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, October 09, 2012

In defence of reason

On Sept. 5, I was invited by Carleton University to deliver a lecture marking the opening of their spectacular new Public Affairs building. Using George Orwell’s dystopian novel as a device to tie my arguments together, the talk was entitled, “1984 in 2012: The Assault on Reason.” I delivered the lecture, then dutifully posted the text on my website, announcing its existence to my meagre band of Twitter followers. Since then, the lecture has been shared on Twitter, posted on Facebook, aired on CPAC, linked to by numerous other news sharing sites, including iPolitics and The Huffington Post, cited in the House of Commons and read by hundreds of thousands.

Go for the Jugular

I agree with Deepak Bhargava that President Obama’s record “is more mixed” than critics and admirers admit, that progressives must refocus our attention on Congress and statehouse elections, and that elections are a “necessary but not sufficient condition for a revival of progressive politics.”

While Bhargava is right that we need to build a “deep alliance of movement forces” to pursue and win on a progressive agenda, we also need to become more hard-nosed, strategic and indeed ruthless in our effort to weaken the legitimacy and power of the right. Much as conservatives went for our collective jugular after the 2010 midterm elections by targeting the public sector labor movement, we must be willing to go for theirs—regardless of how much more money and power they might have.

Mitt Romney's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Foreign-Policy Speech

The speech that Mitt Romney gave Monday ought to make every American nervous about what he and his ideological team would do if permitted to direct U.S. foreign policy. What a debacle.

"It is the responsibility of our president to use America's great power to shape history -- not to lead from behind, leaving our destiny at the mercy of events," he said,* giving voice to the mistaken premise that made Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman allies. Anyone running for president ought to know that the president's actual responsibilities were set forth in the Constitution. That document was written long before America became a hegemon. Its signatories wisely and explicitly rejected the notion that a single man ought to be charged with shaping history. You'd think that the Iraq War would've served as a reminder that hubristic men who think they can shape history almost always fail miserably. But Romney mentioned Iraq only briefly, insisting we should've stayed longer. He doesn't realize or won't admit that occupying foreign countries makes America more rather than less vulnerable to uncontrollable events.

Romney's Stake in Chinese Stocks

On the campaign trail, Mitt Romney rips President Obama's policy on China and talks tough against the rising global power. "We're going to crack down on China," he said at a recent event in Ohio. "They've stolen our jobs; that's gotta stop." But according to Romney's recent tax returns, between 2008 and 2011 Romney invested more than a half million dollars in the stocks of 10 Chinese companies—including firms that embezzled, partnered with Iran, and stole US intellectual property.

Global Economy Gets IMF Downgrade As Farsighted Planning Urged

TOKYO - Plagued by uncertainty and fresh setbacks, the world economy has weakened further and will grow more slowly over the next year, the International Monetary Fund says in its latest forecast.

Advanced economies are risking recession while the economic malaise is spreading to more dynamic emerging economies such as China, the international lending organization says in a quarterly update of its World Economic Outlook.

Despite new president’s claims, Ornge still plagued by problems, ‘top-down culture’: staff

Days after the new president of Ontario’s air ambulance service touted a massive turnaround in the culture at Ornge, front-line staff say little has changed.

It has been almost a year since financial scandal rocked the taxpayer-funded organization, and interim president Ron McKerlie calls Ornge a “vastly different” entity today — one where employees feel comfortable broaching concerns, and where the troubling legacy of disgraced former president Chris Mazza is being erased day by day.

Environmental assessment hearings on Northern Gateway pipeline return to B.C.

PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. - The environmental assessment panel examining the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline returns to British Columbia on Tuesday, for final hearings that will put the project's environmental impact and emergency planning under a microscope.

The hearings slated to begin in Prince George will see the proponent, Enbridge Northern Gateway (TSX:ENB), scientists and project critics questioned under oath about the evidence they've submitted to the panel.

Former B.C. energy minister doubts Enbridge’s ability to get Northern Gateway pipeline built

OTTAWA — One of Canada’s most outspoken champions of the oil and gas industry has doubts whether Enbridge will ever build a pipeline to the B.C. coast — even if the $6-billion project gets federal approval.

Former B.C. energy minister Richard Neufeld, now a Conservative senator, said he strongly supports the construction of pipelines to the B.C. coast so Canada can ship Alberta’s diluted bitumen crude to booming Asian markets.

Study finds little environmental impact from oil sands

In 2010, a single oil-sands operation run by Suncor Energy released into the atmosphere 28,940 tonnes of volatile organic compounds, 22,210 tonnes of sulphur dioxide and 14,011 tonnes of particulate matter.

