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, December 13, 2012

Fiscal Cliff Poll: Possible Impact On Canada Has Majority Worried

A plunge by Washington over the so-called fiscal cliff would hit Canadian miners and energy companies particularly hard since a slowdown in the U.S. economy would also drag down prices for base metals and oil.

Paul Taylor, chief investment officer for fundamental equities at BMO Asset Management, said Wednesday it will be the cyclical sectors that will be most affect if U.S. lawmakers fail to reach a deal to avoid the automatic tax hikes and spending cuts set to kick in next year.

Ontario to write off $1.4B in unpaid corporate taxes: Auditor

TORONTO — Ontario’s cash-strapped government plans to write off at least $1.4 billion in unpaid taxes because it failed to act promptly and lacked the manpower to collect them, auditor general Jim McCarter found in his annual report.

The province — which is facing a $14.4-billion deficit — is owed about $2.4 billion in taxes, mostly from businesses, the report found. But it isn’t doing enough to collect them.

Parliamentary budget watchdog sticks to his numbers over cost per public servant

OTTAWA — Canada’s budget watchdog is sticking by its $114,100 calculation of the cost of the average federal employee after Treasury Board rejected the office’s findings and challenged the criteria used to determine the figure.

Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page’s recent study into the $43.8 billion the federal government spent on compensation last year estimated the average employee costs $114,100 a year with pensions and benefits rolled in. It based that calculation on a workforce of about 375,500 employees.

A clearer path for fighter jets, but a grim day for Peter MacKay

It was painful to listen to Defence Minister Peter MacKay this afternoon as he faced repeated questions from reporters about whether he has any regrets about his handling of the government’s program to buy F-35 fighter jets.

Today’s news, not surprisingly, is that the problem-plagued Lockheed Martin fighter is only one of several jets whose costly tires the government will soon be kicking. And so pretty much everything MacKay has ever said about the necessity and inevitability of the F-35 procurement has proven to be dead wrong.

The federal government’s continuing spin on F-35 costs is inexcusable

So, just to be clear, they’re still spinning us. Even now. Even after all that has gone before, even with the release of its own specially commissioned independent review by the accounting firm of KPMG, the Conservative government still can’t bring itself to tell us the whole truth about the costs of the F-35.

I’ll leave others to try to figure out the rest: whether there will be a truly open competition now that the original sole-source contract is dead, whether Canadian firms will still be able to bid on F-35 work if we don’t buy it, and so on. I’d just like to focus on the comparatively simple question of how much these planes really cost, and why it matters.

Voter wants to know how MP knows he's Jewish

TORONTO - Howard Betel may be Jewish, but how does a politician in his Richmond Hill riding know that?

That’s the question Betel, 47, is asking after receiving a card from Conservative MP Costas Menegakis this week, which reads, “Wishing you a Happy Chanukah.”

“I called his office and I asked, ‘What makes you think I’m Jewish?’” Betel said Tuesday.

Harper launches his war on labour with passage of Bill 377

Stephen Harper's class war against Canadian unions came out into the open Wednesday when the PM led the Conservative majority to pass the anti-labour bill C-377.

Every one of the 147 votes for the law that singles out union finances for discriminatory treatment by the government was cast by a Conservative. Every opposition MP and five Conservative backbenchers mustered 135 votes against.

You Hate "Right To Work" Laws More Than You Know. Here's Why

"From now on, white women and white men will be forced into organizations with black African apes whom they will have to call ‘brother’ or lose their jobs."
    — Vance Muse, founder of the "right to work" anti-labor campaign

The Michigan GOP apparently blindsided everyone with the union-busting "right to work" laws they just rammed through the state. Certainly my labor friends were caught off-guard tactically by the Republicans’ speed and choice of battleground.

Major News Outlets Give Fossil-Fuel-Funded Think Tanks a Free Platform

The fossil fuel industry has long been a source of talking points and "studies" aimed at spreading doubt about climate change, and over the past few years, it has broadened its scope to undermine support for clean energy, as well. Often, this criticism is published in the form of articles in major media outlets—penned by employees of think-tanks who don't disclose their groups' industry funding, a new study finds.

Could You Survive on $2 a Day?

