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.]

Friday, August 31, 2012

Never Mind Super PACs: How Big Business Is Buying the Election

On January 27, 2010, one year into his term, President Barack Obama used the occasion of his State of the Union address to issue a warning. The Supreme Court had just opened the “floodgates for special interests—including foreign corporations—to spend without limit in our elections.” He was speaking about the ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, in which the Court struck down nearly a century of law, granting corporations vast new leeway to influence the outcome of elections.

Our Low-Wage Recovery: How McJobs Have Replaced Middle Class Jobs

When we think about what the economy has lost since the Great Recession, we tend to consider it in terms of simple addition and subtraction. We said goodbye to more than eight million jobs in the downturn; we've added around four million back. It's easy and dismal math.

But there's another painful dimension to this recovery that's gotten far less attention than the lingering jobs deficit. It's the fact that most of the jobs we lost offered decent pay, while the ones we're adding are mostly low-level, service sector positions. Middle class jobs have been replaced by McJobs.

Bernanke Warns Congress to Stop Stalling on Economy

hereIn his big speech at Jackson Hole today, Ben Bernanke said that today's weak economy was due not to structural factors, as some conservatives continue to argue, but is "being held back currently by a number of headwinds":
First, although the housing sector has shown signs of improvement, housing activity remains at low levels and is contributing much less to the recovery than would normally be expected at this stage of the cycle.

"Other Revenue": The Black Hole of Political Party Financial Reporting

There is, it seems, at least one unexpected benefit to the revelations regarding the NDP's sheepish about-face on those now infamous advertising fees that it quietly refunded to unions and other buyers earlier this year.  

Thanks to that internal NDP document posted online by the Toronto Star  as part of its initial report, we now know the source of at least some of the otherwise unexplained "other revenue" that the party reported in its annual financial statements for 2006 and 2009. (They still haven't submitted last year's return after requesting an extension to the original deadline last May.)

But aside from that unprecedented, if not exactly voluntary, peek into the NDP coffers, not even Elections Canada is privy to the details of the hundreds of thousands -- in some cases, millions -- of dollars that political parties take in every year, over and above the income gleaned from donations, membership sales, election expense rebates and per-vote subsidy transfers from the government.

Poll Reveals Typical Stephen Harper Supporter: An Albertan Male 65 Or Older Making Less Than $20,000

Who is the typical supporter of Stephen Harper? What is the profile of a Thomas Mulcair fan? A new poll provides some clues.

The latest survey by Forum Research for the National Post shows a tie in voting intentions between the governing Conservatives and the opposition New Democrats. With few exceptions, the results are generally in line with what Canadians have been telling pollsters for months.

Charitable Fraser Institute received $4.3 million in foreign funding since 2000

The Fraser Institute, Canada's leading right-wing think tank, received over $4.3 million in the last decade from eight major American foundations including the most powerful players in oil and pharmaceuticals, The Vancouver Observer has learned.

In May, it was found that the US oil billionaire Koch brothers gave the Fraser Institute half a million dollars since 2007.  But further investigation shows the insitute received funding from other major US foundations.

"Democracy Is Not A Business": Bringing Progressive Voice to RNC, CODEPINK Disrupts Romney Speech

As Mitt Romney formally accepted the Republican presidential nomination Thursday night, four activists from the group CODEPINK interrupted him throughout, calling for money out of politics and a return to democracy. CODEPINK has been protesting every day at this week’s convention — including last night’s speech by vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan. They have also held actions against gun violence at home; military intervention abroad; and what they call the Republicans’ "war on women." We’re joined now by two of the activists who disrupted Romney’s speech last night: Rae Abileah, co-director of CODEPINK; and Medea Benjamin, the group’s co-founder.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

David Koch: 'Some Tax Increases' May Be Needed To Reduce U.S. Deficit

Even billionaire Republican donor David Koch says the U.S. probably needs higher taxes to reduce the federal budget deficit.

"I think it's essential to be able to achieve spending reductions, and maybe it's going to require some tax increases," Koch, the eighth-richest man in the world and one of the most influential donors in the Republican Party, told Politico on Thursday.

China—Not Wall Street—Caused 2008 Crisis: Study

Thought the global financial crisis in 2008 was caused by subprime bonds, collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) and other Wall Street engineering? Think again.

According to a new study, China, not Wall Street bankers, was responsible for the global crisis and the ensuing recession.

The study from the Erasmus Research Institute of Management said the saving frenzy of the Chinese created the cheap money, which fueled the U.S. housing bubble and its collapse.