With those three types of substances combined, Suncor emitted into the air pollutants equivalent in weight to nearly 4,800 city buses – and the company operates just one of several mines sprawling across the landscape north of Fort McMurray, Alta.

What kind of Canada do we want?

Canada is in the process of destroying decades of progress. We are developing limited, American-style access to social programs, our employment insurance system is being slowly starved to death, tuition fees are skyrocketing — all in the name of “austerity.”

Is this the kind of Canada we want to leave to future generations?

Inequality has increased substantially in recent years. Our national income is rising, yet it mainly benefits the top 1 per cent of Canadians, to the detriment of middle-class families whose incomes have stagnated. And far too many Canadians still live in poverty — and even more are unemployed or underemployed.

China syndrome: is sinophobia driving dread of Nexen takeover?

What’s so scary about the CNOOC-Nexen deal?

Is it the litany of human rights abuses by CNOOC’s ultimate owner – the Chinese government? Is it the suspicions of espionage and intellectual property theft that swirl around most big-ticket Chinese industries? Is it the fact CNOOC is a state-owned enterprise (SOE)? Is it because Nexen is a strategically important company to Canada? Or is it because Canadian companies can’t buy up resources in China like CNOOC can here – an unfair lack of reciprocity?

Trade, not aid, the theme of Harper’s visit to Africa

After years of apparent neglect, the Harper government has discovered Africa’s potential. High-level visits to three key African countries this week are kickstarting a new emphasis on Africa as a fast-growing trade partner, not merely an impoverished aid recipient.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrives in the West African nation of Senegal Wednesday, and will travel onward to the war-torn but mineral-rich Democratic Republic of the Congo Friday. It’s only his second visit to sub– Saharan Africa as Prime Minister and his first in five years.

Canada’s spy bosses think of their elaborate new HQ as ‘Camelot’

Canada’s electronic spy organization believes that the state-of-the-art headquarters now being built in Gloucester will make it a leader among its allies and attract the best and brightest of spies, according to newly released government documents obtained by the Citizen.

When finished in 2015-16, Communications Security Establishment Canada’s new $880-million spy campus on Ogilvie Road, near Blair Road, is expected to be home to more than 1,800 employees.

Broadbent Institute makes income inequality its first focus

The new social democratic think-tank named after former NDP leader Ed Broadbent wants to spark a national policy debate by building on the central theme of last year's Occupy Movement.

In a preface to The Broadbent Institute's first full policy report, "Towards a More Equal Canada," Broadbent calls growing inequality "the defining political issue of our time," saying Canada is "moving in the wrong direction."

The report's release today is accompanied by a YouTube video narrated by Broadbent himself, in which a "Play-Doh Ed" armed with a marker and whiteboard sketches out the causes and impact of growing disparities in Canadian incomes.

Canada must move on income inequality: Broadbent Institute

OTTAWA — Canada is moving in the wrong direction and must address its extreme and growing income inequality, according to a new discussion paper from the Broadbent Institute.

The paper, released to Postmedia News on Monday, argues that developing a comprehensive policy agenda — which could include affordable housing, improvements to Employment Insurance, “fair” taxes and a national prescription drug program — is needed to address the problem.

Communication breakdown: How Canadians were let down on E. coli response

So far, 10 Canadians have been poisoned by beef tainted with the E. coli 0157:H7 bacterium, a pathogen that originates in cattle excrement.

But millions more Canadians have been fed a bunch of B.S. by those whose responsibility it is to prevent, contain and explain such public health disasters.

Income Inequality In Canada: Ed Broadbent Wants To Give Tories 'A Good Shake'

hereEd Broadbent has a novel idea for convincing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other Conservative politicians to care about income inequality.

“I would like to take them all and give them a good shake, and take them back to talk to their parents or grandparents,” he said.

Justin Trudeau and political amnesia

You would think that federal Liberals would by how have immunized themselves against the affliction that almost did them in: the kind of delusional giddiness at the prospect of a political saviour. It is so embarrassing watching Liberals talk about Trudeau 2.0 -- as if beating some brainless Conservative thug in the boxing ring somehow qualifies for him taking on Stephen Harper's storm troopers. Hope springs eternal, yes, but even that aphorism has limits.

Any euphoria accompanying Trudeau's leadership bid is rooted in a convenient amnesia about just what the Liberal Party is and what it has stood for over the past 18 years under Jean Chretien and Paul Martin. While Justin might make people feel good, his party effectively paved the way for what Stephen Harper is now doing to the country -- establishing the new political paradigm by which big business runs the country.

