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, March 01, 2013

Pandora’s Lunchbox: Pulling Back the Curtain on How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal

We look deep inside the $1-trillion-a-year "processed-food-industrial complex" to examine how decades of food science have resulted in the cheapest, most addictive and most nutritionally inferior food in the world. The vitamins added back to this packaged and fast food — which amounts to 70 percent of calories consumed in the United States — come from nylon, sheep grease and petroleum. We are joined by longtime food reporter Melanie Warner, author of "Pandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: -

Halfway to where?

Recently, we’ve heard a lot of boasting that Canada is halfway to our 2020 climate change goal for cutting carbon pollution.

But the math doesn’t add up.

We are not halfway to our 2020 climate goal.  What the government means is: In 2020, we will be halfway to our 2020 carbon reduction goal. That’s like me saying, “I’m halfway” to a 9 a.m. appointment, but what I mean is, “I will be halfway” to the appointment at 9 a.m. It’s misleading, and in the climate context, outright dangerous.

Hupacasath First Nation files affidavits in case against China-Canada FIPA: The SinoFile

If Canadian legislators do sign a pending 31-year trade agreement with China, it likely won't happen anytime soon – not if First Nations and other Canadians across the country have anything to say about it.

A BC First Nation has formally launched its campaign to prevent Ottawa legislators from signing a trade agreement with Beijing that would enable Chinese businesses to sue Canada for legislation deemed prejudicial to their interests.

Tom Flanagan, neoconservative spiritual leader, consigned to utter darkness

Who could have predicted that yesterday would be the pope's last day on the job?

I speak, of course, of Professor Tom Flanagan, spiritual leader of the neoconservative movement in Canada.

Well, Flanagan is the neocon pope no more, having uttered the astonishing opinion at a seminar the previous evening in the deep-south Alberta city of Lethbridge that child pornography is, if not exactly OK, more of a freedom of expression issue than an exploitation of children issue.

Not only that, but in response to a questioner at the University of Lethbridge seminar, Flanagan informed his audience he’d once been on the mailing list of the North American Man-Boy Love Association for two years. One can only hope this was in error, as he seemed to be implying.

The Commons: John Baird, Pierre Poilievre and the hypocritical oath

Charlie Angus wanted to talk about the possibility that individuals appointed to the Senate to represent specific provinces did not sufficiently reside in those provinces. But Pierre Poilievre wanted to talk about how Mr. Angus had been the subject of a complaint made by the Ontario election boundaries commission.

“The Member of Parliament for Timmins—James Bay submitted that the community of interest among farmers and people associated with agriculture in the farming area west and north of the City of Temiskaming Shores flowed north along Highway 11, and that there was no community of interest with people involved in agriculture in the electoral district of Nickel Belt,” the report reads, in reference to Mr. Angus. “The Member also expressed concern about the ability to serve constituents effectively if the communities along Highway 11 from the Town of Smooth Rock Falls to west of the Town of Hearst were included in the electoral district. This was the first hint of what the Commission considers to be inappropriate involvement by a Member of Parliament in the electoral redistribution process.”

Follow the money

  MGM Resorts International

The play: “Integrated resort” at Exhibition Place with a permanent home for Cirque du Soleil.

Big-bucks backers: Cadillac Fairview, the developer known for prized real estate holdings, including the Eaton Centre and TD Centre. Not so widely known: Cadillac Fairview is wholly owned by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, which is supposed to have a policy on ethical investment. So much for that.

Casino crapshoot

LIE: A casino would generate a “golden mile” on the waterfront.

TRUTH: Even the metaphor sucks given gold’s nasty ethical rap. Toronto is a city with massive civic self-respect, and all that glitter would merely identify us with the kind of glitzy hucksterism that signals a metropolis in decline. Talk about demoralizing: instead of branding T.O. as an arts-rich, sophisticated city teaming with citizen initiative and bursting with green aspirations, we’d get stamped as a quick-buck haven where any and all manipulation is on if it yanks money out of pockets for statistically improbable gains. Most gaming operations on this continent were built as last-ditch measures in unfortunate, desperate, communities. Is that really us?

Smoke on the waterfront

The scene at Eireann Quay over the last month or so – signs, banners, lots of chanting, even more shouting – has deviated little from your textbook picket line. It's the location, it seems, that immediately comes across as striking in this case.

The in-your-face visibility is ideal, for one thing. After all, the entry route to Billy Bishop City Airport can be a natural urban chokepoint, even when there isn't a protest swarming the asphalt. Imagine the snaking, stalled lines of traffic inching toward Bathurst after a string of Q400s touch down, rudely welcoming ill-timed Torontonians home from less congested locales. If publicity is the ultimate goal of COPE's strike action against Porter Airlines, now in its seventh week, the captive - if grumbly – audience provided by the area's slap-dash urban engineering can't hurt, either.