The Medicare Killers

Paul Ryan’s speech Wednesday night may have accomplished one good thing: It finally may have dispelled the myth that he is a Serious, Honest Conservative. Indeed, Mr. Ryan’s brazen dishonesty left even his critics breathless.

 Some of his fibs were trivial but telling, like his suggestion that President Obama is responsible for a closed auto plant in his hometown, even though the plant closed before Mr. Obama took office. Others were infuriating, like his sanctimonious declaration that “the truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves.” This from a man proposing savage cuts in Medicaid, which would cause tens of millions of vulnerable Americans to lose health coverage.

Harper faces harsh criticism from within his own party

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government needs to face public criticism from within its own tent, an Alberta Conservative MP argued Thursday.

Brent Rathgeber, MP for Edmonton-St. Albert and a federal parliamentarian since 2008, has recently raised eyebrows with his pointed criticism of wasteful government spending, gold-plated MP pensions, and the controversial supply management system that protects dairy and poultry farmers from competition.

Save the Salish Sea: Respecting Indigenous rights means stopping tar sands tankers

I am, like most of you, a strong supporter of First Nations land and title rights. Increasingly, the international community is waking up to the rights of Indigenous people and their justified desire for sovereignty and self-determination.

This struggle is playing itself out very publicly as First Nations on the west coast of Canada have drawn a line in the sand regarding dangerous pipeline projects. That is the context for the canoe gathering this weekend in the Vancouver harbour, organized by the Tsleil-Waututh Nation and the the Squamish Nation.

Protecting the waters is a sacred trust

Arctic diplomacy is not enough

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has just completed his annual trek to the Canadian North. Unlike previous years, when he emphasized international challenges, this trip focused on domestic Arctic issues. Several important new initiatives were announced, such as the creation of a new park. However, while the normal focus on the protection of Canadian Arctic sovereignty and security were not as evident, no one should be under the impression that the case for fulfilling previous promises has been reduced. International interest in the region only strengthens it.

Civil servants next on wage freeze list, says Dalton McGuinty

WATERLOO—Premier Dalton McGuinty says his wage freeze crusade is setting civil servants as its next target.

“We’re coming,” he told reporters Friday while campaigning in next Thursday’s by-election.

Once the minority Liberal government passes its controversial legislation to impose contracts on teachers and ban strikes for two years and gets doctors “back to the table” for negotiations, efforts will centre on the Ontario Public Service Employees Union and a federation representing managers and professionals in the civil service, McGuinty said.

Axing reviews not a solution

It's one thing for the federal government to listen to lobbying by resource development companies and other industry groups to streamline the environmental review process of projects to make it more efficient.

That doesn't mean, however, that the proper response is to scrap the reviews altogether, or for the federal government to wash its hands of the responsibility by turning it over to the provinces or other agencies that are going through their own budget restructuring processes, which have an impact on their capacity to conduct reviews.

The Throwaways

Police enlist young offenders as confidential informants. But the work is high-risk, largely unregulated, and sometimes fatal.

On the evening of May 7, 2008, a twenty-three-year-old woman named Rachel Hoffman got into her silver Volvo sedan, put on calming jam-band music, and headed north to a public park in Tallahassee, Florida. A recent graduate of Florida State, she was dressed to blend into a crowd—bluejeans, green-and-white patterned T-shirt, black Reef flip-flops. On the passenger seat beside her was a handbag that contained thirteen thousand dollars in marked bills.

Mitt Romney: His Party Is the Problem

Who knew that Mitt Romney was such a fan of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign?

“How many days have you woken up feeling that something really special was happening in America?” Romney told thousands of Republican delegates, alternates and hangers-on Thursday night. “Many of you felt that way on Election Day four years ago. Hope and Change had a powerful appeal.”

Godly American Businessman: How the RNC Marketed Mitt Romney

TAMPA -- Paradoxically, the bar was high for Mitt Romney's speech to the Republican convention not because much was expected of him but because it was not.

In six years of campaigning for the presidency, he has managed to leave such a hazy and sour impression in the minds of the mass of American voters that he is barely regarded as a human being. In the days and hours leading up to Romney's big moment, delegate after delegate at the convention told me, with a glint of panicked hope in their eyes, that in Romney's speech he would finally have a chance to introduce himself -- to seem real, to be understood.

Paul Ryan's Grim Vision for America

It's a struggle to truly explain Paul Ryan. He seems so reasonable. Why, in his speech on Wednesday, he told his audience about all the tough choices ahead but then added, "We have responsibilities, one to another—we do not each face the world alone. And the greatest of all responsibilities is that of the strong to protect the weak." How could you dislike a Republican who says stuff like that?