The rehabilitation of Brian Mulroney: There's a reason he's looking so good these days

Have you noticed how Brian Mulroney is looking pretty good lately?

Back in the day, after Mulroney left office in 1993 as the Conservative prime minister who brought us "free" trade, failed constitutional change and sundry other disasters, real and imagined, he could have been fairly described as the most unpopular man in Canada.

And that was before the sleazy sounding but never proven allegations made the rounds about whatever the heck was going on between the former prime minister and Karlheinz Schreiber, plus those envelopes of cash and those airliners.

MP's trans predator fearmongering escalates

On Friday, Sun News commentator Brian Lilley interviewed Rob Anders, the Member of Parliament who has drawn condemnation for conflating transsexual and transgender people with sexual predators in a petition he has been circulating on his website, and to at least one church in his riding. In "Children's bathroom bill reaches Parliament Hill," both doubled down on conflating trans people with sexual predators, and suggested that granting human rights inclusion will somehow enable and legally absolve predatory acts.  Anders claims there is "all sorts of examples of this going on."  Which is news to anybody else.

The Finance Dept. finally agrees with the PBO: it’s a structural deficit

The Parliamentary Budget Office has been warning that the federal government has been running a “structural deficit” for several years now, and the Conservative government has been dismissing those warnings for just as long. Interestingly, though, the Department of Finance just came up with a new feature for the 2012 edition of the Fiscal Reference Tables, which were made public on Friday: estimates for the “cyclically-adjusted budget balance.” And they look a lot like the PBO’s estimates.

The idea behind the CABB is that governments should aim to run a balanced budget over the course of the business cycle: surpluses in expansions would offset the deficits incurred during recessions. Balancing the budget in every year would mean that governments would be forced to increase taxes and cut spending in downturns, and to do the opposite when the economy is growing quickly.

When is a job interview too personal?

Braving tough questions during a job interview is one thing.

But the Canada Border Services Agency's deeply probing "integrity questionnaire" is a test that the Customs and Immigration Union says goes too far — with queries about applicants' drinking and gambling habits, their circle of friends, and even their histories of soliciting prostitutes.

Amid objections to the federal agency's 57-question survey for new recruits and aspiring career climbers, employment lawyers say job seekers are expecting interviewers to get more in-depth and personal when judging prospective hires.

Canada 'at risk' from Chinese firm, U.S. warns

The head of the powerful U.S. Intelligence Committee is urging Canadian companies not to do business with the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei as a matter of national security.

In a scathing report released Monday in Washington, the congressional committee branded Huawei a threat to U.S. national security, and urged American telecommunications companies using the Chinese firm to “find other vendors.”

Gap between rich and poor is the defining issue of our time: Broadbent Institute

A year after the Occupy movement set up camps in cities around the world to protest economic disparities, the institute founded by former NDP leader Ed Broadbent has conducted a study that says income inequality is the defining issue of our time.

“Reasonable people can differ over what income and wealth differences are needed to provide incentives and appropriate motivation in a market economy,” said the report released Tuesday. “But extreme economic inequality clearly undermines equal developmental opportunities and individual freedom since unequal economic resources give rise to significant imbalances of power.”

Toronto residents uninformed about Metrolinx transit plan

Four years ago, the provincial agency Metrolinx came up with a comprehensive plan to deal with congestion in Greater Toronto and Hamilton by building more transit. Titled the “Big Move,” it envisions vastly improved GO Train service, several new LRT lines, expansions of the subway system and several bus projects. But barely anyone knows about it.

In fact, close to 90 per cent of respondents in the Nanos Research survey said they had never heard of the plan, suggesting the province has a lot more work to do to bring the public on side. Toronto Board of Trade president Carol Wilding said people might be more willing to pay extra for better transit if they know there is a plan in place.

“It’s important that the province drive discussion, drive debate and drive a solution,” she said.

Paul Bedford, a former Metrolinx board member, said the region needs more public discussion and debate to move beyond simply being frustrated by the problem.

“People need to understand that, yeah, we've got a mess, it will only get worse if we do nothing and there are the choices … and there are consequences for each of those choices, and we've got to make a decision,” he said.

Original Article
Source: the globe and mail

As regulators size up insurers, ‘too big to fail’ ignites debate

When it comes to lobbying policy makers and regulators, banks and insurance companies often line up together. But for the next while, don’t be surprised if insurers put some distance between themselves and their financial industry cousins. The reason: the Financial Stability Board, led by Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney.

