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.]

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Carly Fiorina Isn't Just Attacking Planned Parenthood at the Debates

For more than a month, households in California have been receiving robocalls and mailings about abortion. "In California, a 13-year-old girl can have a surgical abortion without either of her parents ever knowing about it," says the voice on the line, before asking recipients to sign a petition supporting a 2016 California ballot initiative that would require parental notification before a girl can terminate a pregnancy. The vaguely familiar voice making this pitch? Republican presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina.

The Chesapeake Could Swallow This Island That Hundreds of Americans Call Home

Twelve miles off the coast of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Tim Marshall and I knife through the salty, choppy waters of the Chesapeake Bay in an aging white fishing skiff. It's a clear, bright August morning, and Marshall, slugging cans of Diet Coke, steers us straight for the approximately 4,500 acres of tidal marsh that make up the federal Martin National Wildlife Refuge. To our backs is Smith Island, the last inhabited offshore island on the Maryland side of the Chesapeake.

The biggest threat facing Trudeau? Sky-high expectations.

“Parliamentary government,” said the late Eugene Forsey, constitutional expert, “is not just a matter of counting heads instead of breaking them. It is also a matter of using them. It is government by discussion, not just by majority vote.”

From the moment of his majority victory in the 2011, Stephen Harper gave Canada governance without discussion. Harper democracy was a long line of unamended government bills forced through with as little debate as possible, with time allocations and committees controlled by the government’s majority. As a result, and at the first opportunity, Canadians threw him out on his ass.

Canadian auto sector alarmed by concessions revealed in full TPP text

Key players in Canada’s vital auto sector say Justin Trudeau’s government now faces a major decision: whether to seek changes to the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal – an agreement, the just-revealed text shows, that offers worse-than-expected terms for Canadian vehicle parts makers.

“They’re going to have to take a look at this closely, see what has been negotiated and decide whether they want to pursue renegotiation of any element of the agreement,” said Mark Nantais, president of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association, which represents the Canadian units of the Detroit Three auto makers.

Some Kindly Advice for Conservatives

A major Canadian journalistic genre is media's advice to the losing parties after their latest defeat. While the Liberals have had a lot of advice since 2006 (and especially since 2011), the New Democrats have been advised to the point where, if the advice was worth anything, they'd now be the natural governing party.

Now it's the Conservative Party of Canada's turn. The survivors belong to a tribe that sought and gained power by studying their adversaries' weaknesses, not their own. Introversion is not a Conservative talent, or they wouldn't have chosen an old guard ideologue like Rona Ambrose as interim leader. She will doubtless let both MPs and grassroots vent a lot, but they're likely to blame Stephen Harper and carry on in their old ways. So they might benefit from an adversary's advice, at least as much as from those within the tribe.

Minister, Is $21 a Week Enough for Food?

Individuals dependent on the provincial government for financial assistance in British Columbia have about $21 a week to spend on food, according to the organizers of the Welfare Food Challenge that launched this week.

Asked if $21 a week is enough for food, the minister for social development Michelle Stilwell said, "I think certainly the comprehensive support system we have in place for individuals on income assistance and persons with disabilities helps support them in a multitude of ways."

Grocery store secrets: Best-before dates tampered with, workers claim

Supermarket workers are speaking out to CBC's Marketplace about how stores tamper with best-before dates and how it can make food unsafe.

For five years, Mohammad Saffari has worked as a bakery clerk at a Loblaws store in Montreal. He says he was told to change best-before dates on fresh or frozen bakery items such as cheesecakes, muffins and pastries that were weeks or months past the best-before date.

This Is What's Wrong With Canadian Daily Newspapers

The Canadian daily newspaper industry is dying a slow death and it's all because of the Internet. At least that's the story the newspaper industry is telling itself.

I'm sure you've heard the sad refrain: "We can't compete with online outlets that simply recycle the news content we've spent so much time and money creating."

Texas Congressman Wants To Put Gay People On An Island To See If They Die Out

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) took his opposition to same-sex marriage to an entirely new level during a speech at Virginia's Liberty University last week.

Gohmert, who previously compared the treatment of marriage equality opponents to how Nazis persecuted Jews during World War II, argued that even Americans who don't believe in God should be able to see that same-sex relationships aren't natural, Right Wing Watch reports. He went on to suggest conducting a "totally secular" congressional study that would prove it, too.