It's hard. And it's hard to convince people that this is, basically, an elaborate and finely honed act. After all, we're not used to politicians getting up on a stage and just flatly hustling us. We give them the benefit of the doubt, especially when they speak in sober tones and make a point of sorrowfully acknowledging how tough things are for everyone.

Romney's Speech: The Softer Side of a Hard-Right Campaign

With the Republican convention in Tampa, Mitt Romney has launched the most ideological presidential campaign in recent history. At issue is not merely the current state of the economy and Romney's ability to become the CEO-in-chief and perform a turnaround. Romney is waging a battle for the opportunity to conduct a conservative social experiment that would remake fundamentals of American society. But he neglected to mention that Thursday night during his climactic—though hardly soaring—acceptance speech.

Corporations have their own plans for their money

Whose job is it to create jobs?

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney have been chastising Canadian corporations because they are sitting on an estimated $526 billion in cash. They should put the money to productive use or give it back to investors in the form of dividends, Carney says.

Please, someone spend the money and get some tax dollars rolling in.

It’s easy to understand the frustration of Carney and Flaherty. The federal government believes that its mix of incentives and tax reductions should have Canadian businesses rushing to invest and create jobs, but they aren’t. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has expressed similar frustration.

Ottawa says it’s streamlining environmental review process, reducing “paperwork”

OTTAWA—Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver says cancellation of nearly 600 federal environmental assessments in Ontario does not mean important pipeline proposals or plans to upgrade Chalk River nuclear facilities won’t get a proper review.

Those major projects will still be reviewed, but Ottawa is merely dropping what Oliver and Environment Minister Peter Kent say is unnecessary “paperwork.”

The 2012 federal budget led to a change in regulation that means nationwide, nearly 3,000 proposed developments will no longer be subject to a review for potential environmental damage by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA).

Ontario NDP backs teachers in opposition to McGuinty's legislation

As the public's attention was directed at 5,000 teachers gathered on the grass in front of Queen's Park on Tuesday, it neglected the buzz of activity going on only a few hundred yards away.

While the province's educators protested a bill that would freeze their wages and deny them the right to strike, Ontario's MPPs were returning from summer recess and preparing to duke it out over Premier Dalton McGuinty's Putting Students First Act.

Conservatives set to help McGuinty's Liberals

Fiscal shocker! Redford Tories promise transparency but deliver opacity!

This just in! Alberta's Progressive Conservative government is secretive!

Well… yeah!

What's astonishing is that the Alberta news media appears to be astonished by this revelation, which if you happen to have been paying attention at any time during the past decade or four shouldn't exactly come as news to you.

Yesterday, the Alison Redford generation of the successful PC firm founded by Peter Lougheed in 1971 rolled out its 2012 first-quarter financial "update" and the media were shocked -- truly shocked! -- that the government wasn’t very forthcoming with helpful analysis about the fact its optimistic pre-election predictions have been blown to smithereens by "lower than expected" energy revenues.

War Resister Kim Rivera to be deported from Canada on Sept. 20

Kim Rivera – the first female Iraq war resister to seek sanctuary in Canada – has been ordered deported.

The War Resister Support Campaign has confirmed that on Thursday August 30, 2012, Rivera received notice of her impending deportation set to occur on September 20, 2012 by Citizenship and Immigration Canada facilitated through the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA).

Lies On Parade

How do I lie to thee? Let me count the ways.

There were so many last night at the Republican National Convention—and I don’t mean just the usual convenient, half-apologetic, hey-what-do-you-expect-it’s-politics lies that conventions have been delivering by the bushel ever since the Anti-Mason Party convened the very first national political convention in America in 1831 (to nominate William Wirt, a Mason).

Nor do I mean the sort of standard, jingoistic, chest-thumping lies that all powerful nations have to feed themselves to keep the dreadful business of nationalism staggering forward until it collapses in a heap of Soviet-style self-contradictions and inanities.

Mayor Rob Ford’s conflict of interest case rooted in donations he solicited from lobbyists

Mayor Rob Ford is putting his job on the line defending the principle that a politician should be free to listen to a lobbyist’s pitch, and then pitch the lobbyist on donating to a private charity.

While some have characterized the conflict of interest case that will see Ford in court Wednesday as being about a few thousand dollars, or politicians being able to have charities, that’s not what originally got him in hot water.

Integrity Commissioner Janet Leiper warned Ford informally in 2009, and later officially, to stop using council letterhead and city resources, including his assistant’s time, to solicit funds for his private football foundation.