Mr. Carney’s group, which enacts the regulatory will of the Group of 20 nations, is turning its gaze in the direction of the insurance industry.

Corporate tax revenues higher despite lower rate

Corporate tax revenues coming in to Ottawa were up slightly last year, even as the Conservative government was in the midst of an aggressive plan to lower the corporate tax rate.

The federal government raised $31.7-billion from corporate taxes in the fiscal year that ended March 31, up from $30-billion in 2010-11.

The new data on corporate tax revenues will be examined closely in Ottawa, where debate over the appropriate rate has been a dominant theme of recent election campaigns. The NDP built its election platform on the assumption that a higher corporate tax rate would bring in billions in additional revenue. Advocates of the Conservative tax cuts argued that there would be little to no impact on federal revenues because the lower rate would attract foreign investment and increase the number of corporate taxpayers.

World Bank warns China slowdown could worsen

SINGAPORE—The World Bank cut its economic growth forecasts for the East Asia and Pacific region on Monday and said there was a risk the slowdown in China could worsen and last longer than many analysts have forecast.

“Unlike the rest of the region, China is experiencing a double whammy—the growth slowdown is driven by weaker exports as well as domestic demand, in particular investment growth,” World Bank Chief Economist for East Asia and the Pacific Bert Hofman said at a briefing in Singapore.

Oil Losing Grip On Transport Industry Market, Report Claims

LONDON, Oct 8 (Reuters) - - The transport industry that burns over half the world's oil is wriggling free from dependence on gasoline and diesel at a rate that should alarm producers, an independent research report said on Monday.

"The oil industry can no longer rely on its monopoly of the transport market," said the Chatham House study in its principle finding.

Cities Impose New Regulations On Homeless Amid Tightening Budgets

COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Army veteran Don Matyja was getting by alright on the streets of this city tucked in Southern California suburbia until he got ticketed for smoking in the park. Matyja, who has been homeless since he was evicted nearly two years ago, had trouble paying the fine and getting to court – and now a $25 penalty has ballooned to $600.

The ticket is just one of myriad new challenges facing Matyja and others living on the streets in Orange County, where a number of cities have recently passed ordinances that ban everything from smoking in the park to sleeping in cars to leaning bikes against trees in a region better known for its beaches than its 30,000 homeless people.

Syria Turkey Conflict: Turkish Military Retaliates To Syrian Shelling

BEIRUT — Syria's cross-border attacks on Turkey in the past week look increasingly like they could be an intentional escalation meant to send a clear message to Ankara and beyond, that the crisis is simply too explosive to risk foreign military intervention.

With Turkey eager to defuse the crisis, the spillover of fighting is giving new life to a longshot political solution, with the Turks floating the idea of making President Bashar Assad's longtime vice president, Farouk al-Sharaa, interim leader if the president steps aside.

States Deny Millions Of Ex-Felons Voting Rights

Eric Bates was caught twice in the late 1990s driving with a suspended license, and then again in 2006. That third time, under then-Virginia law, Bates was considered a habitual offender and was prosecuted as a felon.

He served 14 months in prison and was released in 2008. He returned home hoping to put his legal issues behind him and move on with his life.

Uninsured Cancer Patient Saved by Little-Known Obamacare "Bridge" Program on Pre-Existing Conditions

When Colorado resident Tami Graham was diagnosed with Stage 1 uterine cancer, she knew she could not afford the tens of thousands of dollars needed for treatment since she did not have health insurance. That is when someone mentioned the high-risk pools established by President Obama’s The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The insurance helped pay for Graham’s hysterectomy, as well as follow-up care. After Graham responded to the Obama campaign’s Facebook post seeking personal experiences with the Affordable Care Act, she was invited to introduce Obama at a Denver fundraising event. Graham joins us to talk about this underreported part of Obama’s healthcare plan that is designed as a bridge for people with pre-existing conditions who cannot obtain health insurance coverage.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

All the Missing Horses: Federal Gov’t Selling Wild Horses to Western Dealer Linked to Slaughter

In a new investigation, ProPublica reporter Dave Philipps tracks what happens to many of the wild horses rounded up in the western United States by the Bureau of Land Management. A little-known livestock hauler named Tom Davis is buying almost all of the horses the bureau removes from the wild, in a program meant to maintain a sustainable balance among the herds. Like all buyers in the program, Davis signs a contract promising the animals will not be slaughtered and insists he finds them good homes. But Davis is a longtime advocate of horse slaughter, and he refuses to disclose where the horses end up. Animal welfare advocates fear the horses he buys are being sent to the killing floor.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --