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.]

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Where Are the Women at Occupy Wall Street? Everywhere—and They're Not Going Away

“Where my feminists at?” read a sign propped against a bench at the entrance to Zuccotti Park on Thursday night as a General Assembly meeting began to echo over the human microphone.

Five days of observing working group meetings, sitting in on General Assemblies and talking to women at the occupation suggests that the answer to the sign’s question is a resounding “everywhere.” Women have been entrenched in the day-to-day (running meetings, procuring food) and long-term (analyzing structure, building solidarity) work of Occupy Wall Street from day one, and are committed to sticking around. Thanks to the women involved, as well as a number of their allies, OWS has tweaked its “horizontal” structure to ensure a maximum diversity of participation. They are doing this work not only for themselves, the OWS women say, but for the movement. “ ‘Liberation is not the private province of any one particular group,’ ” says Shaista Husain—an activist from the CUNY media and culture studies department, who has been working with Occupy Wall Street since it began—quoting Audre Lorde. Elevating the voices of women and people of color, she says, isn’t about “identity politics” but about sustainability, building “a viable meaningful protest against the hegemony of the rich.”

Supercommittee Democrats Offer Major Capitulation

Very distressing news broke during this morning’s meeting of the supercommittee: aides told Reuters that Democratic members of the committee have proposed $2.5 to $3 trillion in deficit reduction measures, including $400 billion in cuts to Medicare—a half of which would come from benefits.

The Democratic proposal consists of an even split between tax increases and spending cuts, and also $200 to $300 billion in new stimulus spending that would be paid for because interest payments on the debt would be lowered if the plan passed. The $400 billion in Medicare cuts would be split evenly between beneficiaries and providers. It was reportedly a formal proposal advanced by Senator Max Baucus, though Clyburn is said to object to the Medicare cuts.

The supercommittee has largely been deliberating behind closed doors, but as far as anyone knows the Republicans have not proposed anything this concrete. This begs serious questions, once again, about Democrats’ negotiating techniques in the ongoing budget and debt ceiling dramas.

Occupy Canada: Eviction Notice Surprises Halifax Protesters In Downtown Square

HALIFAX - Occupy Nova Scotia protesters mulled their options Wednesday after getting an eviction notice to leave the public square in front of Halifax City Hall.

Mayor Peter Kelly wants the group to move to another space by the early evening of Nov. 6 so the Grand Parade can be cleaned up and readied for ceremonies marking Remembrance Day and Kristallnacht in Germany when more than 30,000 Jews were arrested by the Nazis in 1938.

Protest spokesman Stuart Caldwell said the mayor's directive came as a bit of a surprise and they haven't worked out a response yet.

"We're sort of waiting to see how this is going to play out. We've discussed it at great lengths and at this point we are exploring our options," said Caldwell.

He said the protesters want to speak to city officials to see if a compromise can be reached over the patchwork collection of tents pitched in front of city hall. About 70 people have been camping out peacefully in the square, which is home to the city's cenotaph, for the past two weeks.

Occupy Vancouver Dominates City's Mayoral Race

Vancouver mayoral candidate Suzanne Anton is turning up the pressure on Mayor Gregor Robertson to force an end to the Occupy Vancouver protest on the lawn of the downtown art gallery.

The city councillor says she is introducing a motion to have council give those in the encampment a week to move. She calls the activists and protesters that have set up the elaborate tent city on the site "squatters."

Robertson, who is running for a second term as mayor in the upcoming civic election on Nov. 19, has suggested the city can't do much about the encampment, because the art gallery lawn they are occupying is actually provincial land.

Abolishing the gun registry: following the links as suggested

It’s not fair, I suppose, to expect Public Safety Minister Vic Toews to have cleaned up all the inconsistencies on federal government websites in advance of his announcement yesterday that the long-gun registry is about to be, not only dismantled, but obliterated so all that expensively compiled data on guns can never be used again.

Still, I found it surprising that at the bottom of the background document his department provided yesterday, Abolishing the Long-Gun Registry: Proposed Reforms to the Firearms Act and Criminal Code, I found a note helpfully suggesting a visit to the RCMP’s Canada Firearms Program website.

