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.]

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Quantum Theory of Romney’s Abortion Position

“There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda,” Mitt Romney told the editorial board of the Des Moines Register. “I am pro-life and believe that abortion should be limited to only instances of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother,” Mitt Romney wrote in “My Pro-Life Pledge,” a column in the National Review last summer. Some parsers suggested that Mitt was relying heavily on words like “legislation,” “I’m familiar with,” and, perhaps, every other phrase in the sentence, thus technically not contradicting himself (while not moving to the center, either). Nominating anti-Roe Supreme Court Justices, one of the things Romney has said he’d do, is not, after all, a legislative act. But even that doesn’t work, because others are: he said that he’d cut off funding for Planned Parenthood and “advocate for and support a Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to protect unborn children who are capable of feeling pain from abortion.” And anyway, his campaign spokeswoman responded to a question today from NRO by saying, “Governor Romney would of course support legislation aimed at providing greater protections for life.” Perhaps the words Romney finds most pliable are “I’m” and “my.”

At the Supreme Court, a Timid Defense

After the arguments in the Supreme Court yesterday, it’s unclear whether there is a legal problem with the affirmative-action admissions program at the University of Texas. Regardless of how the case turns out, though, it is clear that there is a political problem with contemporary affirmative action.

The flagship U.T. campus in Austin admits students in two ways. First, students at the top of their high-school class—usually the top ten per cent—are admitted automatically. Second, some students are admitted under a “holistic” analysis of all of their qualifications, including their race. Abigail Fisher, a white woman who was rejected for admission, sued, claiming that the consideration of the race of minority applicants amounted to discrimination against her.

Debate Question for Paul Ryan: Which of Mitt's Many Sides Are You On?

The inconvenient truth about this year’s Republican ticket is that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan disagree.

A lot.

The substantive differences between Romney and Ryan on issues ranging from tax policy to entitlement reform to reproductive rights are jarring. And they provide the outline that Vice President Joe Biden would be wise to focus on as he debates Ryan tonight.

Ban on bank mergers helped Canada withstand crash, IMF says

The International Monetary Fund today takes a deeper look at why banks in Canada and a handful of other countries withstood the 2008-2009  meltdown, which could provide lessons going forward.

In its financial stability report, the IMF concludes that the “funding structure of banks could be more important than a lack of foreign bank ownership for financial stability.

Ottawa rejects calls to help fund west-to-east pipeline

The Harper government has rejected calls to provide financial support for a west-to-east pipeline that would bring lower-cost North American crude to eastern Canadian consumers who now rely on premium-priced imports.

In a call from India, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said Ottawa supports the development of an oil pipeline network into eastern Canada, but that any project must be commercially viable on its own.

Right-wing hate, the Roma people and Jason Kenney's trip to Hungary

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a tweet can be worth at least a 100 carefully crafted news releases.

Take the following tweet, for example: " get them the f -- outta here cuz most are false asylum seekers. They had their free vacay, now it's time to go!"

That came from someone who styles herself as "Future Chaos @MissManiac88". It was in response to a series of tweets from Canada's Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

MP Russ Hiebert’s anti-union campaign: is Bill C-377 another Tory ‘own-goal’?

What are Prime Minister Stephen Harper's boon companions in the courts, fern-encrusted law offices, plush executive suites of provincial medical associations and anti-union construction associations going to say when they discover that Bill C-377 gores their sleek oxen too, and not just the scrawny beasts owned by a bunch of annoying trade unionists?

Maybe The Great Oz has a plan for this. After all, Harper is supposed to be one of the Giant Political Minds of the 21st Century. But I'm just asking.

Bill C-377, for those of you who don’t keep up on these things, is a typical little bit of Reform Party wedge-politickery designed to poke a stick in the eye of the NDP Opposition. Give me a minute and I'll explain everything.

Turkish PM says intercepted Syrian plane carrying ammunition

Escalating tensions with Russia, Turkey defended its forced landing of a Syrian passenger jet en route from Moscow to Damascus, saying Thursday it was carrying Russian ammunition and military equipment destined for the Syrian Defence Ministry.