Ford soliciting donations from lobbyists. Again

Councillors are calling on Rob Ford to scale back his work with his football foundation, following reports that he is still asking lobbyists for donations even though similar conduct nearly cost him his job last year.

On Thursday the Toronto Star reported that at least two lobbyists recently received signed letters from the mayor asking them to donate to the Rob Ford Football Foundation. One of the letters was received on January 28, mere days after a court overturned his earlier conviction on a conflict of interest charge.

In Voting Rights, Scalia Sees a “Racial Entitlement”

Justice Antonin Scalia, during oral arguments at the Supreme Court on Wednesday, said that the Court had to rescue Congress from the trap of being afraid to vote against a “racial entitlement”—the “entitlement” in question being the Voting Rights Act. (“Even the name of it is wonderful: the Voting Rights Act. Who is going to vote against that in the future?”) Scalia said that not alone but, it appears, with four other votes for overturning a key part of the act: Section Five, which relies on a combination of history and recent bad behavior to designate certain states and jurisdictions as having to get “pre-clearance” from the Department of Justice or from a federal court before they, say, abruptly change voting hours or redraw districts or change their voter-I.D. requirements. Most of them are in the South, but not all of them are. The Court’s conservatives seem to think this is terribly unfair. “Is it the government’s submission that the citizens in the South are more racist than citizens in the North?” Chief Justice John Roberts asked. “But if — if Alabama wants to have monuments to the heroes of the Civil Rights Movement,” Justice Anthony Kennedy, the swing vote, asked, would it be “better off doing that if it’s an own independent sovereign or if it’s under the trusteeship of the United States Government?” Is the idea that statues are only going up now because people are looking, or that the Voting Rights Act is nothing but a monument?

Salt Sugar Fat: NY Times Reporter Michael Moss on How the Food Giants Hooked America on Junk Food

Food companies have known for decades that salt, sugar and fat are not good for us in the quantities Americans consume them. But every year, people are swayed to ingest about twice the recommended amount of salt and fat — and an estimated 70 pounds of sugar. We speak with New York Times reporter Michael Moss about how in his new book, "Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us." In a multi-year investigation, Moss explores deep inside the laboratories where food scientists calculate the "bliss point" of sugary drinks or the "mouth feel" of fat, and use advanced technology to make it irresistible and addictive. As a result of this $1 trillion-a-year industry, one-in-three adults, and one-in-five children, are now clinically obese.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

New York AG investigating BofA for mortgages: filing

(Reuters) - Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) said in a securities filing Thursday that the New York State Attorney General is investigating the bank over the purchase, securitization and underwriting of home loans and mortgage-backed securities.

The second-largest U.S. bank said it was cooperating with the investigation and other similar inquiries. A Bank of America spokesman declined to comment beyond the filing.

The bank is the third known to be targeted by the New York attorney general's office over how banks bundled mortgage loans into securities during the housing boom.

In its annual report filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Bank of America also said it could sustain up to $3.1 billion in legal losses beyond the amount it has reserved. That was up from a possible loss above legal reserves of $2.8 billion at the end of the third quarter.

Original Article
Author: Reuters

States Without Personal Income Tax Experience Slower Growth: Report

Small-government advocates often claim that high taxes hold the economy back. But a new report finds that states without a personal income tax have experienced slower economic growth than states with high income tax rates.

Citizenship Fraud Crackdown Nets 12 Bogus Citizens

OTTAWA - Efforts to combat citizenship fraud are creating lengthy backlogs for would-be Canadians while only slowly weeding out bogus citizens, statistics from the Immigration Department show.

Last fall, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said the government had already revoked 19 citizenships from more than 3,000 people under investigation for fraud since a crackdown was launched in July 2011.

Harper Blames Unions For EI Program 'Misinformation'

RIVIERE-DU-LOUP, Que. - Prime Minister Stephen Harper says unions are behind a misinformation campaign about changes to the employment insurance program.

His comments came as Human Resources Minister Diane Finley admitted Thursday that the government hadn't conducted studies on the potential impact of the reforms.

As protesters were kept away from the Premier Tech plant where Harper was announcing a $9.2 million loan, the prime minister pointed a finger at unions for creating some of the turmoil around changes to the program.

Rob Ford Soliciting Donations From Lobbyists For Football Charity Again: Report

It was only three days ago Rob Ford dodged a bullet that could have cost him his job, but it appears Toronto's mayor may be back to bad habits.

The Toronto Star reports that two City Hall lobbyists have come forward with letters sent to them by Ford soliciting donations for the mayor's football foundation.