Surprising because the RCMP has routinely provided, on that very website, sensible information about the registry and its usefulness, all running counter to Toews’ overheated arguments. Indeed, when I dutifully followed the link provided, I found myself reading the latest “facts and figures” released on the registry, under this brief explanatory note:

The registration of firearms links firearms and their licensed owners, thereby enhancing owners’ accountability for safe storage and use of firearms. A centralized, on-line, secure database of firearms information helps police and other public safety officials carry out investigations efficiently and effectively enabling them to quickly trace a firearm to its last lawful owner.

It’s hard to square that common-sensical summary of the aim of the registry with Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner’s comment yesterday, as she stood with Toews to announce the scrapping of the registry, that it had “unfairly targeted law-abiding Canadians, specifically law-abiding firearms owners, as criminals for simply owning a long gun.”

Regardless of whether the registry was worth the cost or not, how is it reasonable to declare that asking gun owners to register their weapons was tantamount to calling them criminals?

How is having to register a rifle or shotgun more of an affront than all of the elements of gun control that the Conservatives hasten to say they will retain, including the need to get a licence to own a gun, to pass a training course, to clear a police background check, and, yes, to register restricted firearms like handguns?

All these rules will continue to apply to law-abiding Canadians, and the imposition of them hardly amounts to calling those gun owners criminals. The registry was no different. Pretending it was is cynical in the extreme.

Source: Maclean's  

What could go wrong with a low-bid garbage contract?

After the city decided to contract out all garbage service west of Yonge Street on Monday, I wrote a post outlining how some customer-service trouble the city recently uncovered with another of its private contractors points to an area of possible worry. Blogger Matt Elliott of Ford for Toronto has an excellent post summarizing what it means (risk) and what it doesn’t mean (more money in the budget for other things, better service).

I want to explore the idea of risk a bit, partly because some advocates of contracting out services scoff at the possibility it exists. As the reliably cartoonish Sue-Ann Levy of the Sun put it, “We kept hearing that the bid was too low — as if the idea of a contractor being efficient was beyond their grasp.” But then some of her other arguments involved calling Councillor Krystin Wong-Tam “Wrong-Turn” and suggesting that Councillor Ana Bailao’s failure to conduct proper due diligence on the entire contract in three working days was some kind of sign she cares only about pandering to unions. Perhaps we’ll not take Sue-Ann’s arguments too seriously. But still, what exactly is it—other than the concept of efficiency—that these people who suggested taking a bit more time to study the bid were afraid of?

Opposition cries foul over Harper’s unilingual Auditor-General pick

Sheila Fraser’s successor can’t speak French and the opposition is outraged.

Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae says his caucus will oppose the nomination of Michael Ferguson, a former New Brunswick auditor and deputy minister. And NDP MP Yvon Godin has gone one step farther, filing a letter of protest to the Official Languages Commissioner.

“I wish to point out that the government is violating its own rules,” Mr. Godin wrote to Graham Fraser, referring to the Auditor-General’s job description, which says “proficiency in both official languages is essential.”

“The series of unilingual appointments made by the Conservative government to key positions is not a good sign for Canada’s linguistic duality,” he said.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently named Mr. Justice Michael Moldaver, who is also unilingual, to the Supreme Court of Canada. And Mr. Harper’s new director of communications, Angelo Persichilli, struggles with French.

NATO delays decision to end Libyan mission

BRUSSELS—NATO unexpectedly postponed a definite decision to end its bombing campaign in Libya as consultations continued Wednesday with the UN and the country’s interim government over how and when to wind down the operation.

Last week, the alliance announced preliminary plans to phase out its mission on Oct. 31. NATO’s governing body — the North Atlantic Council, or NAC — was expected to formalize that decision Wednesday.

Air patrols have continued in the meantime because some alliance members were concerned that a quick end to NATO’s seven-month operation could lead to a resurgence in violence.

On Wednesday, spokeswoman Carmen Romero said NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen was consulting with the United Nations and Libya’s National Transitional Council.

“The NAC will meet with partners on Friday to discuss our Libya mission and take a formal decision,” she said, adding that there was an “ongoing process” in the UN Security Council.

Occupy protesters defy calls to leave London cathedral

LONDON—St. Paul’s Cathedral has welcomed visitors for 300 years, but for almost a week its heavy oak doors have been shut, locked because of an anti-capitalist protest camp outside the landmark building.

