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, January 26, 2016

Liberals’ tax changes to cost $100M more than expected, watchdog says

OTTAWA—The federal budget watchdog says the Liberals’ tax-bracket changes will drain about $100 million more per year from the public treasury than the government expects.

Since winning the election, the Liberals fulfilled their campaign vow to cut federal income taxes for middle-income earners by raising the rate on the highest-earning Canadians.

Novelist Obliterates The Bundy Militia — And Oregon’s Largest Newspaper — In 194 Words

Award-winning author Ursula K. Le Guin has lived in Oregon for more than half a century, and has regularly visited the region surrounding the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for 45 years. Ever since armed militants took over the refuge in a dispute over ranching fees on public lands, Le Guin has “been following the situation very closely,” she said in an email to ThinkProgress.

So when she saw an article titled “Effort to free federal lands” in the Sunday Oregonian, she did what any self-respecting, world-renowned author would do.

How the Kochtopus Went After a Reporter

Prize-winning New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer made headlines recently when she released a new book, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, that revealed how the father of the Koch brothers once helped build a major oil refinery in Nazi Germany that was a pet project of Adolph Hitler. Overall, the book tells the tale of a small number of ultrarich donors—including Richard Mellon Scaife and Harry and Lynde Bradley—who did much to create the modern conservative moment, with a strong emphasis on billionaires Charles and David Koch. "It is not easy to uncover the inner workings of an essentially secretive political establishment," the New York Times' review of the book notes. "Mayer has come as close to doing it as anyone is likely to come anytime soon." And there's a section in the book that should be particularly chilling for journalists, for Mayer describes how she became the target of a nasty opposition research effort after she wrote about the Koch brothers several years ago.

How Apple Profits From A System That Abuses Children -- And Why It's So Hard To Stop

A new report from Amnesty International suggests that companies including Apple, Samsung and Sony are profiting from child labor in Africa -- and no one should be surprised.

It's been public knowledge for years that electronics are stuffed with minerals that come from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a war-torn place rich in must-have materials that are rarely found elsewhere. Less well-known, however, is how these sometimes blood-soaked metals move from the DRC into the supply chains of some of the world's richest and most powerful tech companies. While these companies carry considerable influence and are aware of the controversy surrounding their supply chains, a number of complicating factors make it difficult -- if not impossible -- for them to solve the problem of child labor.

How the Sharing Economy Screws American Workers

Fifty-one years ago, Bob Dylan's song "Maggie's Farm," a brilliant satire that compared the job prospects of that generation's youth to that of working on a dystopian plantation, was released on Dylan's album "Bringing It All Back Home." The owners, Maggie, her ma, pa and brother -- a real close-knit unit, like a small "sharing economy" startup -- were quite eager to put you to work, but they were a bit stingy on the compensation side for your menial, TaskRabbit-type work.

Hillary Clinton Declares War on Single-Payer Health Care

Single-payer health-care activists are used to being disappointed by Democrats, especially those with presidential ambitions. In 2003, Barack Obama said he was a "proponent of a single-payer, universal health-care plan," but as president he refused to even engage in a discussion on the issue when he was working to pass the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2009-10.

But at least Obama took the same approach as most establishment Democrats and merely ignored an idea that would save the country billions, while covering every single American, regardless of employment or ability to pay. Hillary Clinton, however, hasn't ignored the policy in recent months on the campaign trail. Instead, despite broad popular support for Medicare for All, Clinton has declared war on single-payer health care.

To the Oligarchy, Democracy Is Just a Marionette to Be Manipulated

The following is an excerpt from When Money Talks: The High Price of "Free" Speech and the Selling of Democracy.

Reducing Political Inequality

The wealthiest 0.1 percent of Americans now control a greater portion of our nation's wealth than at any time since the Great Depression. This growing concentration of wealth in the hands of the few threatens both our economy and our democracy.