Two years ago, Harvard professor Kathryn Edin was in Baltimore interviewing public housing residents about how they got by. As a sociologist who had spent a quarter century studying poverty, she was no stranger to the trappings of life on the edge: families doubling or tripling up in apartments, relying on handouts from friends and relatives, selling blood plasma for cash. But as her fieldwork progressed, Edin began to notice a disturbing pattern. "Nobody was working and nobody was getting welfare," she says. Her research subjects were always pretty strapped, but "this was different. These people had nothing coming in."

Michigan Adopts the ALEC Model for Diminishing Democracy

Michigan legislators did not write the so-called “right to work” legislation that they have enacted in a mad rush of anti-democratic excess.

They simply did as they were told.

The ideas, the outlines and the words themselves came from the American Legislative Exchange Council, the right-wing “bill mill” that produces “model legislation” at the behest of Koch Industries, Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp, ExxonMobil and the corporate cabal that is always looking to “buy” states.

Meet Five CEOs Who Prove That Lower Corporate Taxes Don't Equal More Hiring

Corporate tax rates must be lowered in order to create economic growth: this is a key argument made by CEOs and their political allies while they push for a fiscal cliff deal. That was in the Bowles-Simpson plan, and members of Fix the Debt are pushing for that too, along with a territorial tax system.

Emerging Fiscal Cliff Deal Spares Corporations, but Not the Safety Net

The Wall Street Journal has news of some actual developments in the ongoing fiscal cliff negotiations: this morning, it reported that President Obama will add corporate tax reform to his offer to House Republicans, in an effort to bring them along and invite a buy-in from the pesky CEOs crowding up the airwaves during most of this saga.

The Journal says “The White House’s corporate-tax suggestion wasn’t specific” but that “White House officials, in making the suggestion, cited a corporate-tax plan the administration unveiled in February.” The plan the White House outlined earlier this year, if you don’t recall, was to lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 28 percent while closing corporate tax loopholes to a degree that enough revenue is raised to offset the rate reduction.

Dr. Yoni Freedhoff To Food Industry: Stop Misinforming The Public

Yoni Freedhoff, a medical doctor, founder of the Bariatric Medical Institute in Ottawa, Canada, and blogger, has a message for the food industry.

Freedhoff, whose institute specializes in non-surgical weight loss, wants to promote public health by getting the food industry to stop misinforming people about food. With a growing rate of obesity in the United States, his message is one that some may want to consider.

Walmart CEO Mike Duke: 'We Do Pay Competitive Wages'

Apparently, all those protests by Walmart workers over pay and benefits aren’t getting through to CEO Mike Duke.

At a recent event, Bloomberg LP President Dan Doctoroff pointed out to the Walmart chief executive that even though his company paints itself as "serving an emerging middle class," many of its employees aren’t paid enough to lead a normal life and some even resort to food stamps to make ends meet, as previously reported by The Huffington Post. This is what Duke had to say in response:

"Retailing is the most competitive industry out there, and we do pay competitive wages," Duke told Doctoroff, according to Business Insider, noting that around 165,000 Walmart employees were promoted from entry-level positions last year. “Our associates are a great source of pride and personal inspiration for me," he added.

But maybe that’s simply because he’s getting away with paying them so little. According to market research firm Ibis World, the average wage for a Walmart employee is $8.81 per hour, barely over the minimum wage in some states. Walmart executives say average rates are higher, with estimates including $11.75 per hour and $12.40 per hour. In contrast, Duke made $18.7 million in 2010. With a CEO-to-employee pay ratio of 717-to-1, that ranks Duke second among a list of 50 CEOs who are paid significantly more than their employees.

Correction: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that Walmart CEO Mike Duke indicated that 175,000 employees were promoted by Walmart each year. According to Walmart, 165,000 workers were promoted in 2011.

Original Article
Source: huffington post
Author: Harry Bradford

Paul Krugman: 'Chinese Growth Is A Wonderful Human Success Story That Could Kill Us All'

Paul Krugman considers China a mortal threat in one key respect: climate change.

"If you worry about climate change and stuff like that, then China is -- Chinese growth is a wonderful human success story that could kill us all," the Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist said at the New York Times DealBook conference on Wednesday.

F-35 report leaves Tories exposed on previously strong fiscal credibility

OTTAWA - And then there were two.

After years of everyone from the prime minister to rookie Tory backbenchers staunchly and defiantly defending the purchase of the F-35 fighter jet as the only choice for Canada, the task of admitting that maybe it isn't was thrust into the hands of two cabinet ministers.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose were forced for almost an hour Wednesday into singing from the government's new song sheet on the fighter jets.