Church officials say the campsite is a health hazard, and on Wednesday London’s Anglican bishop asked the demonstrators to leave. But the protesters are settling in for a long stay, and accuse the church of choosing the wrong side in the standoff between capitalism and idealism that has spawned sit-ins from New York to Sydney.

“We want this church to open,” said a 50-year-old protest spokesman who gave his name as Akira. “We were shocked that they closed it.”

In recent days authorities in several cities around the world have swooped in to evict encampments of anti-corporate demonstrators inspired by New York’s Occupy Wall Street movement. But London’s campsite has grown since protesters erected tents near the base of the cathedral steps on Oct. 15. They had hoped to camp outside the nearby London Stock Exchange, but were stopped by police. Cathedral officials initially permitted the protesters to stay.

CETA: A Threat to Local Democracy

This week, European Union trade officials are in Canada to meet with their Canadian counterparts on what might be the final round of negotiations on a huge new trade agreement called CETA - the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. Because it will affect every Canadian, it is urgent that we get a debate going in this country on this massive new free trade deal.

Unlike some other trade agreements, CETA has had very little media attention or public profile. There are two reasons for this. The first is that the Harper government has kept CETA under wraps and negotiated it in secret. We only know the perimeters of CETA through unofficial reports, the Europeans themselves, who are very open about their demands, and through a now dated leaked draft of the text. The Harper government is ideologically driven by a belief in the privatization, deregulation and strengthened corporate power that attend trade deals like CETA and others it is negotiating, and does not encourage debate on any of them.

The other reason CETA has had little opposition is that many Canadians have an out-dated view of Europe as having higher social, environmental, and worker standards and believe that diversifying our trade away from the U.S. to a more enlightened jurisdiction such as Europe must be a good thing. Indeed, a few years ago, I would have felt the same way.

Protester Brings Occupy Wall Sreet To Super Committee

WASHINGTON -- A protester brought the message of Occupy Wall Street to the deficit-slashing super committee on Wednesday, even as Democrats on the committee sounded like they want to ring up even bigger cuts than required by law.

With Democrats and Republicans sparring over the underlying issue of whether the committee should hike taxes, and whether various parts of the nation's spending are out of whack compared to historic trends, a woman dressed in black interrupted to try to make it simple.

"The American people want to tax the rich and end the wars," said a woman who stepped forward as committee member Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) wound down. "That's how we fix the deficit. And all this obfuscation with percentages of GDP, this is just trying to confuse the issue."

"We would have enough money for housing and health care and everything that we want if we stopped spending our money [on the] military machine," she added before Capitol police escorted her away. "It's very obvious. I speak for the 99 percent: End the wars and tax the rich."

Indeed, that seemed to be the direction Democrats on the committee were heading, and sources confirmed to The Huffington Post that they would like to roughly double the $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion deficit savings the committee is supposed to find.

Transaction Tax On Financial Speculation Gets Boost From Occupy Wall Street

WASHINGTON -- Boosted by the Occupy Wall Street movement, two Democrats in the House and Senate are renewing a push for a transaction tax on speculative trades. The tax would be set at a nominal rate designed to have little impact on pension funds that buy and hold securities for the long term or on individual investors who don't make hundreds or thousands of trades a day.

"This proposal will not only curb some risky trading activities, but will also raise greatly needed revenue in a way that does not negatively impact middle-class Americans," said Kate Cyrul, a spokeswoman for Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who plans to introduce Senate legislation when the upper chamber, which is now in recess, returns.

The global reach of the OWS demonstrations is critical to passage of a U.S. tax on financial speculation, because banks argue that the extra cost would simply drive the risky trades from New York to an overseas exchange. But if Europe and other major financial centers implemented their own transaction fees, there would be little haven left for speculative trading.

Occupy City Hall: Protesters Want Permits For NATO, G8 Summits, Want Charges Dropped

Occupy Chicago protesters will gather outside of City Hall Wednesday afternoon to protest the alleged police harassment they experienced over the weekend, and to vocalize their desire to demonstrate "within sight and sound" of the G8 and NATO summits next May, NBC Chicago reports.

The Chicago Coalition Against War and Racism will join Occupy Chicago at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the intersection of LaSalle and Jackson for the rally. According to CCAWR, the arrests of more than 300 peaceful protesters in recent weeks were basically practice for the crackdown the city is planning in May.