Why a Referendum on Electoral Reform Would Be Undemocratic

"When you change the rules of democracy, everyone gets a say," interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose stated recently in demanding that Prime Minister Trudeau commit to holding a referendum prior to introducing any changes to our voting system, and fellow MPs Scott Reid and Blake Richards added that not to do so would be "stubbornly and profoundly undemocratic."

Fair Voting B.C. strongly disagrees. These crocodile tears supposedly in defence of democracy reflect a profound misunderstanding of why voting reform is needed. Quite simply, we need voting reform to correct the longstanding injustice that half of us are denied our Charter rights to effective representation and equal treatment. And when our civil rights are violated, those who stand to benefit from the current system's discriminatory effects should not be allowed to block redress.

Hey Finland! Canada Tried Guaranteed Income Once, and It Worked

It's said nothing can stop an idea whose time has come, but politicians know you can sure slow it down. A Canadian social experiment in the 1970s might have prevented 40 years of a widening income gap and social misery. Instead, conservative politicians -- federal and provincial -- ended the experiment and suppressed most of its findings.

Now the idea is coming back, not in Canada but in countries like Finland and Germany: the idea of a guaranteed annual income for everyone, working or not. If those countries succeed in establishing guaranteed incomes, the pressure on Canada to do the same could be wonderfully irresistible.

Reza Moridi ‘concerned’ about Saudi male-only colleges with links to Ontario

Ontario’s minister of post-secondary education says he’s concerned that two publicly funded Ontario colleges have opened campuses in Saudi Arabia that don’t allow women.

On Wednesday, Colleges and Universities Minister Reza Moridi said decisions on the operation of a campus, including student composition, are up to each college’s board of governors.

But late Thursday, after a lot of criticism on social media about the male-only campuses, the minister had a change of heart about Ontario colleges teaching courses that deliberately exclude women.

Right-wing newspapers take over media markets in four more cities

First, the Halifax Chronicle Herald management locked out its workers. Then we learned that Global News is being sold to a company that specializes in children's entertainment. And now Postmedia, Canada's biggest news chain, has announced mass layoffs and a newsroom merger that puts Sun News editors at the helm of several respected local newspapers.

Tories 'Booby Trapped' Iran Relations For Liberal Government: Expert

OTTAWA — The former Conservative government "booby-trapped" Canada's international relations with a pair of laws that are preventing the Liberals from lifting sanctions on Iran, says a former Canadian military analyst and Middle East expert.

Thomas Juneau, a University of Ottawa expert on Iran who spent 11 years at the Department of National Defence, cited the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and the listing of Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism as obstacles to the government's ability to lift sanctions.

The TPP Hands Control Over Trade To The World's Wealthiest

If there is someone who knows about plutocrats, it is Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s international trade minister responsible for deciding what to do about the TPP, the foremost international agreement among plutocrats. She has been to the parties and observed the richest one per cent in their natural setting, with their superstar interior designers, cooks and fashion designers.

TPP's Economic Impact Will Be Fewer Jobs, More Inequality, New Study Says

The Trans-Pacific Partnership meant to create the world’s largest free trade area will cost Canada 58,000 jobs and increase income inequality, says a new U.S. study.

Perhaps more surprisingly, the study found that the two largest economies in the TPP — the U.S. and Japan — would actually shrink as a result of the trade deal, and that the deal would result in fewer jobs overall in all the participating countries.

Postmedia Job Cuts Hint At A Growing Media Monopoly In Canada

George R. Gauld Junior Public School doesn’t look as old as it feels.

The 91-year-old building is painted in bright blues and yellows on the inside, and though the letters spelling out the school’s name on the outside are a little faded from the sun, the building looks all right.

But the exterior belies the problems hidden beneath the walls. The boilers are so old repair technicians aren’t trained to service them anymore. The roof needs to be replaced, and a few cracks and warps in the library ceiling show where the water pours through when it rains, though the librarian usually puts down a bucket so the books and floor aren’t damaged.

