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.]

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Conservative Hypocrisy on Racial Profiling and Affirmative Action

An instantly controversial Victor Davis Hanson column recounts a piece of advice handed down through three generations in his family: Watch out if you see young black men on the street or approaching your house or vehicle -- they commit "an inordinate amount of violent crime." A fair number of commenters at National Review agree with that counsel. My colleague Ta-Nehisi Coates retorts that it is "stupid advice" that betrays "a rote, incurious and addled intellect."

'Middle-Out' Economics: Why the Right's Supply-Side Dogma Is Wrong

Once upon a time, in the middle of the last century, America had a thriving economy in which the middle class was at the center and everyone -- poor and rich alike -- did better. But then, starting in the late 1970s, a group of self-serving rich people began to sell a promise that if we took better care of them, their wealth would trickle down, and that would help everyone else prosper. The country bought that line. And for three decades both parties yielded to it. The results were great for the very rich -- and disastrous for everyone else. Wages stagnated. Inequality became extreme. Mobility slowed. By 2008, things were so upside down and we had so lost our way that the economy collapsed. Out of that ruin, many began to remember the old ways: the truth that lasting growth and shared prosperity come from the middle out and not the top down. Now we are joined in a battle of ideas to see whether middle-out economics can dethrone trickle-down.

12% more Canadians have debt this year, BMO says

A new survey commissioned by one of Canada's largest banks suggests more Canadians are in debt this year than last year, and the average amount people are putting towards debt repayment is going down.

According to the results of an online poll conducted by Pollara on behalf of BMO, 83 per cent of those surveyed said they had some form of debt this year. That's up from 74 per cent who had some sort of debt when the same question was asked last year.

Federal Minimum Wage Goes 4 Years Without Budging

WASHINGTON -- Workers toiling in low-wage jobs marked a dispiriting anniversary on Wednesday: It's now been four years since the last time the federal minimum wage was raised.

The minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour, and it prevails in the 30 states that don't already mandate a higher one. The last time it saw a boost was on July 24, 2009, when it was raised from $6.55. That 70-cent raise marked the last in a series of increases signed into law by President George W. Bush.

Stop Larry Summers Before He Messes Up Again

Washington insiders are spreading an alarming news alert. Barack Obama, I am told, is on the brink of making a terrible mistake by appointing Lawrence Summers as the new chairman of the Federal Reserve. That sounds improbable, since Summers is a toxic retread from the old boys’ network and a nettlesome egotist who offended just about everyone during his previous tours in government. More to the point, Summers was a central player in the grave governing errors that led to the financial collapse and a ruined economy.

Harper 'change' cabinet retains mean face

Prime Minister Stephen Harper tried to hit the reset button with his cabinet shuffle, but he'll have to do better.

As Harper was busy answering reporters' questions about his "change" cabinet, the one question that seemed to get him stuck was what he was going to do to change. He ducked the question.

The cabinet makeover was supposed to be a channel changer, but I'm not sure that it will stop Harper's political slide. While there are some new faces around his cabinet table, he still has significant challenges to overcome if the Conservatives are to get a fourth term and keep him in the prime minister's chair.

Ottawa issues more work permits to foreign cooks than any other occupation

As Canadians struggle to secure employment, new government data show Ottawa has issued more permits to temporary foreign cooks than any other occupation.

Of the 17,554 applications approved in 2011, most were awarded to jobs that require limited training: from cooks, painters and roofers to drywall installers and labourers.

The figures, obtained by the Star from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada data, raise new questions about the country’s controversial temporary foreign worker program as Ottawa tries to adopt a hire-Canadian-first approach.

The Alberta Oil Sands Have Been Leaking for 9 Weeks

Nine weeks ago, an oil leak started at a tar sands extraction operation in Cold Lake, Alberta, and it's showing no signs of stopping.

On Friday, the Toronto Star reported that an anonymous government scientist who had been to the spill site—which is operated by Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.—warned that the leak wasn't going away. "Everybody [at the company and in government] is freaking out about this," the scientist told the Star. "We don't understand what happened. Nobody really understands how to stop it from leaking, or if they do they haven't put the measures into place." The Star reported that 26,000 barrels of watery tar have been removed from the site.

NSA's Keith Alexander Calls Emergency Private Briefing To Lobby Against Justin Amash Amendment Curtailing Its Power

WASHINGTON -- The National Security Agency called for a "top secret" meeting with members of the House on Tuesday to lobby against the first House amendment to challenge the agency's authority to cull broad swaths of communications data, according to an invitation circulated in Congress.

Not Just Goldman Sachs: Koch Industries Hoards Commodities as a Trading Strategy

Over the weekend, The New York Times published its investigation of how Goldman Sachs has made a tidy profit by buying up vast amounts of aluminum and slowing the delivery through the ownership of vast warehouses. Many investment banks purchase physical assets, like pipelines or storage facilities, to gain better market intelligence for speculative trading. The Goldman Sachs strategy, detailed first by Bloomberg News and by Reuters in 2011, has boosted the cost of aluminum, hitting both manufacturers and consumers with higher prices.

Senate Poised to Raise Interest Rates on Future Student Loans

The Senate will vote this week on a proposal to change the way the government sets federal student loan rates, in the hopes of ending weeks of stalemate.

Don’t be fooled by any triumphant rhetoric. The plan the Senate is voting on—to peg interest rates on federal student loans to the financial market—promises low rates in the short term, and nearly guarantees that they will rise above current levels in a matter of years.

North Carolina Republicans Push Extreme Voter Suppression Measures

This week, the North Carolina legislature will almost certainly pass a strict new voter ID law that could disenfranchise 318,000 registered voters who don’t have the narrow forms of accepted state-issued ID. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the bill has since been amended by Republicans to include a slew of appalling voter suppression measures. They include cutting a week of early voting, ending same-day registration during the early voting period and making it easier for vigilante poll-watchers to challenge eligible voters. The bill is being debated this afternoon in the Senate Rules Committee. Here are the details, via North Carolina State Senator Josh Stein (D-Wake County):

Alberta Oilsands Environmental Enforcement: Study Finds Little Done In Oilsands Incidents

EDMONTON - A survey of thousands of environmental problems in Alberta's oilsands attacks the province's claims to having strict control over the industry's environmental impact.

Fewer than one per cent of likely environmental infractions have drawn any enforcement, says the survey. It also says the province's records are incomplete and riddled with errors, so there is no way to really understand industry's impact on the region.

And the authors found the same problems recurring time and time again, suggesting environmental improvement in some areas isn't happening.

Why was F-35 data available to the PBO, but Arctic ships data kept secret?

Once again the Parliamentary Budget Officer (interim) has seen the need to remind everyone that, despite continued requests to federal departments for data related to budgetary cuts in the 2012 Economic Action Plan, very little has actually been forthcoming.

Interim PBO – and Library of Parliament head librarian – Sonia L’Heureux issued a statement Monday afternoon noting that the (new) July 19 deadline for information “necessary to undertake analysis” has come and gone “and I have yet to be provided with all the information that I need to undertake the requested analysis.” If and when it does come, L’Heureux says she looks forward to performing said analysis – a line that feels more sarcastic than anything at this point.

Kingston couple shocked by homophobic slurs, threats

KINGSTON, ONT.—Karen Dubinsky was shocked when she opened the mail and found a letter laced with homophobic slurs that said her family was not welcome in the city and they should leave “before it is too late.”

“I just had this chilling, weird sense of the contents,” said the Queen’s University professor who lives in the city with her partner Susan Belyea, 48, and their 13-year-old son.