Over the summer, activists expressed anger with comments made by Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy, who told the Chicago Sun-Times that police would be trained for "mass arrests" in advance of the summits.

Media Ridicules Occupy Wall Street

Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal, a paper widely respected for speaking with authority on economic issues, dispatched a team of reporters to five American cities to try to figure out what to make of the people coalescing in urban spaces under the banner Occupy Wall Street.

"Who are the protesters and what do they want?" the resulting story asked, before delivering the results of its conversations with "more than 100" of them -- a supposedly dispassionate journalistic inquiry.

"The picture that emerged is a motley conglomeration of people with widely varying goals -- and some with no clear-cut goals at all other than to denounce greed," the story declared. "The movement is centered on unemployed or underemployed college students and college dropouts whose refrain is that their American inheritance has been squandered and their prospects are bleak. But there also is a tolerance -- and sometimes, sympathy -- for causes well outside the mainstream."

Oh, the horror! Did these poor Journal reporters come back traumatized by their exposure to too many nose rings and vegan sandwiches? The rest of the piece dropped words like "extremist" and "anarchist" to describe this menacing riffraff, while -- in a discernible nod to restraint -- holding back from "pinko," "terrorist-lover" and "satanic."

Rick Scott's Welfare Drug Test Saves No Money: Judge

Republican lawmakers in several states have expressed interest in copying Florida's law that drug tests welfare recipients in an attempt to save money. But the federal judge who halted the scheme Monday on constitutional grounds ridiculed a conservative think tank's estimate of the law's savings.

"Though the State offers, as evidence of the cost savings, a pamphlet from the Foundation for Government Accountability," U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven wrote in her order, "the data contained in the pamphlet is not competent expert opinion, nor is it offered as such, nor could it be reasonably construed as such."

The Sept. 14 pamphlet said the new law, which took effect in July, had already saved the state nearly $1 million. While only nine people actually flunked the test in the program's first two months, 565 went through every step of the application process but were denied benefits because they declined to take the test. If each such "drug-related denial" saved the state $1,600 in welfare costs for that applicant, that comes to roughly $923,000 in annual savings, according to the Foundation's arithmetic.

But there's no reason to assume each person who declined to take the test did so in fear of a positive result, Scriven wrote. Since the law required applicants to pay for their own tests, what if some of them couldn't afford the $30 cost? What if some of them considered it a violation of their rights?

Oakland Police Critically Injure Iraq War Vet During Occupy March

WASHINGTON -- The Oakland Police Department fired tear gas on Occupy Oakland demonstrators Tuesday night as they marched through downtown, determined to reclaim the camp that officers destroyed that morning. As the marchers zigged and zagged in search of safe ground, authorities bombarded and barricaded the activists into a drawn-out stalemate that resulted in further arrests.

The local police's use of force seriously injured an Occupy activist and Iraq War veteran.

Scott Olsen, 24, remains sedated on a respirator, in stable but critical condition at Oakland’s Highland Hospital after being hit in the head with a police projectile.

Olsen's roommate, Keith Shannon, 24, told The Huffington Post that Olsen is still in the emergency room.

"Right now, he's under sedation," Shannon said. "He walked into the hospital." But soon after his arrival, Shannon said, doctors found that there was swelling in Olsen's brain and put him under. He did not get a chance to talk to his friend. "They are waiting for a neurosurgeon to examine him to see if he needs surgery or not," Shannon said. If he doesn't need an operation, he'll be moved to the intensive care unit.

Super Committee Democrats Unveil Budget Proposal

WASHINGTON - U.S. Democrats are proposing $2.5 trillion to $3 trillion in measures to reduce the budget deficit, including revenue increases and significant cuts to Medicare, congressional aides told Reuters.

The plan was unveiled Tuesday at a closed-door meeting of a special 12-member congressional panel, the so-called ''super committee'', that is tasked with finding at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years.

It was the first formal proposal by Democrats on the committee and is aimed at galvanizing talks that are quickly running up against a Nov. 23 deadline.

The Only Job a War Industry CEO Cares About: His Own

In their attempt to protect pay packages that would shame a Goldman Sachs executive, the CEOs of the biggest military contractors are again releasing bogus "analysis" on job creation related to massive military budgets. Don't be fooled: the spin coming out of the Second To None lobbying front is about one job, and one job only: the job of the guy at the top of the war corporation, along with its massive salary.

Let's dispense with the war profiteers' so-called economic analysis (.pdf). The study released today at a war-contractor-convened press conference tries to obscure the massive jobs cost of military spending by citing all the jobs that are tied to the current Pentagon budget. This "analysis," though, is completely context-free, rendering it useless in determining the best course of action for the deficit committee and in making predictions about the economy in general.

French government 'banning vegetarianism' in school canteens

There may have been less than 20 of them on the street, but a group of demonstrators in Paris has nonetheless made the national news in France today. Led by the French vegetarian group L214, they gathered in front of the office of the Direction Générale de l'Alimentation, a branch of the Ministry of Agriculture, to call on the government to scrap a decree they claim effectively imposes meat consumption on six million French schoolchildren.

A law was passed on 3 October which obliges school canteens feeding more than 80 children to adhere to minimum nutritional requirements, setting in stone how much protein, iron, calcium and fresh fruit schoolchildren should be given.

Schools now have to provide meals which include a protein element with accompaniment, such as rice or vegetables, a dairy product (for example cheese or yoghurt) and either a starter or a pudding. The protein can be cheese but a dairy product is also obligatory as a separate element.

Ohio's Union Fight: Cash Warfare

Judgment day is just around the corner for Ohio Gov. John Kasich's anti-union bill. On November 8th, Ohioans will vote on whether to repeal Kasich's SB 5 legislation, which slashes collective bargaining rights for more than 350,000 public employees. A slew of independent advocacy groups are already barraging voters with pro- and anti-SB 5 messaging, pumping millions of dollars into TV ads, mailers, lawn signs, door hangers, town halls, and more.

The outfits joining the SB 5 slugfest include Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, heavy-hitting conservative groups with deep ties to the tea party activists; powerful labor unions; the corporate-funded Republican Governors Association; and shadowy political committees including the Alliance for America's Future, run by a daughter of Dick Cheney. Catherine Turcer, who runs Ohio Citizen Action's Money in Politics project, estimates that $20 million could be spent on the SB 5 fight; other estimates go as high as $40 million. (Nearly $35 million was spent by all candidates in Ohio's 2010 gubernatorial election.) Spending totals will become clearer after Thursday's campaign finance deadline for the referendum, but even then, some groups don't have to reveal their finances at all. "Voters know that an incredible amount of money is being spent on this during a recession," Turcer says.

How the Legal System Favors the 1 Percent

As intense protests spawned by Occupy Wall Street continue to grow, it is worth asking: Why now? The answer is not obvious. After all, severe income and wealth inequality have long plagued the United States. In fact, it could reasonably be claimed that this form of inequality is part of the design of the American founding—indeed, an integral part of it.

Income inequality has worsened over the past several years and is at its highest level since the Great Depression. This is not, however, a new trend. Income inequality has been growing at rapid rates for three decades. As journalist Tim Noah described the process:

"During the late 1980s and the late 1990s, the United States experienced two unprecedentedly long periods of sustained economic growth—the ‘seven fat years' and the ‘long boom.' Yet from 1980 to 2005, more than 80 percent of total increase in Americans' income went to the top 1 percent. Economic growth was more sluggish in the aughts, but the decade saw productivity increase by about 20 percent. Yet virtually none of the increase translated into wage growth at middle and lower incomes, an outcome that left many economists scratching their heads."

The 2008 financial crisis exacerbated the trend, but not radically: the top 1 percent of earners in America have been feeding ever more greedily at the trough for decades.

Glenn Greenwald on Two-Tiered U.S. Justice System, Obama’s Assassination Program & the Arab Spring

Glenn Greenwald’s new book,"With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful,” offers a scathing critique of what he calls the two-tiered system of justice that ensures the political and financial class is virtually immune from prosecution in the United States. Greenwald explores how the media, both political parties, and the courts have abetted a process that has produced torture, war crimes, domestic spying, financial fraud and even the assassination of U.S citizens.

Source: Democracy Now! 

Surprise! The Rich Are Still Getting Richer

In news that will surprise almost no one currently trying to occupy Wall Street, a new government report shows that the income of the top 1% is larger than ever and continuing to grow.