Schools crumbling amid $1B repair shortfall

George R. Gauld Junior Public School doesn’t look as old as it feels.

The 91-year-old building is painted in bright blues and yellows on the inside, and though the letters spelling out the school’s name on the outside are a little faded from the sun, the building looks all right.

Goodwill workers blast charity's CEO over closures

David Williams could have stayed on employment insurance. He could have gone on disability for the scoliosis he’s suffered since age 12. In his own words, he could have just stayed home and watched TV.

Williams figures those options would probably have netted him more money than 19 years at Goodwill. But just as the 80-year-old charity originally intended, work provided him with so much more: purpose, identity, passion.

Noam Chomsky Slams Turkish President for Arresting Academics and Supporting Extremism

Matthew Weaver of the Guardian reports retired MIT linguist Noam Chomsky’s reply to a personal attack by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan criticized Chomsky and other international scholars who signed a petition against the Turkish government’s current vendetta against Kurdish-Turkish citizens in the country’s southeast.  Erdogan demanded that Chomsky come to southeast Turkey to see the terrorism committed by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) with his own eyes, implying that Chomsky and other signatories of the petition are mere armchair scholars.

Of Course Sarah Palin Endorsed Donald Trump

Former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin endorsed Donald Trump for president while in Iowa on Tuesday.

"You are ready to make America great again!" she told a beaming Trump.

The Problem With Rooftop Solar That Nobody Is Talking About

A couple of years ago, Steven Weissman, an energy lawyer at the University of California-­Berkeley, started to shop around for solar panels for his house. It seemed like an environmental no-brainer. For zero down, leading residential provider SolarCity would install panels on his roof. The company would own the equipment, and he’d buy the power it produces for less than he had been paying his electric utility. Save money, fight climate change. Sounds like a deal.

Climatologist Wants To Keep Working With Terminal Cancer Diagnosis, Climate Deniers Attack Him

NASA climatologist and astronaut Piers Sellers has a moving New York Times op-ed piece about his plans to keep working despite his diagnosis of terminal Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

It struck a chord with me, especially since the headline, “Cancer and Climate Change,” was one I had for a previously unfinished and unpublished post I wrote a few years ago — after I was diagnosed with a pancreatic neuro-endocrine tumor (the general class of tumor that killed Steve Jobs, though mine was probably non-lethal).

Goodwill retail shutdown blamed on ‘fiscal crisis’

A fiscal crisis brought on by high rent and declining sales has forced the surprise closure of 16 Toronto-area Goodwill stores, according to the charity’s CEO Keiko Nakamura.

The 80-year old organization, which collects and resells donated clothes and goods, abruptly shut down 16 stores, 10 donation centres and two offices in the GTA, Barrie, Orillia and Brockville on Sunday.

World Economic Forum Urged To Fight Inequality As Staggering New Numbers Released

DAVOS, Switzerland -- The world's political and business elite are being urged to do more than pay lip service to growing inequalities around the world as they head off for this week's World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos.

Two reports published Monday, from Oxfam and public relations firm Edelman, warned that the widening gap between the haves and have-nots since the global financial crisis is undermining a decades-long effort to reduce global poverty and fueling the rise of populist politicians.

The 62 Richest People On Earth Now Hold As Much Wealth As The Poorest 3.5 Billion

All the money in the world is growing ever more concentrated in the hands of just a few people, a report released Sunday night makes clear.

Just 62 ultra-rich individuals -- a list that is primarily made up of men and includes Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, the Koch Brothers and the Walmart heirs -- have as much wealth as the bottom half of humanity. Five years ago, it took 388 rich guys to achieve that status.

Seven Ways TPP Favours Mega-rich Foreign Investors, Not Canadians

The Harper government agreed to the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal with 12 countries including the U.S., Canada and Japan, shortly before the federal election on Oct. 19. Yet the TPP text was not made public until after the election.