Syria branded the incident piracy and Russia called the search illegal, saying it endangered the lives of Russian citizens aboard the plane.

Education should take a lesson from the open-source movement

Canadian postsecondary education has its solitudes: universities, polytechnics, colleges; provincial jurisdictions; the industry-academic divide. Canada may lead the world in the attainment of higher education, but we often neglect to recognize that this considers all types of education combined. Our failure to knit these systems together, and to link education and research to social and economic outcomes, will affect our long-term prosperity and capacity to innovate.

As we modernize our approach to education in a globalized world, there are lessons we can learn from the open-source movement. Open source provides the language of collaboration and co-operation – the basis from which programmers stitch discrete pieces into a coherent whole. Applied to education, open source emphasizes the agency of learners and the importance of both formal and informal education.

Conservatives overspend government advertising budgets by 37 per cent

The Harper government is being transparent with its advertising expenses because cabinet approvals of advertising budgets are posted quarterly, a spokesman for federal Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose said Thursday.

But an examination of the Conservative government’s first five years in office shows it overspent those cabinet-approved ad budgets by $128-million — more than 37 per cent.

IMF urges Europe to put brakes on austerity

The IMF on Thursday backed giving debt-burdened Greece and Spain more time to reduce their budget deficits, cautioning that cutting too far, too fast would do more harm than good.

But Germany pushed back and said back-tracking on debt-reduction goals would only hurt confidence, a stance that suggested some disagreement between the International Monetary Fund and Europe’s largest creditor country.

"Earthship Biotecture": Renegade New Mexico Architect’s Radical Approach to Sustainable Living

New Mexico residents are trying to a break free from Los Alamos’ nuclear legacy by creating more environmentally sound ways of living. At the forefront of this struggle is renegade architect Michael Reynolds, creator of radically sustainable living options through a process called "Earthship Biotecture." Reynolds’ solar homes are created from natural and recycled materials, including aluminum cans, plastic bottles and used tires. These off-the-grid homes minimize their reliance on public utilities and fossil fuels by harnessing their energy from the sun and wind turbines. In Taos, New Mexico, Reynolds gives us a tour of one of the sustainable-living homes he created.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

After Decades of Uranium Mining, Navajo Nation Struggles With Devastating Legacy of Contamination

New Mexico’s long history of uranium mining on Native American lands provides fuel for the front end of the nuclear industry and stores much of the mine tailings and radioactive waste from nuclear weapons and power plants. We look at the devastating impact uranium mining continues to have on Native lands with Leona Morgan of Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining, a group dedicated to protecting the water, air, land and health of communities in areas impacted by uranium mines. We’re also joined by Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico and former Los Alamos National Laboratory investigator Chuck Montaño.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

Civics lesson for Rob Ford

Considering her mandate, city Ombudsman Fiona Crean is a strange target for Rob Ford and followers.

According to her job description, her mission is to address “your concerns about the service you receive from the city” and to investigate “complaints of administrative unfairness” – exactly the customer service issues Ford trumpeted during his mayoral campaign.

For whom the road tolls?

Since the start of Rob Ford’s term, city residents have watched council fight over how to pay for better transit. Now the public will get a chance to have their say.

On Tuesday, October 9, Ford’s executive committee approved a plan to consult locals on a menu of new revenue tools to be used to fund the expansion of the regional transit system.

Casino plans slammed at community meeting

Anyone who wants to see a casino built in downtown Toronto has a lot of convincing to do, if a packed public meeting at City Hall Wednesday night is any indication.

Roughly 200 people turned out for the meeting of the Toronto and East York Community Council, the local body made up of downtown and East York councillors that usually deals with minor local matters. Although the item up for debate was an otherwise inconsequential report about how zoning bylaws might affect a future casino, dozens of residents took the opportunity to sign up and decry the negative social and economic impacts they claim would accompany any gambling facility.

Oil in new Gulf slick matches that of 2010 spill

The oil in a slick detected in the Gulf of Mexico last month matched oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill two years ago, the Coast Guard said Wednesday night, ending one mystery and creating another.