According to a new Congressional Budget Office report released on Tuesday, since 1979 the average, after-tax income of the top one percent of American households has risen 275 percent. Meanwhile, for the poorest one-fifth of the country, it's gone up just 18 percent. And for the biggest slice of "middle class" America -- the three-fifths of homes between the top and bottom 20% -- incomes have risen just 40%.

All those numbers are inflation adjusted and only brings the data up to 2007, before the crisis that led to our current great recession.

The report also underlines how the good times of the last 30 years were good mostly for the wealthiest among us. The top 1 percent receives about 17 percent of all income in this country, a number that has doubled since 1979.

Again, the new data is not shocking, but could provide a boost of energy and momentum to the Occupy Wall Street protestors that faced increased resistance in recent days, especially outside New York. Police in Oakland, Atlanta, and Chicago clashed with protestors yesterday, while residents of downtown Manhattan are growing weary of the drum circles that have plagued them for weeks.

Between the tear gas, the coming winter months, and the our wandering attentions spans the movement will soon be reaching a critical point where disappointment and a lack of energy could drain it of any life. This is a healthy reminder for the 99% of why they were so mad in the first place.

Source: the Atlantic Wire 

The Republicans' War on Science and Reason

Last month, Washington Post columnist Steve Pearlstein wrote that if you wanted to come up with a bumper sticker that defined the Republican Party’s platform it would be this: “Repeal the 20th century. Vote GOP.” With their unrelenting attempts to slash Social Security, end Medicare and Medicaid and destroy the social safety net, Republicans are, indeed, on a quest of reversal. But they have set their sights on an even bolder course than Pearlstein acknowledges in his column: It’s not just the twentieth century they have targeted for repeal; it’s the eighteenth and nineteenth too.

The eighteenth century was defined, in many ways, by the Enlightenment, a philosophical movement based on the idea that reason, rational discourse and the advancement of knowledge, were the critical pillars of modern life. The leaders of the movement inspired the thinking of Charles Darwin, Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin; its tenets can be found in the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. But more than 200 years later, those basic tenets—the very notion that facts and evidence matter—are being rejected, wholesale, by the twenty-first-century Republican Party.

The contempt with which the party views reason is staggering. Republicans have become proudly and unquestionably anti-science. (It is their litmus test, though they would probably reject the science behind litmus paper.) With the exception of Jon Huntsman, who polls about as well as Darwin would in a Republican primary, the Republican presidential candidates have either denied the existence of climate change, denied that it has been caused—and can be reversed—by man, or apologized for once holding a different view. They have come to this conclusion not because the science is inconclusive but because they believe, as a matter of principle, that scientific evidence is no evidence at all.

Source: the Nation 

Yes, Virginia, There Is Income Inequality—Will the Super Committee Admit It?

A dramatic study released today shows income inequality in the United States is on a furious upward trajectory: since the late 1970s, the top one percent of earners more than doubled their share of the nation’s income. From 1979 to 2007, average inflation-adjusted after-tax income grew by 275 percent—and the top one-fifth now receives more income than the other four-fifths of the population. Meanwhile, people in the middle three-fifths of the population saw their shares of after-tax income decline by 2 or 3 percentage points.

The study’s results are dramatic, though certainly have been studied and noted before. But what adds juice is who conducted the study—it was released today in the heat of the Occupy Wall Street movement by the non-partisan Congressional Budget office, after years of work. The study was requested by Senators Max Baucus and Charles Grassley in 2006.

And this morning, there’s a perfect stage for these findings: Doug Elmendorf, the head of the CBO, is testifying again before the Congressional super-committee on deficit reduction, which is trying to find $1.2 trillion in cuts while possibly tackling the increasingly lopsided tax code, which the CBO found was a key contributor to the upward shift in incomes.

BofA CEO Brian Moynihan 'Incensed' People Don't Recognize 'How Much Good' His Employees Do

Bank of America CEO Bryan Moynihan says the public needs to start thinking before they criticize his company.

"I, like you, get a little incensed when you think about how much good all of you do, whether it's volunteer hours, charitable giving we do, serving clients and customers well," Moynihan said to employees in a global town hall meeting last week, Bloomberg reports. "You ought to think a little about that before you start yelling at us."

The banking giant has received an outpouring of criticism since announcing last month it would start charging customers $5 per month to use their debit cards for purchases. Following the fee, customers and others took their angry comments to Twitter to criticize the debit card charge and a website malfunction that left users unable to access their accounts online for hours.