‘Worse Than We Thought’: TPP Is a Total Corporate Power-Grab Nightmare

“Worse than anything we could’ve imagined.”

“An act of climate denial.”

“Giveaway to big agribusiness.”

“A death warrant for the open Internet.”

“Worst nightmare.”

“A disaster.”

As expert analysis of the long-shrouded, newly publicized TransPacific Partnership (TPP) final text continued to roll out on Thursday, consensus formed around one fundamental assessment of the 12-nation pact: It’s worse than we thought.

TPP Trade Deal's Data Provisions Could Put Sensitive Canadian Info At Risk: Critics

OTTAWA — Analysts say the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal places sensitive Canadian data such as health records at risk through provisions that open the door wider to cross-border data flows and offshore record storage.

The text of the deal between Canada and 11 other nations, made public Thursday, says countries must allow the business-related cross-border transfer of information — including personal data — by electronic means.

TPP Documents Show Canada Signed Dozens Of Side Deals On Trade

OTTAWA — Canada has signed almost two dozen side letters with its trading partners in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, including an agreement with the United States to combat illicit trade.

Canada also has a side agreement with Japan that appears to protect the exports of British Columbia logs, a key sticking point between the two countries.

Endless war is creating an unprecedented global crisis

"To understand the nature of the present war -- for in spite of the regrouping which occurs every few years, it is always the same war -- one must realize in the first place that it is impossible for it to be decisive." -- 1984, by George Orwell
Barack Obama originally ran for president as the anti-war candidate. Now, as his second term winds down, the two George W. Bush/Obama wars are winding up, with a third in Syria. U.S. military forces are deployed elsewhere around the globe, as in drone striking in Yemen and Somalia, adding to the global conflagration. The United States is engaged in endless war.

Canadian Consumer Debt Hits $1.88 Trillion As Home Sales Reach Fever Pitch

Canada’s hottest housing markets kept up a frenzied pace of activity in October, even as new numbers from RBC showed consumer debt loads reaching yet another record high.

Household debt loads have grown 5 per cent over the past year, to $1.88 trillion, RBC said in its latest credit report. Much of that was driven by mortgage debt, which grew by $74.7 billion, or 5.9 per cent, in the 12 months to October.

Freedom Caucus Votes For $17 Billion In Government Payments To Banks

WASHINGTON -- The House voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to preserve $17 billion in government payouts to banks, as part of a major highway funding bill.

The GOP had initially pressed to include other bank-friendly measures in the highway bill, including a plan to hamstring the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and deregulate large banks. Those efforts were scrapped in favor of the more straightforward $17 billion payment.

More Proof The Gender Pay Gap Is Enormous

There's a new report out on the gender pay gap, and things aren't looking any better for women looking to make a buck in America.

The report, from PayScale, shows that women make 74 cents to a man's dollar in this country. That's even worse than official government data, which show that women make 78 cents for every dollar that men make.

The Empire of Chaos: An Interview With Noam Chomsky

US foreign policy in the 21st century has little to offer other than massive military power. Indeed, gone are the days when military might was used in order to "recreate the world in America's image." In the post-Cold War era, US military interventions take place in the absence of an overall strategic vision and with ideological justifications lacking force and conviction even among the United States' traditional allies. Little wonder then that military interventions, always illegal and unjustifiable, end up accomplishing nothing more than the creation of black holes, while giving rise in turn to new and ever increasing violent terrorist organizations bent on spreading their own vision of social and political order.

George H.W. Bush Tears Into Cheney and Rumsfeld

In an upcoming new biography, former president George H.W. Bush is finally revealing what he thinks about his son's former aides, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. And he's not pulling any punches.

Describing Cheney as an "iron-ass" and Rumsfeld as "arrogant," the 91-year-old Bush told his biographer Jon Meacham that he believed his son's presidency was ultimately "hurt" by the two confidantes, both of whom have been viewed as wielding an unprecedented level of authority with then-President George W. Bush.

Bill Morneau, Canada's New Finance Minister, Takes Job At A Critical Time For Canada's Economy

OTTAWA — For the first time in nearly 100 years, a political newcomer is stepping into the high-stakes, pressure-cooker position of federal finance minister.

