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.]

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Canada And Torture: Directives Implicate Tory Government In Rights Abuses, NDP Says

OTTAWA - The Conservatives are condoning immoral abuses — and flouting the law — by allowing RCMP and Canada Border Services officers to use information obtained through torture, say opposition MPs.

Newly disclosed records show Public Safety Minister Vic Toews quietly issued the instructions to the Mounties and the border agency last September after giving nearly identical orders to Canada's spy service.

BC Workplace Deaths: Labour Leader, Families Call For Tougher Prosecution

VANCOUVER - It's been almost four years since Tracey Phan's father died at a mushroom farm near Vancouver, one of three workers killed when toxic gas leaked into a small shed on the site.

An investigation by WorkSafe BC, the province's workers' compensation board, later identified a litany of violations that contributed to the deaths, and the farms owners were fined hundreds of thousands dollars after pleading guilty to breaking occupational health and safety laws.

But Phan says she still feels the justice system has failed her father, Michael Phan. No one was ever sent to jail, and even the fines haven't been fully paid by the now-bankrupt farm.

Canada Real Estate Affordability: First-Time Home Buyers Sidelined By Prices, Mortgage Rules

In some respects, Katrina Armstrong has chosen to have a family over owning a family home.

She and her husband, who share a two-bedroom rented apartment in a leafy, west-end Toronto neighbourhood with their 18-month-old son, had envisioned buying a house that they could someday leave to their children.

But despite their “above average” household income — she works as an online projects manager; he juggles several serving jobs — the 33-year-old said they expect to rent for as long as they stay in Toronto.

GOP Platform: Abortion Ban Approved By Republicans In Tampa

TAMPA, Fla. — Republicans emphatically approved a toughly worded party platform at their national convention Tuesday that would ban all abortions and gay marriages, reshape Medicare into a voucher-like program and cut taxes to energize the economy and create jobs.

The document opens by warning that while the American Dream has long been of equal opportunity for everyone, "Today that American Dream is at risk." It pledges that the GOP will "begin anew, with profound changes in the way government operates; the way it budgets, taxes and regulates."

Don't expect Harper to lift a finger to save Charest this time: ex-PM strategist

MONTREAL - Struggling to keep his political life afloat, Jean Charest shouldn't expect a lifeline from Stephen Harper, says an ex-strategist for the prime minister.

Tom Flanagan believes that Harper is still smarting from the last time he reached out to help the Quebec premier.

In a controversial decision, during the dying days of Quebec's tight election campaign in 2007, Harper ramped up federal transfers that netted the province $2.3 billion.

RNC 2012: GOP Shadow Groups Eclipsing Party In Tampa

TAMPA, Fla. -- A shift of power from the official Republican party apparatus to an informal coalition of megadonors, super PACs and nonprofit advocacy groups is underway here, as a rising shadow party increasingly drives GOP politics.

Mel Sembler, a Florida shopping mall magnate and a key member of the Romney campaign's finance team, is planning to open his home Tuesday for a few hours to the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future to let the group's leaders chat up potential donors on their plans, according to GOP fundraisers who requested anonymity to preserve their relationship with the groups.

Murray Energy Miners Allege They Had To Give Up Pay To Attend 'Mandatory' Romney Rally

Earlier this month, Mitt Romney was welcomed for a campaign event at the Century Mine in Beallsville, Ohio, by hundreds of coal workers and their families. Now many of the mine's workers are saying they were forced to give up a day-worth of pay to attend the event, and they feared they might be fired if they didn’t, according to local news radio WWVA.

The claims have been mostly denied by Rob Moore, Chief Financial Officer of Murray Energy Company, which owns the mine. He acknowledges that workers weren’t paid that day but says no one was made to attend the event. Well, kind of.

Shadow Conventions 2012: What They Will Not Be Talking About in Tampa and Charlotte

Tampa, Florida has more homeless people per capita than any city in America. Yet you won't hear much -- if any -- talk from the podium on the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired convention set about America's poverty crisis.