“The exact source of the oil is unclear at this time but could be residual oil associated with the wreckage or debris left on the seabed from the Deepwater Horizon incident,” the Coast Guard said.

JPMorgan Chase's Bear Stearns Buy Lost Bank $10 Billion, CEO Jamie Dimon Says

WASHINGTON, Oct 10 (Reuters) - JPMorgan Chase & Co Chief Executive Jamie Dimon said his company has lost up to $10 billion as a result of the government asking him to buy teetering Wall Street firm Bear Stearns during the financial crisis.

"I'm going to say we've lost $5 billion to $10 billion on various things related to Bear Stearns now. And yes, I put it in the unfair category," Dimon said, speaking at a Council on Foreign Relations event.

Dimon said the losses come from litigation and writedowns, among other expenses.

Last week, JPMorgan was hit with a fresh civil lawsuit from the New York attorney general, seeking to hold the bank accountable for allegations that Bear Stearns deceived investors buying mortgage-backed securities.

"Would I have done Bear Stearns again knowing what I know today? It's real close," Dimon said.

Original Article
Source: huffington post
Author: Reuters

The Real Reason Romney’s Tax Math Doesn't Add Up

Mitt Romney’s tax plan has three key planks. He cuts personal income tax rates by 20 percent across the board; he eliminates deductions, exclusions and credits so that the deficit does not grow; and he doesn’t make the tax code any less progressive. Unfortunately, as the Tax Policy Center has shown, only two of these planks can co-exist.

Conservatives have reacted aggressively against the TPC report. It seems that Mitt’s plan should be viable: If you cut tax rates proportionally across the board, and eliminate tax deductions proportionally, it seems progressivity should be unchanged. In fact, if you eliminate tax breaks starting with the wealthy, as Romney says he would, it seems he should be able to make the tax code even more progressive.

Elizabeth Warren-Scott Brown Debate: Candidates Face Off In Springfield

Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren met for their third debate Wednesday night with the first question about jobs -- not the Native American heritage controversy that led the first two debates.

Warren, a Harvard law professor, went to Brown's votes in Washington. "That's why I was so surprised when Senator Brown voted against three jobs bills in a row," she said during the debate in Springfield, Mass. "And why? because it would've meant an increase in taxes. Not for most people, but for those making a million dollars or more."

Tagg Team: The Romney Family Recipe for Crony Capitalism

Marc Leder, a wealthy investor, played host to Mitt Romney last May at a private fundraiser at his $4 million home in Boca Raton. Little did Leder know at the time, however, that someone would videotape the event and later leak it to the world, revealing the GOP standard-bearer in the act of caustically dismissing 47 percent of the country as too “dependent upon government” even to consider voting for him this year.

Leder attempted to duck the ensuing storm of media attention, telling Fortune that he had simply “hosted a fundraiser for an old friend.” But Leder’s ties to the candidate run deeper than campaign contributions or an old friendship. As an investor, he is part of a network of links to the Romney family business empire that will acquire enormous relevance if the GOP nominee manages to ascend to the White House.

Why Did This Clean-Energy Group Fund a Pro-Coal, Pro-Oil Outfit?

"Environmentalists punish companies without protecting people" is the headline of a column that appeared on the website of the American Action Forum a year ago.

The group has called for increased domestic production of oil, coal, and natural gas. Officials there have criticized President Barack Obama's "eagerness to speed our progression to a low-carbon economy" and argued that the administration is "regulating coal out of existence."

Potentially flawed data used by banks and lenders bump up house prices

Flaws in a national databank that helps determine the value of houses across Canada have helped fuel inflation in home prices, putting mortgage lenders and borrowers at greater risk, key players in the housing sector have warned.

Documents obtained by The Globe and Mail detailing confidential statements from banks, appraisers and mortgage insurers show rising worry over the use of a database operated by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). The documents suggest the data are flawed and help push home prices up.