Killing the gun registry: It's about the Conservatives' deeply cynical politics, not about waste

If you need evidence of the malice and cynicism behind the Stephen Harper government's determination to scrap the national rifle and shotgun registry, you need look no further than its refusal to pass the information already collected to provinces like Quebec that are prepared to carry on the job of protecting the public.

From Day 1 of this debate until literally today, the Conservative line has been that the registry was a waste of taxpayers' money and a burden on law-abiding gun owners and therefore ought to be shut down.

Tory toadies like the so-called Canadian Taxpayers Federation -- about which it cannot be said too many times does not represent the interests of taxpayers, this issue being yet another glaring example -- have dutifully parroted this line.

But by their actions you shall know them, and by their actions we can see that their claim is baloney of a particularly unhealthy variety.

Yes, the registry did cost far too much when it was set up by the Liberals, although, those costs having been paid, it was relatively inexpensive to operate. So, given all that water under the proverbial bridge, why not give the data collected at such great expense to the police agencies and provincial governments that want it?

Murder, Secrecy, and the American Presidency

With the ordered killing of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, Obama has run roughshod over the checks on his executive power.

As we now know all too well, a certain U.S. president once asked for, and received, secret legal advice from his government attorneys on how he could treat terrorists. And we know that that president’s attorneys secretly told him that the U.S. Constitution did not restrain him from taking unusually harsh action against terrorists.
We know that, based on that advice, that president secretly designated certain persons as terrorists and secretly moved full force against them. And we know that, when those alleged terrorists sued in U.S. courts to stop the president, the president sought to dismiss those cases, arguing, among other things, that these cases were – you know it – secret.

But what we didn’t know until recently is this: That certain U.S. president was President Barack Obama.

Police Fire Tear Gas, Flash Grenades as Protesters Try to Retake Occupy Oakland After Predawn Raid

Oakland police repeatedly fired tear gas and flash grenades Tuesday night as protesters attempted to retake the Occupy Oakland encampment outside City Hall—only 12 hours after police tore apart the camp and arrested more than 90 people in a pre-dawn raid. Observers said that at times the downtown resembled a war zone last night. Some protesters are being held on $10,000 bail. We speak to Rachel Jackson of the Oscar Grant Committee Against Police Brutality and State Repression about how the police are handling Occupy Oakland. We also are joined by John Avalos, San Francisco city supervisor and a candidate for mayor of San Francisco. On Tuesday, Avalos introduced a resolution supporting the right of the Occupy San Francisco protest to continue its peaceful assembly in public spaces.

Source: Democracy Now! 

In Defence of Occupy

It took decades to get us into this mess – let’s be patient as the movement tries to find a way out.

A week after thousands of Canadians joined in solidarity actions with the Occupy movement, Occupy camps have taken firm root in cities across the country. To us, they are an affirmation that our futures do not have to be economically insecure, politically dysfunctional, or environmentally chaotic. They’re an affirmation that we don’t have to accept the growing inequality in Canadian society.

The response to the Occupy movement has shown the profound disconnect between some parts of Canada’s political and media establishment and the lived reality of the vast majority of Canadians. Jim Flaherty, our finance minister, led the charge in dismissing the Occupy movement’s relevance to Canada. He praised Canada’s progressive tax system, social programming, and banking regulations, citing them as reasons Canadians should not bother with the Occupy movement.

Flaherty’s argument – and, by extension, the argument of much of the political and media establishment – boils down to this: Canadians shouldn’t care about Occupy, because Americans suffer worse economic inequality and corporate dominance than we do.

Ironically, the fact that a Conservative finance minister feels pressed to defend Canada’s relative progressiveness (instead of championing the ideas that his party actually believes in) is a sign of Occupy’s strength, not its weakness. Flaherty’s argument also misses the fact that Occupy is, in large part, a locally rooted worldwide solidarity movement to challenge the global dominance of corporate and financial interests. That’s why Occupy spread to 900 cities around the world within a month of the first tent peg going into the ground in New York.

More jail time for youth harmful, expert says

Increasing jail terms for young offenders will have no impact on their behaviour and will likely make it more difficult to re-integrate them into society, a specialist in youth crime told all-party House of Commons justice and human rights committee Tuesday.