And this lack of attention won't be exclusive to the GOP. You can expect more of the same (or is that actually less of the same?) when the Democrats descend on Charlotte next week -- after all, President Obama hasn't devoted even one speech to the subject of poverty since he moved into the White House.

Private sector should be responsible for stimulating economy, Flaherty says

TORONTO - Stimulating the economy ultimately falls on the heads of the private sector, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Monday.

"We've done a lot through the tax system to encourage Canadian executives, business people, to start utilizing some of the capital they have on their balance sheets," said Flaherty.

"At a certain point, it's not up to the government to stimulate the economy, it's up to the private sector, and they have lots of capital."

Federal panel wants ‘voluntary’ Enbridge pledges to be made mandatory

OTTAWA – Transport Canada is being asked to assess how Enbridge Inc.’s “voluntary” commitments to prevent the dumping of diluted bitumen crude into the Pacific Ocean can be made “mandatory and enforceable.”

The request from the Joint Review Panel considering the company’s $6-billion pipeline project was in response to a Transport Canada-headed government review released in February.

Court documents conflict with Election Canada’s claim of sweeping robocall investigation

OTTAWA — Elections Canada has reported it is investigating reports of fraudulent and deceptive calls across Canada, but court documents made public Monday show investigators have not sought phone or Internet records for any calls beyond Guelph, Ont., raising a question about how vigorously the agency is looking into reports from voters.

Last month, as part of a lawsuit seeking to overturn the election results in seven ridings, the Council of Canadians asked Elections Canada for details about the agency’s investigation into reports of calls across the country, including many that appeared to direct opposition supporters to the wrong polling stations.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird tells UN chief to shun Iran summit

United Nations Secretary General Ban ki-Moon departed for Iran on Tuesday, apparently oblivious to the objections of Canada’s outspoken foreign affairs minister.

John Baird’s office released a strongly worded letter it sent to Ban last week imploring him to stay away from the summit of the 120 Non Aligned Movement countries being held in Tehran.

Canada joined the U.S. and Israel in publicly condemning Ban’s decision to attend the Iranian gathering, saying it would further the regime’s “hateful purposes.”

Defining a Canada that we can all identify with and believe in

Last week Adam Radwanski penned a thoughtful and poignant piece on how the rest-of-Canada (ROC) should react to another Quebec referendum. According to recent polls, at least half of us no longer think it’s a big deal if the province decides to separate. While Radwanski finds this unsettling, in the end, he too is at a loss for what to say and dolefully concludes that this time around complacency may send the best signal.

If the Parti Québécois is elected, I think the real question for the ROC is not what we should say to Quebec, but what we should say to ourselves.

Not all failing marriages — personal or political — can or should be saved. If this one is in serious trouble, the best way we in the ROC can respond is to get clear on who we think we are as Canadians and what we believe Canada should be. I’d like to suggest a couple of ideas.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is coming up short on oilsands public relations war

Is the Harper government growing increasingly nervous about opposition to its push for massive oil sands development and the North Gateway Pipeline?

It would seem so listening to five Calgarians and a wannabe Calgarian from Quebec who were vying for the Conservative nomination for a by-election in the riding of Calgary Centre, home to dozens of oil company towers and one of the safest Conservative seats in the country.

Canadians to CRTC: Bell takeover of Astral is bad for Canada

Bell's proposed takeover of Astral Media is bad for Canada.

That's the message being sent by the new, broad-based coalition of groups known as the Stop the Takeover Coalition.

Bullying workers in the attack on labour

Now that we've discarded our garbage workers by the side of the road, I guess we can all feel better.

The lime green private garbage trucks rolling through the western half of the city allow us to send a powerful message to all public sector workers: in these tough economic times, don't expect to enjoy niceties like job security.

Mayor Rob Ford's determination to privatize Toronto's garbage service -- even though the real savings are likely to be minimal -- suggests the actual goal isn't saving the public money, but attacking unions.

