Democracy Gone Astray

Democracy, being a human construct, needs to be thought of as directionality rather than an object. As such, to understand it requires not so much a description of existing structures and/or other related phenomena but a declaration of intentionality.
This blog aims at creating labeled lists of published infringements of such intentionality, of points in time where democracy strays from its intended directionality. In addition to outright infringements, this blog also collects important contemporary information and/or discussions that impact our socio-political landscape.

All the posts here were published in the electronic media – main-stream as well as fringe, and maintain links to the original texts.

[NOTE: Due to changes I haven't caught on time in the blogging software, all of the 'Original Article' links were nullified between September 11, 2012 and December 11, 2012. My apologies.]

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Progressive Primer on the Issue of America's Debt Problem - Ten Things You Really Need to Know

Central to the Republican critique of the Obama Administration in this election cycle has been the Administration's supposed failure to address and resolve the problem of America's growing debt. There is much wild and loose talk in beltway circles these days about federal over-spending, about federal over-borrowing, about the nation steadily going broke, and about the national security threat creatd by the size and character of the federal deficit. There is much Washington talk too about the resulting need for tough decisions, shared sacrifices, the pruning of government programs and the ending of entitlements. Indeed the Republican Party has got the deficit-reduction bug so badly right now that they are currently committed to the addition of a balanced budget amendment to the constitution, an amendment explicitly designed to constrain federal spending in exactly the same way as similar amendments to state constitutions now constrain most state governments. And Mitt Romney has the bug so badly that he is committed to policies designed to cap federal spending at 20 percent of GDP, even though demographic pressures alone will be sufficient to challenge that cap -- so that the cap will be maintained only by a fundamental erosion of basic welfare services to all but the wealthiest Americans.

Voting Wrongs

The Republicans’ plan is that if they can’t buy the 2012 election they will steal it.

The plan, long in the making and now well into its execution, is to raise great gobs of money—in newly limitless amounts—so that they and their allies could outspend the president’s forces; and they would also place obstacles in the way of large swaths of citizens who traditionally support the Democrats and want to exercise their right to vote. The plan would disproportionately affect blacks, who were guaranteed the right to vote in 1870 by the Fifteenth Amendment; but then that right was negated by southern state legislatures; and after people marched, were beaten, and died in the civil rights movement, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Now various state legislatures are coming up with new ways to try once again to nullify that right.

Voter ID Laws Take Aim At College-Student Voters

In Tennessee, a new law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls explicitly excludes student IDs.

In Wisconsin, college students are newly disallowed from using university-provided housing lists or corroboration from other students to verify their residence.

How to Beat the Fact-Checkers

As Mitt Romney was buttoning up the Republican nomination this past spring, he addressed the annual convention of the American Society of News Editors in the cavernous ballroom of the Marriott Wardman Park hotel in Washington, DC. He blasted President Obama for breaking a "promise" to keep unemployment below 8 percent—a charge that had previously earned Romney three Pinocchios from the Washington Post's "Fact Checker" column. He also slammed the president for "apologizing for America abroad"—an accusation that PolitiFact had months earlier branded a "pants on fire" lie. And he accused Obama of adding "nearly as much public debt as all the prior presidents combined" (a statement already judged "an exaggeration" by and of cutting $500 million from Medicare (a "false" assertion according to PolitiFact).

BC Fault Line, Tsunami Risk May Exist Near Proposed Northern Gateway, LNG Projects

A tsunami hazard and a possible seismic fault have been identified in the Douglas Channel near Kitimat — the proposed site of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and at least three liquefied natural gas projects.

The information is included in a scientific paper by the Geological Survey of Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans uncovered by Huffington Post B.C. blogger and journalist Robin Rowland. The study was part of a legal filing to the Joint Review Panel that’s assessing the proposal for a pipeline to carry bitumen from the Alberta oilsands to northern B.C.

Three cheers for Rob Ford, true face of the modern right

Three cheers for Rob Ford. Many disparage Toronto’s outsize mayor. I say he does the country a favour by showing the true face of the modern right.

Other conservative leaders try to present a mellow face to the world. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has learned to speak in soothing monotones as he announces cuts to pensions and Employment Insurance. Ontario Tory Leader Tim Hudak smiles when he calls for trade union rights to be gutted.

Stephen Harper sows confusion in carbon-tax debate

OTTAWA – Stephen Harper took a bold step forward this week to a new kind of creative, performance-based politics, uncoupling himself from the mundane world of facts and deftly using confusion as a weapon.

In Question Period on Tuesday, when Liberal MP Marc Garneau tried to attack the prime minister, Harper responded by comparing the Liberals unfavourably to the NDP.