"Young people committing offences are not considering the long-term consequences," said Queen's University professor Nicholas Bala, who is critical of proposals in the Conservative government's proposed omnibus crime legislation that would provide for longer sentences and more pre-trial custody for certain crimes.

The committee also heard from Line Lacasse, a Laval mother whose son was stabbed to death by a gang of young thugs in 2004.

"They were 10 young people with no respect for human life," she said. "If your child was killed in this way you would vote for this bill. We have a life sentence when we lose a loved one. There are no serious consequences for these crimes."

Tories muscling through House legislation to clean up 'backwash' of five years of minority Parliaments

Conservative sources say once controversial legislation is passed, the government will prorogue Parliament and introduce a new Throne Speech and budget when the House resumes business in 2012.

PARLIAMENT HILL—The government will likely limit debate on a controversial bill it tabled Tuesday to dismantle the federal long-gun registry as it continues to muscle legislation through Parliament to clean up the “backwash” of five years of minority stalemate in the Commons, Conservatives say.

If the government imposes time allocation to get the registry-termination Bill C-19 through House debate, Conservative-dominated committee hearings and into the Senate, it will be the sixth time in this Parliament that Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary-Southwest, Alta.) and his majority Conservatives have used either closure, in the case of back-to-work legislation for postal workers last June, or cut short debate through time allocation in the House to get long-promised conservative policy passed into law.

Conservatives unload with both barrels on NDP tax-hike plan

Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are broadening their attack on the Official Opposition, painting New Democrats not only as being in the pockets of unions – but also as a party of tax hikers.

“After two weeks of infighting amongst senior NDP leaders, they have united on a major issue: given the chance they will raise taxes on all Canadians,” Tory strategists say in a memo circulated to supporters this week.

The Conservatives are reacting to a declaration by perceived leadership frontrunner Brian Topp that he would raise taxes on wealthy Canadians. The former party president also said he would not rule out a sales-tax increase once the economy is in better shape.

Interim NDP Leader Nycole Turmel has also raised concerns that a loophole in the Tax Free Savings Account program allows older wealthy Canadians, who can afford to contribute to the TFSA, to still collect the Guaranteed Income Supplement. The party wants the loophole closed, saying it will cost the government an extra $4.2-billion annually by 2050 and that it drains funds meant for “struggling seniors.”

Bill to end long-gun registry will destroy data already collected

OTTAWA—Prime Minister Stephen Harper has acted to kill any attempt by a provincial or future federal government to recreate the doomed long-gun registry.

In a surprise move aimed at putting a bullet in the registry for good, the Conservative government bill tabled Wednesday orders the commissioner of firearms to destroy “as soon as feasible” records related to 7.1 million long-barreled guns collected over the past 15 years.

If passed, Bill C-19 would, as promised, end the legal requirement for owners of rifles and shotguns to register their firearms under a federal gun control law inspired by the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre. It retains the requirement for long-gun owners to be screened and licensed.

But the bill declares that other federal laws that require the preservation of federal records would not apply to gun registry data.

Occupy Oakland Protest: Police Fire Tear Gas And Beanbag Rounds, Clear Out Encampment

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Dozens of police in riot gear and hundreds of protesters supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement engaged in a game of cat-and-mouse in downtown Oakland on Tuesday, with authorities using tear gas to respond to demonstrators' repeated agitations.

The latest such skirmish came around 11:15 PDT in front of City Hall, where a haze of chemical smoke still hung in the air following several similar clashes at the site over the course of the night.

It was the fifth time in about three hours that police a fired a volley of tear gas to disperse a crowd at the scene where ongoing tension has erupted into conflict throughout the day.

The number of protesters has diminished with each round of gas. About 200 remained late Tuesday, mostly young adults, some riding bicycles, protecting themselves from the noxious fumes with bandanas and scarves wrapped around their faces.

Surprise! Banks really do control wealth, researchers find

Those 99 per centers who are occupying Wall St. may be right after all.

The banks really do own the world — or at least much of it.

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, also known as ETH, set out to figure out who controls the world’s wealth, and whether the belief that it’s in the hands of a few powerful corporations is true.

Their study says it’s been hard to prove because many companies “exert control over other firms via a web of direct and indirect ownership relations which extends over many countries.”

They began with a list of 43,060 transnational corporations identified, according to the OECD definition, using a sample of about 30 million individuals and companies.