Public Works hiring private firm to review F-35 procurement process, possibly challenge AG's report

PARLIAMENT HILL—The Public Works Department secretariat now in charge of the F-35 stealth fighter jet procurement is contracting a private sector firm to review “all of the steps taken to date” in the controversial project to determine whether federal laws and procurement rules were followed prior to the Conservative government’s 2010 decision to acquire 65 of the stealth attack planes, the department says.

But the NDP opposition and a former government procurement chief who is calling for a competition to replace Canada’s aging fleet of jet fighters say the terms of the review are a slap in the face for Auditor General Michael Ferguson, whose office has already reviewed the same procurement actions and who last April issued a highly critical report to Parliament on the F-35 acquisition, including an allegation that National Defence withheld $10-billion in operating costs from the public.

Mayor Rob Ford’s ‘credibility’ under attack in conflict-of-interest lawsuit

A judge decided Mayor Rob Ford will testify in open court about a conflict-of-interest allegation after lawyer Clayton Ruby cast doubt on the mayor’s truthfulness and “credibility.”

Ruby, acting for citizen Paul Magder, who made the complaint that could see Ford turfed from office, announced Friday that Justice Charles Hackland had decided the mayor should take the stand.

Harper’s chief of staff faces questions over Barrick Gold links

OTTAWA — Pointed questions are beginning to swirl around Nigel Wright, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s chief of staff, and whether he used his position to further the financial interests of friends at Barrick Gold Corp.

Ethics commissioner Mary Dawson is following up with Wright after the disclosure that he was lobbied twice by Barrick, the world’s largest gold producer, in May.

Wright has known Barrick founder and board chairman Peter Munk for years and is particularly close to his son, Anthony, who sits on Barrick’s board of directors.

5,000 teachers rally at Queen’s Park to protest McGuinty’s education bill

The self-styled “education premier” has been schooled by angry teachers.

About 5,000 educators outraged by Premier imposing a two-year wage freeze and curbing their collective bargaining rights rallied in protest Tuesday on the front lawn at Queen’s Park.

It’s a comeuppance for McGuinty, who has counted on support from the powerful education unions that loathed his Progressive Conservative predecessors Mike Harris and Ernie Eves, to remain in office since 2003.

Elections Canada probe into voter-suppression calls sticks to Guelph

OTTAWA — Elections Canada has reported that it is investigating complaints of fraudulent and deceptive calls across Canada, but court documents made public Monday show that investigators have not sought phone or Internet records for any calls beyond Guelph, Ont., raising a question about how vigorously the agency is looking into reports from voters.

Last month, as part of a lawsuit seeking to overturn the election results in seven ridings, the Council of Canadians asked Elections Canada for details about the agency’s investigation into reports of calls across the country, including many that appeared to direct opposition supporters to the wrong polling stations.

Well-being in Canada: Are we satisfied?

The political and economic health of countries are key measures of the welfare of nations. A country that fails its citizens politically and economically can make little claim to legitimacy.

In articles such as Canadian political calculus: Zero-sum or win-win? and An idiot's persistence: Asinine adventures of the Harper Conservatives I have pointed out deficits in regard to both of these key areas of the public sphere. Yet, immersed in politics and economics it is easy to lose sight of the objectives of both, namely to serve the interests of citizens, providing them with health, happiness, and well-being. These might sound like Utopian objectives we should eschew in favour of more concrete and tangible goals like per capita income and Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, if we cleave solely to these we have succumbed to the materials ethos of our times. This path is littered with the corpses of consumer goods, marketing, advertising, the maniacal pursuit of wealth, and the most omnipotent capitalist demon of them all -- the one-eyed ogre called "television."

Michele Bachmann: 'We Are Looking At A Spiritual Hurricane'

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said at a conservative rally on Sunday, "We are looking at a spiritual hurricane in our land."

CNN reports that the congresswoman made the remarks at a conservative rally in Florida. The comments come as the Gulf Coast braces for Tropical Storm Isaac, which is expected to make landfall this week.