After Rebuff by Clinton, Actor Peter Coyote Joins New Push to Sway Obama on Leonard Peltier Clemency

In a renewed push, President Obama is being urged to grant clemency to the legendary Native American activist Leonard Peltier who has spent 37 years in prison. On Friday, singers Harry Belafonte and Pete Seeger will host a "Bring Leonard Peltier Home In 2012 Concert" at the Beacon Theater in New York City to raise awareness of Peltier’s 37-year ordeal and plea for executive clemency from Obama. We’re joined by the acclaimed actor and narrator Peter Coyote, a long-time friend and advocate of Peltier. Coyote is a politically engaged actor and writer as well as an ordained Zen Buddhist priest. He recently narrated the recent Ken Burns mini-series, "The Dust Bowl."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Bill C-377 can be just the start -- let's shine a light on some corners that are really in the dark!

Well, you can't fight a call for transparency, so why bother? I say, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em!

The so-called Conservative Party of Stephen Harper quietly whipped its troops in the privacy of their caucus rooms and managed to squeeze Bill C-377 -- social-conservative B.C. MP Russ Hiebert's amateurish and unconstitutional piece of anti-union mischief -- through the House of Commons last night.

They'll say that they didn't whip it -- that is to say, impose party discipline to enforce the vote the Prime Minister's inner circle wanted -- but they'll be lying, notwithstanding a few conveniently symbolic Tory holdouts.

In Canadian politics, bullying is the new way to govern

Earlier this year, Toronto’s medical officer of health, David McKeown, recommended that the city’s speed limits be lowered to improve road safety. Here is the entire response from the Mayor of Toronto: “Nuts, nuts, nuts, nuts. No.” The proposal, he declared without elaboration, was “absolutely ridiculous.” Verbal abuse – a form of bullying, as every school kid is taught – is what Rob Ford substitutes for debate. (See Barbara Coloroso, “The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander”.)

Native American Activist Leonard Peltier’s Jailhouse Plea for Long-Denied Clemency

During the holidays, the atmosphere of goodwill and mercy traditionally extends all the way to the nation’s highest leaders, with presidents typically pardoning more prisoners than any other time in the year. On Friday, actors, musicians and activists are uniting to renew calls for clemency for one of America’s most well-known and longest incarcerated prisoners: Leonard Peltier. The Native American activist and former member of the American Indian Movement was convicted of abetting the killing of two FBI agents during a shootout on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1975. Peltier has long maintained his innocence; Amnesty International considers him a political prisoner who was not granted a fair trial. We air a never-before-broadcast video of Peltier from an interview by German journalist Claus Beegert.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Matt Taibbi on the Unfolding Libor Scandal and What Sen. DeMint’s Departure Means for Fractured GOP

News of HSBC’s $1.9 billion fine comes as three low-level traders were arrested in London as part of an international investigation into 16 international banks accused of rigging a key global interest rate used in contracts worth trillions of dollars. The London Interbank Offered Rate, known as Libor, is the average interest rate at which banks can borrow from each other. We’re joined by Matt Taibbi, Contributing Editor for Rolling Stone magazine and author of "Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History." Taibbi also comments on the departure of Republican senator and Tea Party-favorite Jim DeMint of South Carolina.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Matt Taibbi: After Laundering $800 Million in Drug Money, How Did HSBC Executives Avoid Jail?

The banking giant HSBC has escaped indictment for laundering billions of dollars for Mexican drug cartels and groups linked to al-Qaeda. Despite evidence of wrongdoing, the U.S. Department of Justice has allowed the bank to avoid prosecution and pay a $1.9 billion fine. No top HSBC officials will face charges, either. We’re joined by Rolling Stone Contributing Editor Matt Taibbi, author of "Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History." “You can do real time in jail in America for all kinds of ridiculous offenses,” Taibbi says. “Here we have a bank that laundered $800 million dollars of drug money and they can’t find a way to put anybody in jail for that? That sends an incredible message, not just to the financial sector, but to everybody. It’s an obvious, clear double standard where one set of people gets to break the rules as much as they want and another set of people can’t break any rules at all without going to jail.”

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Hungarian Roma hope for sanctuary in Canada

In an old photo of the band Romanyi Roma, the group’s members seem to have at least two things going for them: optimism and youth.