Multi-millionaire Toronto businessman Bill Morneau takes over the file at a critical time, as the economy struggles to rebound from the steep drop in the price of oil and other commodities.

Five things to know about pre-1964 Canadian housing policy

On November 4, I gave a historical presentation on Canadian housing policy at theannual conference of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness. My slide presentation, which focused on pre-1964 Canadian social history, can be downloaded here.
Here are five things to know about pre-1964 history that set the tone for important developments in Canadian housing policy:
1. Prior to the 1940s, there was virtually no government-assisted housing for anyone at all in Canada.
In the early 1900s, if you were without work and needed help paying the bills, you typically had to rely on family or friends for assistance. In some cases, a social welfare agency might provide you with time-limited support (i.e. used clothing, food, fuel); in other cases, a local church might help you. But barring any of those options, you likely faced destitution.

Trudeau's cabinet has diversity, but conservative white men will keep the purse strings

The announcement of the most diverse and gender-equal cabinet in Canadian history is both wildly overdue and inspiring in and of itself. The fact that counterinsurgency warfare pioneer Andrew Leslie and the racist, civil-liberties-trampling Bill Blair were shut out is equally inspiring.
Seeing that society can be reflected in government is a good thing. It is especially good if it can raise expectations and lead people to demand that government reflect society in other, more significant ways...

Doctors Without Borders Staff Shot While Fleeing Kunduz Hospital, Report Finds

The medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders released its internal report on Thursday about the October attack on its hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, and again cast doubt on the U.S. government's insistence that the attack was not intentional.

The report, which found that the U.S.-led attack killed at least 30 people, describes in brutal detail the severity of the attack, noting that "patients burned in their beds" and that "medical staff were decapitated and lost limbs."

Quentin Tarantino Defends Police Brutality Comments

Quentin Tarantino defended his comments about police brutality during an interview with MSNBC's Chris Hayes on Wednesday.

The "Pulp Fiction" director made headlines last month for an appearance at a demonstration against police brutality.

"I was under the impression I was an American and that I had First Amendment rights, and there was no problem with me going to an anti-police-brutality protest and speaking my mind," Tarantino said. "Just because I was at an anti-police-brutality protest doesn't mean I'm anti-police."

Warning From Kentucky: Managerial Democrats Can Lose to Extreme Republicans

Democrats who think they can win simply by highlighting the extremism of Republicans—a popular notion as Dr. Ben Carson, Donald Trump, and Senator Ted Cruz rank high in Republican presidential polls—would do well to consider the case of Kentucky.

Yes, Kentucky—where cautious Democrats just clashed with extremist Republicans. In an exceptionally low-turnout election, in which two-thirds of eligible voters failed to cast ballots, the Republicans prevailed.

Elizabeth Warren Wants to Give Seniors a Raise

Elizabeth Warren wants to give seniors the same pay raise enjoyed by CEOs—and to raise taxes on some executive pay in the process. The liberal senator from Massachusetts is introducing a bill on Thursday to boost Social Security payments for 2016 with a one-time bump in benefits.

Social Security payments—for both retirees and people receiving disability insurance—are pegged to inflation, with the government calculating a cost-of-living adjustment, the percentage by which payments increase each year. But in recent years, with the economy still puttering only slowly upward following the recession, inflation has stalled, which has left Social Security recipients with no or minimal annual increases. 2016 is set to be only the third year since 1975 when Social Security won't get any cost-of-living increase, joining 2010 and 2011.

'Iron-ass' Cheney and 'arrogant' Rumsfeld damaged America, says George Bush Sr

Former US president George HW Bush has hit out at Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, two of the most senior figures in his son’s administration, labelling them too “hardline” and “arrogant” in their handling of the September 11 attacks.

A new biography of the 41st president – Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey Of George Herbert Walker Bush – reveals that Bush Sr held Cheney and Rumsfeld responsible for the hawkish stance that “hurt” his son’s administration, Fox News reported on Wednesday.

Repression Unbound: Egypt Under Sisi

In March this year, Middle East Minister Tobias Ellwood suggested that Egypt was taking "steps towards a stronger democracy" and that British/Egyptian relations were "in a very positive place." The first claim is absurd in the context of mass repression, while the second speaks volumes about Britain's current approach to foreign policy.