"At this moment in time we're quite literally looking at a hurricane here in Florida," Bachmann said ahead of the start of the Republican convention, which was delayed because of Isaac. "We're looking at a political hurricane in this country. We are looking at a spiritual hurricane in our land. And it is time for each one of us to show up and suit up and stand up and realize that in this time and in this day we pour it out for Him."

Last year, Bachmann raised eyebrows when she suggested Hurricane Irene and an earthquake felt along the East Coast came as warnings to politicians from God.

"I don't know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians," she said. "We've had an earthquake; we've had a hurricane. He said, 'Are you going to start listening to me here?'"

A Bachmann spokeswoman sought to do damage control on the remarks at the time, saying they were made in "jest."

Original Article
Source: huffington post
Author: --

The Demonization of President Obama Must End

Every once in a while, you have to feel sorry for Mitt Romney. One of his surrogates during his unsuccessful 2008 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination was Dr. John Willke, the controversial doctor who inspired Missouri Congressman Todd Akin's now infamous belief that a raped woman is unlikely to become pregnant. Moreover, the good doctor is inconveniently sticking to his guns. A woman being raped, he told the New York Times last week, "is frightened, tight, and so on. And sperm, if deposited in her vagina, are less likely to be able to fertilize. The tubes are spastic."

According to the Times, Dr. Michael Greene, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School, dismisses Willke's theories as "just nuts."

Arctic Sea Ice Melted To Record Low Levels This Summer, National Snow and Ice Data Center Reports

WASHINGTON (AP) — Critical ice in the Arctic Ocean melted to record low levels this sweltering summer and that can make weather more extreme far away from the poles, scientists say.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center reported Monday that the extent of Arctic sea ice shrank to 1.58 million square miles and is likely to melt more in the coming weeks. That breaks the old record of 1.61 million square miles set in 2007.

The North Pole region is an ocean that mostly is crusted at the top with ice. In the winter, the frozen saltwater surface usually extends about 6 million square miles, shrinking in summer and growing back in the fall. That's different from Antarctica, which is land covered by ice and snow and then surrounded by sea ice.

Military Terror Plot: Murder Case Uncovers Terror Plot By 'Militia' Within U.S. Military

LUDOWICI, Ga. — Four Army soldiers based in southeast Georgia killed a former comrade and his girlfriend to protect an anarchist militia group they formed that stockpiled assault weapons and plotted a range of anti-government attacks, prosecutors told a judge Monday.

Prosecutors in rural Long County, near the sprawling Army post Fort Stewart, said the militia group of active and former U.S. military members spent at least $87,000 buying guns and bomb components. They allege the group was serious enough to kill two people – former soldier Michael Roark and his 17-year-old girlfriend, Tiffany York – by shooting them in the woods last December in order to keep its plans secret.

Mitt Romney and GOP in Tampa: How Low Will They Go?

With Republicans flocking—or swimming—to hurricane-threatened Tampa for the very wet coronation of moderate-no-more Mitt Romney as the tea-partyized (and Paul Ryanized) leader of the GOP, only one question hovers over the proceedings: How far will they go? That is, in terms of nastiness, extremism, and fact-defiance.

Every four years, it's routine—and usually justifiable—to bemoan the presidential campaign of the moment as a gutter-swipe endeavor, fueled more by low-minded swill than high-end discourse. But Romney's 2012 effort has managed to crawl along and leave plenty of space beneath the low bar, as the candidate, who once claimed to be a nonpartisan, progressive fellow distant from the radicals of his party, has deployed assaults against President Barack Obama that are tinged with racism and has countenanced attack ads that push the already much-stretched envelope of political truth-bending.

Canada Says ‘Anonymous’ May Attack Energy Firm Computers

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, public safety department and Communications Security Establishment Canada all investigated threats against the industry between the start of 2011 and mid-March, according to documents obtained this month by Bloomberg News under freedom of information laws. The RCMP conducted a threat assessment after the hacker group that calls itself Anonymous issued a press release in July 2011 accusing oil-sands companies of being greedy and harming the environment.