Montreal Police Officer In 2nd Video Controversy

A Montreal police officer already at the centre of an excessive force controversy has been caught on tape in another incident that is raising questions about her conduct.

The recent incident started with a man holding a beer on a public sidewalk and ended with four arrests and an accidental audio recording that captured the officer calling those involved "assholes" and describing how she nearly suffocated one man.

Oakville gas plant cancellation costs ballooning, says analyst

Ontario electricity users are on the hook for more than $700 million in extra fees because of the McGuinty government’s decision to move a gas-fired generator out of Oakville, says an energy consultant.

Provincial officials say that number is much too big.

However, one provincial source, who did not want to be named, concedes that the cost of moving the plant from Oakville to the site of the Lennox generating station near Bath, 210 kilometres east of Toronto, is $220 million more than the $40-million cost acknowledged by the province to date.

Costly court battle over budget makes no sense

OTTAWA — Reasonable people can disagree on many things, such as the value of stimulus spending, gun registries or Rush’s music.

But as we sit on the verge of a ridiculous, wasteful court battle between the federal government and Canada’s budget watchdog, we’re not seeing a showdown between two reasonable sides.

Conservative anti-abortion MP has new ultrasound plan

Just when you thought the long and winding Conservative battle against abortion rights was over, the fightin’ fetal protectionists are back, and in a particularly shameless way, both here and in Britain.

They’re doing it for the girls.

B.C. Conservative MP Mark Warawa, proud father of bill M-408, after the failure of dopey Kitchener MP Stephen Woodworth’s M-312, wants you to know that he likes girls. He likes them so much that he urges us to celebrate the UN’s first-ever International Day of the Girl. It’s this Thursday.

Conservatives commit $16 million to 'action plan' ads while cutting programs

OTTAWA - The Conservative government has approved tens of millions of dollars in "economic action plan" ads this year even as it cites fiscal restraint to cut programs such as scientific research and environmental monitoring.

While Finance officials are refusing to disclose the budget for the current blitz, contracts listed on the department's website suggest the saturation ad campaign is costing taxpayers about $14 million.

Jon Hubbard, Arkansas Legislator, Defends Pro-Slavery Comments

The Republican Arkansas state legislator whose writing in favor of slavery has embroiled the state GOP in controversy is now defending his viewpoints on the subject.

State Rep. Jon Hubbard (R-Jonesboro) told the Jonesboro Sun on Tuesday that he continues to believe the viewpoints he expressed in a 2010 book that slavery was a "blessing" for blacks, reports. In the book, Hubbard argued that blacks received a better quality of life as slaves in the U.S. than they did in Africa, and that African-Americans would not be in the U.S. were it not for slavery. Hubbard's comments -- first reported by the Arkansas Times on Friday -- led to a series of revelations about fellow Arkansas Republicans, including Rep. Loy Mauch (R-Bismarck) writing a series of letters to the editor defending slavery and legislative candidate Charlie Fuqua writing in a 2012 book that he wanted to deport all Muslims and establish the death penalty for rebellious children.

How the Nexen Deal Could Dent Our Pipeline

If the CNOOC/Nexen approval is given, before the Keystone pipeline is approved, a new set of questions for the Americans will be opened up. So will any trade deal, now in Parliament, that gives China similar privileges as Americans now get.

Letting China Inc. have special access could give President Obama a reason not to approve Keystone, and could also Romney, if he wins, a reason to consider not approving the line as he has pledged to do on Day One.

Public service unions worry whether they can survive government campaigns

OTTAWA — Pierre Poilievre describes it as a fight to give workers free choice. Canada’s unions see it as nothing less than a declaration of war and a battle for their political rights — and their survival.

Poilievre, the scrappy Conservative MP for Nepean-Carleton, has pledged to get his Tory colleagues on board his campaign to make union dues optional for members of the federal public service.

3 Tory MPPs sponsor anti-abortion news conference

Ontario's Liberal government accused the Progressive Conservatives Wednesday of trying to reopen the abortion debate after three Tories sponsored a news conference at the legislature to stop public funding of the controversial procedure.