You may recall that Ford nearly lost his job last year over a similar incident. Ford solicited donations using his office's letterhead. Toronto's integrity commissioner Janet Leiper ruled that the solicitations broke integrity rules for city councillors and recommended Ford pay the $3,150 back to the donors, many of whom were lobbyists.

Canadians Still Favour Immigration, But Many Want Stricter Policy: Poll

While most people in this country are in favour of welcoming new immigrants, a large portion of the population believes Canada’s policy is too open.

That’s the conclusion from an interactive voice response (IVR) poll conducted in February by EKOS Research. It found a majority of Canadians believe there are too few or about the right number of immigrants in Canada. Thirteen per cent believe the number is too low, while 41 per cent said it is about right. Canadians born outside the country were more likely to feel this way, with 19 per cent saying there are too few and 44 per cent that the number is about right.

Queue-jumping inquiry accuses health minister of interference

EDMONTON - The head of Alberta's queue-jumping inquiry is accusing Health Minister Fred Horne of interfering with its work by setting unrealistic deadlines.

Commission head John Vertes told the inquiry Thursday that Horne wrote him a letter on Feb. 19 rejecting Vertes's request for an extension on the April 30 deadline to submit his report to the legislature.

Where does Tom Flanagan think child porn comes from?

When Tom Flanagan appeared on CBC, he was usually as frisky as an Ikea meatball.

Lots of horseplay: the monkey suit, looking into his coffee in a spoof of Chief Theresa Spence seeking enlightenment in her fish broth, the dagger smile after a droll put-down.

Now the man behind Stephen Harper’s rise to power has blown himself up over stupefying comments about child pornography. CBC’s Power and Politics has dumped Flanagan. The PM’s communications director, Andrew MacDougall, tweeted out the death sentence on the PM’s former confidante, describing his views on child pornography as “repugnant, ignorant and appalling”.

Senator Mike Duffy declared eligible for P.E.I. seat 4 senators subject to further spending audit as probe wraps

Senator Mike Duffy is eligible for his Prince Edward Island seat in the Senate, his party's Senate leader said Thursday.

A Senate committee looking at residency expenses had asked for legal advice on whether Duffy met the requirements to be a P.E.I. senator after it was revealed he lives mostly in Ottawa.

The Constitution says senators shall reside in the province from which they're appointed.

Tom Flanagan is now persona non grata, but his ideology lives on

Tom Flanagan was one of Stephen Harper's key mentors, and remains perhaps the most influential ideologue of the current "Conservative movement" -- the movement that's in power in Ottawa right now.

You can get some sense of Flanagan's ideology in his many articles and speeches and in his books, especially Waiting for the Wave: The Reform Party and the Conservative Movement which was originally published in 1997, but re-issued in an updated version last year.

Remembering Vancouver's First Race Riot

"When the Chinamen saw all these men coming, they were terrified. The crowd came up to the camp singing 'John Brown's Body,' and such songs; the Chinamen poked their noses out from beneath their tents; the 'rioters' grabbed the tents by the bottom and upset them, the 'war cry,' 'John Brown's Body,' still continuing. The Chinamen did not stop to see; they just ran. Some went dressed, some not; some with shoes, some with bare feet; the snow was on the ground and it was cold. Perhaps, in the darkness, they did not know that the cliff, and a drop of twenty feet [was there]; perhaps some had forgotten; some may have lost direction. The tide was in; they had no choice; and you could hear them going plump, plump, plump, as they jumped into the salt water. Scores of them went over the cliff -- McDougall was supposed to have two hundred of them up there." -- Eyewitness W.H. Gallagher. Early Vancouver, Volume One.

EI reforms, an attack on fraud or the unemployed?

One of the most difficult things in government is selling a negative. Ask any cabinet minister or MP who's tried to convince voters of the benefits of slashing budgets or cutting services people use.

It may be the right medicine, but it leaves a bad taste.

That's the situation that Stephen Harper's government faces as it defends its effort to crack down on employment insurance fraud.

Parliamentary budget watchdog Kevin Page will not go quietly into the night

OTTAWA—Kevin Page turns out the lights in his office and on a life in the public service March 25.

So far, his immediate plans do not extend beyond awaking with a hangover March 26.

But the outgoing Parliamentary Budget Officer is proving the master of the loud, brash exit; a man who will not go gentle into the night or take a solitary walk in the snow.

Sherrod Brown Teams Up With David Vitter To Break Up Big Banks

WASHINGTON -- Multi-trillion dollar financial institutions continue to get richer, exerting more and more control over both America's economy and its political system. The top 20 largest banks' assets are nearly equal to the nation's gross domestic product.

Now, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), along with unlikely ally Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), is launching an effort to break up the taxpayer-funded party on Wall Street.