“The Canadian law enforcement and security intelligence community have noted a growing radicalized environmentalist faction who is opposed to Canada’s energy sector,” the RCMP’s assessment said. “Corporate security officers should verify that security testing has been performed on public facing web servers and mail servers.”

Sovereign Credit Rating: Canada To Be Among Tiny Elite To Keep AAA Status, Citibank Says

As debt crises and an aging population put pressure on government spending around the world, Canada will be part of a small, elite group of countries to retain a top-notch credit rating, says a new report from Citibank.

“Canada and the Scandinavian countries are the only countries covered in our Sovereign Ratings Outlook that we believe rating agencies will maintain a ‘AAA Stable’ status both in the near- and longer-term,” a group of Citibank economists wrote last week in a client note obtained by The Huffington Post Canada.

Bank of Canada governor says to end privatization of gains and socialization of losses

Here in B.C., Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney's speech to the Canadian Auto Workers convention got less attention than it seemed to get back east. It deserves more attention.

The biggest news coming out of the event was not in the speech itself but in the question period afterwards. Here Carney told the CAW members that with hundreds of billions of dollars in their bank accounts, Canadian firms aren't doing enough to drive economic growth and create new jobs. He continued:

"The level of caution could be viewed as excessive," he said. Referring to corporate managers, he added, "Their job is to put money to work and if they can't think of what to do with it, they should give it back to their shareholders."

NDP under Mulcair’s leadership showing it’s a government in waiting

When Parliament returns, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair will face a renewed Conservative government that lost control of its agenda in the spring, but after six months in his job, political observers say, he’ll continue to be an “overwhelming success” as he has managed to solidify the party’s support in Quebec, unite his caucus, and show that his team is a government in waiting.

“I don’t want to exaggerate but I think he’s been an overwhelming success so far in his short time as leader,” said David McGrane, University of Saskatchewan political science professor and an expert on the New Democrats.

Feds shouldn’t rely on $30-billion in resource projects for economic development in North

The federal government is banking on some $30-billion worth of resource projects to bring social and economic development to Canada’s territories, but industry watchdog Mining Watch Canada says the resource boom can’t replace cuts to federally funded development programs.

Mining Watch Canada coordinator Ramsey Hart said that his organization fully supports benefits from resource projects going to aboriginal communities in the territories, but noted that it is important for those groups to be fully informed of the impacts that such projects have on the local environment and culture.

NDP repays $344K in sponsorship money after Tory complaint

The New Democratic Party of Canada has paid back a total of $344,468 it obtained in sponsorship revenue since 2006 after Elections Canada found the federal party guilty of violating political financing laws following a complaint filed by the Conservative Party of Canada.

In an interview with CBC News, Nathan Rotman, national director for the NDP, said the reimbursement will be reflected in the party's quarterly financial return, which is being submitted to Elections Canada today.

Arctic ice is in a death spiral, situation is dire

There’s been an enormous cyclone blowing over the North Pole for an entire week that has Arctic scientists up at night.

It’s very rare for there to be such a storm in the summer. In the past a storm like this would arise in winter and blow snow around on top of a thick ice cover. This summer, over thinner ice, the wind creates large waves which, combined with warm temperatures of air and water, are causing havoc with a keystone of the global climate. The thinner summer ice is breaking up into smaller chunks and melting away rapidly. It is occupying a much smaller area and is getting extremely thin and weak.

The political party about nothing: Quebec's "Parti nul" zeroing in on ballot spoilers

MONTREAL — Mathieu Marcil gets a lot of puzzled looks when he tells people he’s running in the Quebec election for an outfit called the Parti nul — which translates loosely as the void party.

“I always get a sort of a smile because they first think it’s a joke,” Marcil says.

“In a way, the name is kind of funny but as soon as they hear what we’re about, they say it’s very appropriate. What the people tell me is it seems to be filling a void.”

The party says it’s trying to make a serious point about voter disengagement in an era of plummeting turnout rates.

The Living Death of Solitary Confinement

There are many ways to destroy a person, but the simplest and most devastating might be solitary confinement.  Deprived of meaningful human contact, otherwise healthy prisoners often come unhinged. They experience intense anxiety, paranoia, depression, memory loss, hallucinations and other perceptual distortions. Psychiatrists call this cluster of symptoms SHU syndrome, named after the Security Housing Units of many supermax prisons. Prisoners have more direct ways of naming their experience.  They call it “living death,” the “gray box,” or “living in a black hole.”

Is Stephen Harper saving us from Islamophobia?

Pauline Marois’s proposed “secular charter” that would restrict hijabs while tolerating crucifixes falls into a range of phobic reactions in the West to the “Muslim tide” of immigration, which runs from the truly atrocious to the merely vexatious.

Anders Breivik has been convicted of murdering 77 people in pursuit of his crusade against multiculturalism. In New York City, a court has ordered the transit system to accept an ad that describes Arabs as “savages”. And in recent years here in Canada, we have had a rather silly controversy about whether veiled Muslim women should be allowed to vote, despite the lack of evidence that this has ever been a source of election fraud.

PWGSC’s private-sector financial audit of Parliamentary precinct construction ‘suspicious’: opposition MPs

It’s “suspicious” that the government has decided to conduct a private-sector financial audit of work on the Parliamentary precinct when it has the auditor general and its own internal auditors who could do the job, say opposition MPs.

Both NDP MP Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, Man.) and Liberal Public Works critic John McCallum (Markham-Unionville, Ont.) said for them, the department’s decision to seek an audit suggests something is wrong.

Marketing mindset shapes Stephen Harper’s anti-crime agenda

The Conservative government has introduced 69 “crime” bills since 2006. The titles of their most recent bills, “Protecting Canada’s Seniors Act” and “Increasing Offenders’ Accountability for Victims Act,” illustrate their use of criminal justice legislation.

Nobody could seriously argue that these bills will do what their titles suggest. Titles of bills are not the law. The law is set out in the bill itself. The “Protecting Canada’s Seniors Act” consists of only one section containing 24 words telling judges that sentences should be more severe if there is “evidence that the offence had a significant impact on the victim, considering their age and other personal circumstances, including their health and financial situation.” This restates the current law that sentences must be proportionate to the severity of the crime. How could the bill protect Canada’s seniors when it doesn’t even mention them? The title can’t be used to interpret the bill. So, as two of these seniors, we’d like to know: How does the bill help us?

Record-high prison numbers sparking violence

Canada’s prison population has reached an all-time high , with more inmates sharing cells designed for one, a situation that has raised tensions and led to growing violence, Canada’s correctional investigator says.

Howard Sapers, an ombudsman for inmates, presented the latest figures during a weekend national symposium on prison overcrowding in Ottawa that drew about 80 of Canada’s top criminologists, lawyers and prison experts.

As of July 31, there were 15,097 inmates in federal prisons, a “historic high,” according to Sapers.

Shell's Jackpine Oilsands Expansion Leaves Federal Scientists Concerned As Project Moves To Public Hearings

EDMONTON - Regulatory documents indicate federal scientists still have significant concerns over Shell's proposed Jackpine oilsands mine expansion even as the project heads into public hearings.

Five years after Shell Canada first proposed the 100,000-barrel-a-day project, it has been finally scheduled to go before a joint federal-provincial environmental hearing Oct. 29.

Political games continue to swirl around the F-35

OTTAWA — More than four months after the auditor general raised concerns about the Harper government’s handling of the $25-billion F-35 program, the political spin continues — with no end in sight.

This week was no exception as the NDP held a day of “hearings” into the program, while Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s parliamentary secretary claimed the government never said it had decided to buy the stealth fighter.

First Nation says Alberta oilsands plan will 'annihilate' its lands and future

A First Nation says Alberta's plan to balance the oilsands and the environment ignores the concerns of people who live in a remote northeastern region of forest and muskeg.

The Athabasca Chipewyan say the plan puts some minor restrictions on oilsands development, but does not protect their treaty rights or cultural livelihood.

"Your plan, your land, your future? This is not our plan, it’s the governments plan to annihilate our lands and our future," Chief Allan Adam said Friday in a release.

Privacy: Six Questions for Garret Keizer

We live in a world in which the private space we are afforded seems to be constantly shrinking. Travelers are subjected to ever-mounting indignities at airports, and those who turn to the seeming anonymity of cyberspace soon learn that someone is keeping careful track of their habits and preferences, and may be putting the information to commercial or other purposes. Now Harper’s Magazine contributing editor Garret Keizer has written Privacy, a close look at an essential social and moral value. I put six questions to him about his new book:

1. You tell us that, “America is a pluralistic society in nothing so much as the plurality of ways in which an American’s privacy can be breached.” Many of these encroachments have occurred through technological developments with which Americans, particularly the young, seem enamored. Is it your view that Americans genuinely accept the reduction of their spheres of privacy through commercial technology, or does this occur without their properly understanding what they’re giving up?

Both of your suggestions strike me as pertinent—and related. Partial surrender of our privacy, with full knowledge and consent, becomes a pretext for total expropriation, with neither knowledge nor consent. I make it known to a houseguest that I’m willing to wink at his stealing of my spoons, and he makes off with my dining-room table too.


Poor Americans die five years younger than the rich and are likelier to say that parents should stay together for the sake of the children. Black Americans, unlike white Americans, do not live longer if they marry rather than cohabit. Black women are, unlike white women and black men, expected to be assertive in the workplace; are as likely as white men to be ticketed during traffic stops; and tend toward obesity if they have been abused as children. Sons who have been abused by their fathers and daughters who have been abused by their mothers are especially prone to cancer. Fatherhood reduces gay men’s HIV risk. Children exposed to HIV in the womb are more likely to become deaf. Mother goats remember, for over a year after weaning, the voices of their kids. The death of a child increases a mother’s immediate risk of death by 133 percent. Women who have difficulty conceiving children are more likely to experience psychiatric hospitalization. California scientists disagreed with Danish scientists’ assertion that occasional binge drinking during pregnancy may be safe. Bullies peak in seventh grade. Cities polluted by leaded gasoline turn children violent. Two thirds of U.S. teenagers experience uncontrollable rage. Head injuries, undereducation, and farming make Americans punch and kick in their sleep. Ambient bullying makes employees want to quit. A landscape architect designed an edible playground for autistic children.

Canada is too big to fail

It takes a century and a half of political imagination, heroic toil and, to be sure, great geopolitical luck to build a country like Canada. It takes but a year or two of hubris, lassitude and ignorance for the whole thing to be lost.

There is today in Canada a dangerous line of argument that must be checked by all thinking citizens: It holds that “Canada” is somehow “tired” of Quebec and the Quebec question, and might therefore wish to “expel” Quebec from the Canadian federation if push comes to shove. The mirror image of this argument comes from the “purs et durs” in Quebec, who believe that a newly sovereign Quebec, in the aftermath of a winning referendum, could naturally negotiate, égal à égal, with “Canada” for some species of peaceable and prosperous coexistence.

School House shelter slated to close by year's end

A food line circled around the tall oak tree on the corner of Queen and Sherbourne, next to Moss Park, one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Toronto.

On a humid August evening with the sun resting just above the horizon, dozens of residents and supporters, wearing “Save the School House” stickers on their shirts, have gathered for a community meal before marching north to help save a men's shelter from closing at the end of November.

Rape controversy in U.S. mirrors teachings of anti-abortion hero

Eric Scheidler was in grade school when he was introduced to the power of John Willke’s persuasion.

It was the 1970s and the now 87-year-old Dr. “Jack” Willke was renowned as a physician-turned-advocate for abolishing abortion. Willke’s teachings resonated four decades later in the controversy this week over Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin’s remarks on pregnancy and rape.