deficit, leaves Toronto unable to make long-term plans and invest in its future. The city’s efforts are perpetually focused on staying solvent for the next 12 months.