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, February 03, 2015

America's Billionaires Are Turning Public Parks Into Playgrounds for the Wealthy

It’s no picnic to run a public park these days. Look at Manhattan’s Pier 54. Once the launching point for ocean liners, the pier was incorporated into Hudson River Park in the late ’80s and turned into an event space. But its underwater pilings were rotting, and four years ago it had to be shut down. The Hudson River Park Trust, the public agency that oversees a four-mile stretch of waterfront, had no money for repairs; it receives no public funding for its operations, even though its collection of ballfields, athletic facilities, and footpaths are the go-to recreation space for residents of Manhattan’s West Side. Madelyn Wils, the Trust’s president and CEO, had kept the park’s assortment of piers open largely with private contributions, but she knew Pier 54’s pilings would require a big donation. “I couldn’t get any interest from the state or city,” she lamented. “And there are not a lot of philanthropists out there willing to repair the pilings.”

Four reasons Harper's new anti-terrorist legislation will alarm you

1. CSIS with new intrusive powers will have more than "Jihadists" in its sights
Prime Minister Stephen Harper talked only about "violent Jihadists" when he held a campaign style rally last Friday to unveil his new security legislation.
But the actual "anti-terrorist" omnibus Bill C-51 makes no reference to such enemies of Canada. It merely talks in entirely undefined ways about "terrorism."

China Nears Peak Coal, But Its Rustbelt Pays the Price

China’s great coal boom is grinding to a halt, and the consequences for both the global climate and hundreds of millions of Chinese factory workers could be dramatic.

Three trends have dominated the debate over China and climate change for the past decade: China’s economy will grow by double digits, the country will burn more coal every year, and global emissions will continue to climb with no end in sight. China has grown to be the world’s second largest economy and the No. 1 emitter of greenhouse gases, consuming nearly as much coal as the rest of the world combined.

Egyptian Court Sentences 183 Muslim Brotherhood Supporters To Death

CAIRO, Feb 2 (Reuters) - An Egyptian court sentenced 183 supporters of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood to death on Monday on charges of killing police officers, part of a sustained crackdown by authorities on Islamists.

The men were convicted of playing a role in the killings of 16 policemen in the town of Kardasa in August, 2013 during the upheaval that followed the army's ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Mursi. Thirty-four were sentenced in absentia.

Egypt has mounted one of the biggest crackdowns in its modern history on the Brotherhood since the political demise of Mursi, the country's first democratically-elected president.

Edward Snowden Warns Canadians To Be 'Extraordinarily Cautious' Over Anti-Terror Bill

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden addressed students at a Toronto private school via video link on Monday to warn about the perils of being complacent as the government makes sweeping changes to Canada’s anti-terrorism laws.

“I would say we should always be extraordinarily cautious when we see governments trying to set up a new secret police within their own countries,” Snowden said in a livestream feed from Russia. He made reference to Bill C-51, legislation tabled by the Conservative government days earlier.

The deficit the Harper government refuses to recognize

Premiers gathered in Ottawa last week to talk about pressing needs for Canadian infrastructure investment. As the Council of the Federation meeting, chaired by PEI Premier Robert Ghiz, began to address the infrastructure deficit, Federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver emailed a media statement: ".. some premiers appear oblivious to the consequences of the current global instability and the dramatic decline in the price of oil."
In effect Oliver was saying two things. He was acknowledging that the Canadian economy is weakening, and proclaiming this precluded Ottawa making additional money available to meet infrastructure deficits identified by the premiers.

Racism against aboriginal people in health-care system 'pervasive': study

​Michelle Labrecque pushes herself gingerly in a wheelchair down the hallway of a hotel. The Oneida woman was recently found to have a fractured pelvis, but she says it took three trips to the hospital and increasing pain before she received that diagnosis.

"The third time, I was just left in the ER room, not being able to walk anywhere. Nobody around to help me, not even to a wheelchair," says Labrecque.

She felt abandoned, she says, because she’s native.

A Day In The Life Of Private Equity Giant TPG

How do private equity firms assure investors that they really do get up every day and work hard to deliver great returns? Part of the answer is by showing that they reallydo get up (exceedingly early in some cases) and go to work.

At a 2012 investor conference, private equity giant TPG, which manages about $65 billion, showed a video documenting a day in the life of the firm to the audience of pension fund managers and other large, institutional investors. " The video is set to the chords of Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” and zooms around to TPG’s global offices.

American Sniper and Stephen Harper make war with words

I'm a doctor. My profession has an ancient Latin motto, which is intended to guide everything doctors do: Primum non nocere.

It translates as: “In the first place, do no harm.”

My training, and my life as a medical professional, make me uneasy about the kind of communication going on in North America right now around violent extremism.

Take for example the parallels between Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s pronouncements and those of hard-core, belligerent soldiers like Chris Kyle (hero of the film American Sniper). They are striking. In a recent Conservative Party video in his 24 Seven series, Harper puts on his best tough-guy stance, saying Canadians will "fight against the terrorist organizations who brutalize those in other countries, with the hope of bringing their savagery to our shores."

Parliament must reject Harper’s secret policeman bill

Prime Minister Stephen Harper never tires of telling Canadians that we are at war with the Islamic State. Under the cloud of fear produced by his repeated hyperbole about the scope and nature of the threat, he now wants to turn our domestic spy agency into something that looks disturbingly like a secret police force.

Canadians should not be willing to accept such an obvious threat to their basic liberties. Our existing laws and our society are strong enough to stand up to the threat of terrorism without compromising our values.

Am I a ‘Radical’?

How did a nice, conservative, Southern white boy become a civilly disobedient, older (but still white) guy bent on transformative change in our system of political economy?
Here’s how a recent interviewer summarized my career:
His résumé is as mainstream and establishment as it gets: environmental advisor to Presidents Carter and Clinton, founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council and World Resources Institute, administrator of the UN Development Program, dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, now a professor at Vermont Law School, and distinguished senior fellow at Demos…. This elder environmental statesman is the author of the acclaimed books Red Sky at Morning (2003) and The Bridge at the Edge of the World (2008)…[and a] forceful new book, America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy.

How the Roberts Supreme Court Has Strengthened the Powerful and Screwed Everyone Else

John Roberts is entering the stretch run of his tenth term as chief justice of the United States. In-depth assessments will come, but the preliminary results are plain. The man who vowed to act as a neutral umpire calling balls and strikes has led a Court in which racial and religious minorities, women, workers and consumers have struck out regularly, while the economically and politically powerful have walked around the bases.

Muslim Groups 'Troubled' By Stephen Harper's Mosque Remark

Two national Muslim organizations say they are troubled that Prime Minister Stephen Harper last week drew a link between radicalization and mosques.

Harper made the remark last Friday when he was answering a question about the Canadian government's new anti-terrorism legislation. The measures unveiled in Bill C-51 include criminalizing advocacy for or promotion of a terrorist act. Another measure lowers the threshold needed for police to arrest somebody they suspect may commit a terrorist act.

Vets minister tweets report MPs haven’t seen

OTTAWA - The new veterans minister is under fire for posting some details of a highly anticipated progress report on improving the treatment of ex-soldiers on Twitter and Facebook even before MPs and the wider veterans community had a chance to see it.

The update is seen as the first significant political test for Erin O'Toole, who replaced the embattled Julian Fantino last month, but the report did not arrive until well after the close of business Friday night, missing a deadline imposed by a parliamentary committee.

The six-page letter was tabled Monday, but is in limbo because the Commons veterans affairs committee does not have a chairman to formally receive it, according to the committee clerk.

Deficit or not, Harper still failed to strengthen economy and create jobs

Acres of newsprint have been devoted in recent weeks to the possibility that lower oil prices might push the federal budget back into a deficit position. As I argue in my column, this drama is mostly political theatre -- and progressives should be cautious about accidentally accepting the Conservative frame for this debate.
Provincial governments in the oil-producing provinces face a huge fiscal risk from lower oil prices (since they rely, to varying degrees, on petroleum royalties to directly fund current public services -- not exactly a wise fiscal strategy).