Dancer and singer Ildiko Balogh still has the same innocent-looking face, but in the picture, her hair is darker. (It’s now bleached blond.) In the image, her husband, guitar player and lead vocalist Ferenc Balogh, has a moustache and a significant amount of hair, but probably no inkling of the heart disease that, later in life, would often leave him winded and ashen-faced.

Kenney denies foreign investment tied to temporary workers

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says his government's approvals of foreign investment deals are "absolutely not" contingent on giving foreign companies the green light to bring in temporary foreign workers.

But he acknowledges mistakes may have been made in the case involving a Chinese-owned mining company in B.C. that's now before the courts.

Quebec developer alleges corruption sank Alberta project

A Quebec property developer who fled the province hoping to break away from industry collusion says he was left nearly destitute after refusing kickback demands from an official in small town Alberta.

A joint investigation by Radio-Canada's investigative program Enquête and the Toronto Star into the dealings in the town of Lamont, Alta., has shed light on allegations of industry corruption that span far beyond Quebec's borders.

It’s not the political right that’s killing unions

For the conservative right, trashing unions is great sport.

The fun just keeps happening. On Wednesday evening, Conservative MPs (with the exception of five brave souls) pushed Bill C-377 through the Commons. It’s designed to tie unions up in red tape and — its backers hope — embarrass labour’s leadership.

A day earlier, Michigan’s Republican-dominated legislature rammed through a so-called right-to-work law aimed at weakening unions in that state.

Enbridge, opponents spar over pipeline’s risks

The Tsimshian Storm pitches up and down on heaving water as it edges toward Hecate Strait. Humpbacks wave great tails at the grey sky. Eagles circle. A pair of porpoises leap above the waves. Not far from here, two million scallops are suspended below the surface on a farm owned by local first nations and a minority-stake Chinese company.

This is the picture environmental groups, and many of those first nations opposed to seeing oil shipments off Canada’s West Coast, are eager for Canadians to see. It is why they have brought reporters on this boat to take it in. They are arguing that this area is too valuable for oil to be shipped near here and Enbridge has not disclosed the magnitude of risk to the area.

Amanda House, YoPro Co-Creator: Loblaws Reneged On Deals, Ruined My Business

The chairman of Loblaws says he’s “deeply disturbed” by allegations made by an Ontario small business owner who says the food retail giant ruined her business after reneging on an agreement.

Galen Weston, Jr., executive chairman of Loblaw Companies, said he has requested a personal meeting with Amanda House, who accused Loblaws in a video posted to YouTube Monday of driving her and her fiance to financial ruin after failing to live up to an agreement to carry their YoPro line of frozen yogurt treats. House's video has been viewed more than 15,000 times as of Wednesday evening.

Public confidence damaged by misleading calls

The public's confidence in Canada's electoral system has been damaged by reports of misleading live phone calls and robocalls allegedly used to deter people from voting in the last federal election, a lawyer challenging six Conservative MPs told the Federal Court on Wednesday.

Steven Shrybman, who represents eight voters fighting to overturn the results in six ridings in which they live, wrapped up two days of arguments by imploring Judge Richard Mosley to find there was fraud committed in the ridings when a mysterious person or people arranged misleading and harassing phone calls to affect voter turnout.

Political highs and lows on Parliament Hill

OTTAWA—In Stephen Harper’s capital, prime ministerial press conferences are few and far between. More often than not, the prime minister’s exchanges with the media take place on the fly, in the context of an international trip. Those pro forma encounters rarely give Canadians much insight into Harper’s policy thinking.

Judging from his performance on the occasion of the Nexen-CNOOC announcement last Friday, that may be as great a loss — or greater — to his government than to the parliamentary media.

Why no-pet rental clauses lack teeth

Pets. Landlords don’t want them in their properties. Tenants can’t live without them. Unfortunately, the law in Ontario just makes it worse for everyone.

Under the law, you can’t prevent a tenant from bringing a pet into your property, unless it is a condominium and the building declaration says no pets. So even if a landlord and tenant sign a lease that says no pets, the tenant can bring 2 dogs and 4 cats the next day and there is nothing the landlord can do about it.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government passes bill forcing unions to open their books

OTTAWA—Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives overwhelmed NDP and Liberal opposition Wednesday to pass legislation that will force labour unions to make full details of their finances and spending public.

The bill, brought forward by an individual MP but supported by the Harper government, will require labour organizations to provide extensive details, such as the salaries of top union leaders, to the Canada Revenue Agency, which will publish the information on its website.