Before it can enter into force, the TPP must be signed and then ratified by member countries. Therefore, the Trudeau government has options to push for renegotiation or to decline either to sign or to ratify the deal on Canada's behalf.

The TPP's criminalization of trade secret law

Problems? Oh, the Trans-Pacific Partnership has a few! Readabout them all in the new seriesThe Trouble with the TPP.
The Trouble with the TPP series continues with a surprising and troubling aspect of the intellectual property chapter: the criminalization of trade secret law.
The trade secret issue was flagged by Professor Dan Breznitz of the Munk School of Global Affairs in a column in The Globe and Mail late last year. While some have tried to downplay the issue, the reality is that the TPP represents a radical shift on trade secrets law for most participating countries, who can expect years of pressure to gradually expand the scope of criminal penalties for trade secret violations.

Trudeau government makes dubious appointments to Washington and the UN

The newly renamed Department of Global Affairs decided to bury the announcement of two of the government's key diplomatic appointments by making it on a weekend.
This past Saturday, the Department issued a laconic news release saying that Minister Stéphane Dion had named a lobbyist to be the new Ambassador to the United States and the CEO of a big law firm to be Canada's Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

16 Ontario Goodwill stores shut down

“Unforeseen Circumstances.”

A small crude hand-written notice pinned to the front window of a Goodwill store in downtown Toronto was the harbinger of worse things to come later in the day.

Several hours later, Goodwill Toronto, which collects donated clothing and goods, then sells them to fund programs for people with learning and physical disabilities, announced it was closing the 16 stores it runs, throwing some 450 people out of work.

Councillor David Shiner questions garbage truck spending, savings

The city’s auditor general has been asked to investigate the approval of $40 million for new garbage trucks the city may not need after a debate over outsourcing pick-up was deferred to later this year.

Councillor David Shiner, a member of Mayor John Tory’s executive, has also asked Auditor General Beverly Romeo-Beehler to review whether staff grossly underestimated potential cost savings related to replacing the city’s fleet of trucks when they recommended against contracting out in September.

At Least An O'Leary Conservative Leadership Would Be Honest

Three and a half billion people living in desperate poverty is "fantastic news."

Only those who have met a big corporate payroll north of $5 million should aspire to political office. Only the rich need apply.

Every Mayor in America Should Look at What Just Happened in St. Louis

For more than two decades, NFL owners seeking to finance new stadiums with public money used Los Angeles as a bargaining chip, threatening to move to the City of Angels if they didn't get what they wanted. Now St. Louis is losing its team to LA—and it still has years of multimillion-dollar payments left on its last bad stadium deal.

Canada's largest newspaper opens 2016 with an uninformed and biased salvo against Russia

After a hiatus from the Ukraine and Russia file for much of 2015, the editor of Canada's largest daily newspaper has opened the year 2016 with sharp words for Russia, notably the "lightning annexation of Crimea" and the "Moscow-backed separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine" which Russia is said to have sprung on the world in early 2014. Olivia Ward pens anarticle in the January 10, 2016 edition of the Toronto Star loaded with grim predictions for Russia's economy in 2016 and of "swelling grassroots outrage" against the rule of President Vladimir Putin.

The Crackpot Alternative Legal System That Threatens To Escalate The Oregon Standoff

Events in Harney County, Oregon, seem to be taking a turn toward escalation.

Armed men have been occupying a wildlife refuge for two weeks by now, saying they’re taking a stand against the federal government’s management of public land. They’ve recently stepped up their acts of protest: Earlier this week, they used a federal bulldozer to tear down a fence dividing private ranchlands from the public’s terrain at one edge of the refuge, which represents a more direct flouting of the law than even the occupation itself.

3 Troubling Ways the Charter School Boom Is Like the Subprime Mortgage Crisis

Acting US Secretary of Education John King has called charter schools "good laboratories for innovation." It's that kind of language that's helped the number of public charters jump from 1,542 in 1999 to 6,723 in 2014—when more than 1 million students sat on charter school waiting lists, including a whopping 163,000 in New York City alone.

But, as four researchers argue in a recent study in the University of Richmond Law Review, charter schools could be on the same path that led to the subprime mortgage crisis.

Hillary Clinton doesn't trust you

Hillary Clinton's campaign has spent the past few days indulging its worst instincts. It blundered into a dumb attack on Bernie Sanders, but rather than back down it raised the stakes. The result has been a reminder, to liberals, of what they like about Sanders and mistrust about Clinton. But it's also been a missed opportunity for Clinton to make the case to Democratic primary voters that she should have been making all along.

The subject was Sanders's support for a single-payer health care system. The policy puts Clinton in a bind: It's popular with liberals but dangerous in a general election. Sanders's support for it is, to Clinton, everything wrong with his campaign in miniature — it's an idea that sounds good on the stump but really reveals a preference for ideological symbolism over the hard work of policy change.

Why cheap hydro was too good to be true

Nothing gets a rise out of ratepayers like rising electricity bills.

But here’s an inconveniently powerful truth about power rates: We may be suffering from hydro hysteria — and electricity amnesia.

Yes, prices are going up faster than in recent memory. True, the price of power remains a lightning rod for the party in power.

The greatest trick Obama ever pulled was convincing the world America isn't still at war

The holiday headlines blared without a hint of distrust: “End of War” and “Mission Ends” and “U.S. formally ends the war in Afghanistan”, as the US government and Nato celebrated the alleged end of the longest war in American history. Great news! Except, that is, when you read past the first paragraph: “the fighting is as intense as it has ever been since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001,” according to the Wall Street Journal. And about 10,000 troops will remain there for the foreseeable future (more than we had a year after the Afghan war started). Oh, and they’ll continue to engage in combat regularly. But other than that, yeah, the war is definitely over.

The troubling link between health care and intellectual property in the TPP

Problems? Oh, the Trans-Pacific Partnership has a few! Read about them all in the new seriesThe Trouble with the TPP.
The link between health care and the TPP's intellectual property chapter is easy to spot, but there are other chapters with implications for the issue.
The Trouble with the TPP series considers Chapter 8, which covers Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT). The chapter contains some surprising restrictions on the ability for national regulators to require the disclosure of certain information as part of the regulatory review process for pharmaceutical products and medical devices.

B.C. Supreme Court rules government failed to consult First Nations on Northern Gateway

Enbridge received another blow on Wednesday when B.C.'s Supreme Court ruled that the province neglected to properly consult with Gitga'at and Coastal First Nations on the Northern Gateway pipeline.
"This is a huge victory that affirms the provincial government's duty to consult with and accommodate First Nations and to exercise its decision-making power on major pipeline projects," said Arnold Clifton, Chief Councillor of the Gitga'at First Nation in astatement.
In June 2010, the B.C. Liberals signed an "equivalency agreement" with the federal government, giving final say of the project's environmental assessment to the National Energy Board.

Trans-Pacific Partnership Can't Be Renegotiated, Canadians Must Pick 'Yes' Or 'No': Freeland

MONTREAL — A renegotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is not possible even though serious concerns may be raised during public consultations, Canada's trade minister said Thursday.

"The negotiations are finished and for Canadians it's important to understand that it's a decision of yes or no," Chrystia Freeland told reporters Thursday after receiving varied feedback at a meeting at the University of Montreal.

What Kevin O’Leary doesn’t know about Alberta could fill a book he’d never read

It wasn’t quite up to Anthony Weiner’s standards, but Kevin O’Leary did kind of expose himself on TV this week.

In offering to give Alberta’s premier a million dollar investment in the oilpatch in return for her resignation, O’Leary declared both what he and his class stand for — and, more importantly, what they think of democracy.