It only takes one MPP to sponsor an event in the legislature's media studio, so having Conservative MPPs John O'Toole, Randy Hillier and Rick Nicholls all sponsor an announcement by Campaign Life was a clear attempt to reopen the abortion debate, said Laurel Broten, the minister responsible for women's issues.

Canadian company outsources passport covers to Netherlands

An opposition MP is outraged after the federal government awarded a contract to produce Canadian passport covers to an Ottawa-based company -- which then sub-contracted the work to the Netherlands.

Passport Canada awarded the contract to produce the new ePassport covers to Canadian Bank Note after a competitive bidding process last year.

Why ripping up bike lanes in Toronto will hurt students and cost lives

Just when I think this city's government is finally turning a corner and making some halfway reasonable decisions I find they're not looking, drifting toward the curb and crushing the nearest cyclist with a five-ton truck. Oh well, what's some blood on the road if it means that Rosedale’s drivers get home two minutes faster?

That's right, the estimated time that drivers will be saving by City Council's decision to eliminate the bike lanes on Jarvis Street is two minutes. A shorter wait than the average line at Tim Hortons is what your city council thinks is more important than the safety of the 1,000 cyclists that ride on Jarvis Street every day. How many of those cyclists are riding to and from George Brown College's St. James campus, which sits only 150 meters from Jarvis St.?

Historic free trade agreement hurt more than helped

There’s no denying that foreign trade has been the biggest drag on Canada’s economic performance in recent years. Our exports (in real terms) are smaller than way back in 2000, and our balance of payments is mired in record deficit. So it was especially ironic last week to watch business and Conservative leaders pull out the stops to toast the silver anniversary of the Canada-U.S. free-trade agreement.

Only “free-trade deniers” could possibly question the historic virtue of that deal, claimed a bellicose Ed Fast, the International Trade Minister. Curiously, the only thing missing from the chorus of self-congratulation was cold, hard data. Let’s step back from the rhetoric and consider some concrete indicators of our North American trade performance, then and now.

Legacy of a historian: Remembering Eric Hobsbawm and his Age of Extremes

The brilliant Eric Hobsbawm died at the age of 95 on October 1, 2012. Many progressives and conservatives acknowledged that his books constituted the best introduction to modern history.

Among his most influential works were the four studies comprising the tetralogy The Age of Revolution, The Age of Capital, The Age of Empire and The Age of Extremes. The first three told the story of the nineteenth century – emphasizing the interaction between the advent of capitalism and the advance of bourgeois society and politics. The last volume narrated the history of the twentieth century, underlining, among other aspects, the problems created by ideological dogmatism while noting the progress produced by inventive combinations of diverse secular approaches.

PTSD on the rise: The hidden casualties of Canada's war in Afghanistan

Afghanistan veteran Yan Berube was handling a gun and planning to kill himself when he was arrested at this home in 2010. The incident was attributed to his diagnosed case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

In 2008, Cpl. Stuart Langbridge, also a veteran of Afghanistan, hanged himself at Canadian Forces Base Edmonton. His family said he had PTSD. On September 10, Greg Matters was shot dead during a confrontation with RCMP officers. Matters had served with the Canadian Forces in Bosnia and had recently sought treatment for PTSD.

Pacific talks are Canada’s best ever opportunity for trade diversification

Finally and formally, Canada has been invited to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks. We are arriving just as things get interesting.

The talks are troubled. They could collapse. Even if they don’t collapse, the final agreement could be so riddled with exemptions that the deal essentially becomes meaningless. (Canadian dairy and poultry farmers, who are hoping to be granted one of those exemptions, would celebrate such an outcome.)

Conservatives hold their breath as U.S. election day looms

Jim Flaherty didn’t need another reminder of the looming economic mash-up south of the border, but as he headed to a gathering of financial leaders in Tokyo, the International Monetary Fund gave him one anyway.

The IMF cut its global growth outlook, reported that citizens worldwide lack confidence in politicians to fix the mess, downgraded its prospects for Canada and laid much of the blame at the doorstep of the U.S.