Elections Canada investigates fraudulent calls beyond Guelph

OTTAWA — Elections Canada’s investigation into fraudulent and deceptive calls in the last election has extended beyond Guelph, with investigators looking into calls in Ottawa, Toronto and Burlington following up complaints from the public.

On Tuesday, Elections Canada investigator John Dickson called a worker from the Ken Dryden campaign in Toronto’s York Centre to check whether his campaign was responsible for repeated late-night calls received by a voter in Ottawa West-Nepean.

Feds studying private prisons as way to save money

OTTAWA -- The Harper government has been quietly studying private prisons in other countries as a possible model to save money in federal penitentiaries, CTV News has learned.

The government hired the consulting firm Deloitte & Touche to examine prisons in seven countries aimed at building an “understanding of various models, approaches and experiences,” according the 1,400-page report obtained by CTV News under the Access to Information Act.

U.S. officials accuse Tories of leaking Omar Khadr documents

OTTAWA—United States administration officials accuse the federal Conservative government of leaking classified documents about Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr, saying they “are astonished” by the apparent breach.

Maclean’s magazine published a “world exclusive” story this week saying its writer viewed a complete transcript of a seven-hour interview between Khadr and Dr. Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist hired by the Pentagon’s prosecution team.

The full interview was provided in confidence to the government of Canada as it weighs Khadr’s request to transfer to a Canadian prison from Guantanamo Bay.

Unions, government need to work together to manage painful cuts to public service

OTTAWA — The Conservative government and federal unions should sit down and collaborate on a “common sense” way to manage 19,200 job cuts in the public service to reduce the turmoil some say may have contributed to as many as four suicides, experts say.

The human toll of the way the job cuts are being managed came under the spotlight this week following revelations that a Justice Canada lawyer committed suicide after he and his wife received “affected letters” putting them on notice that their jobs were in jeopardy. The number of distress calls to the government’s employee assistance program has climbed steadily since the cuts began and insiders say there may have been as many as four suicides.

Harper’s Tories may have perfected dumb, dishonest, attack-dog politics, but they didn’t invent it

The current issue of The New Yorker contains an absorbing piece by Jill Lepore on Campaigns Inc., the “first political consulting firm in the history of the world.” Established in 1933 by a pair of former journalists, the firm went on to win 70 of 75 elections for its clients over the next two decades, in the process writing the rules for every campaign that was to follow.

As Lepore summarizes them, they include: “Make it personal: candidates are easier to sell than issues… Pretend that you are the Voice of the People… Attack, attack, attack… Never explain… Say the same thing over and over again… Simplify, simplify, simplify…” And, a personal favourite: “You can put on a fight, or you can put on a show.”

Our voices are marginalized: Indigenous women speak out against the tar sands

Tonight (Sept. 21), Indigenous women directly affected by Canada's oil sands and their associated pipelines are sharing their stories in Vancouver.

The event -- She Speaks: Indigenous Women Speak Out Against the Tar Sands -- is part of a series of first-hand accounts across the country bringing women's voices to bear on the environmental and social impacts of the world's largest industrial project – and the single greatest human greenhouse gas emitter.

The free event will offer a meal and story-telling at the Aboriginal Friendship Center (1607 East Hastings St) from 5:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. tonight.

CSIS warns business leaders of Chinese cyber-spies

Canada's intelligence service is warning Canadian businesses about the growing threat of Chinese cyber-spies.

Sources have told CBC News that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) is alerting some of the country's top corporate executives that their companies may be the target of Chinese computer hackers.

In an e-mail, a CSIS spokesperson said the agency can't comment on specific conversations. But the spokesperson said there is “no denying that Canada is an attractive target for economic and political espionage, owing to our prominence in strategic sectors such communications, biotechnology, mineral and energy extraction, aerospace and others.”

Africa next: With investment outpacing aid, is this a new golden age for the poorest continent?

In the dusty streets of the tiny village of Romaro, a building boom is under way. Crumbling mud shacks are being replaced by new tin-roofed houses. Almost overnight, the village’s ancient way of life has vanished. Most of its farmland has been swallowed up by a Swiss multinational, Addax Bioenergy, which has leased more than 14,000 hectares of Sierra Leone for a $330-million sugar-cane plantation to produce ethanol for the European market.

China calls for free-trade deal with Canada within a decade

Canada and China should move quickly toward a free-trade agreement, Beijing’s ambassador has urged, insisting it would provide a longer-term solution to questions about two-way investment sparked by the $15-billion Chinese takeover bid for Alberta oil firm Nexen Inc.

“Business is business,” Ambassador Zhang Junsai said on Friday, adding that Ottawa should decide whether to approve the takeover of Nexen by China’s state-owned oil giant CNOOC Ltd. based on its business benefits alone, not criticisms of China’s rights record, or domestic politics.