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 27, 2011

Anders Behring Breivik and the Crisis of Legitimacy

Anders Behring Breivik

What the Norwegian murderer and American "birthers" have in common.

In the past 48 hours, Anders Behring Breivik has been described as a racist, a white supremacist, and an anti-Islamic fanatic. News reports of his arrest are now accompanied by analyses of Europe's failure to absorb its immigrant population, by commentary on the rise of far-right political parties, by discussions of the threats posed to Muslims living in Europe. Having mistakenly assumed that the story of terror in Oslo belonged to the narrative of the war on terrorism, we are now placing it firmly within the equally familiar narrative of white racism and anti-Islamic fanaticism.

Aren't we missing the point once again? Breivik was not, in fact, a killer of immigrants or Muslims. He was a killer of Norwegians. The particular set of obsessions that led him to madness and then to mass murder were not merely racist. They also sprang from an insane conviction that his own government was illegitimate.

Rating Agencies Don't Deserve Government Blessing, Tavakoli Says

With federal lawmakers battling over a deal to give the U.S. government more borrowing authority, major credit rating agencies have lent a sense of urgency to the proceedings by threatening to issue a downgrade, which experts fear could throw financial markets into turmoil and impede the economic recovery.

But according to a confidential report obtained by The Huffington Post, one prominent analyst is saying markets should not be so reliant on the pronouncements of these companies, which have repeatedly proven themselves to be poor judges of credit quality. The rating agencies, which offered rosy assessments of financial products that later went bust, deserve to have their government seal of approval revoked, argues Janet Tavakoli, president of the Chicago-based consulting firm Tavakoli Structured Finance.

Tea Party Warns GOP: A Vote for Boehner's Debt Plan Violates Our Pledge

WASHINGTON -- The Tea Party is causing more headaches for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) over his debt proposal.

A coalition of several hundred Tea Party chapters declared Tuesday that a vote for Boehner's debt plan constitutes a violation of its pledge, which 51 Republican lawmakers have signed. The group, known as the Cut, Cap and Balance Coalition, notified its members of its position in a Tuesday memo entitled, "Clarification of the CCB Coalition Stance on the Speaker's Proposal."

"The greatest concern to the Cut, Cap and Balance Coalition is the integrity of the Cut, Cap and Balance Pledge that was signed by 39 House Members and 12 Senators, and whether voting for the proposed deal constitutes a Pledge violation," reads the memo."

Anders Breivik's Links To The English Defence League: What Do They Tell Us About Norway And Nationalism In Europe And Britain?

British police are investigating links between Anders Breivik and the English Defence League, a group the gunman described as a ‘blessing’ in an online forum.

But is the nationalist group no more than a blip on the fringes of society, or is it part of a larger movement threatening to destabilise multiculturalism in Europe?

Mohammed and his brother were in the wrong place at the wrong time. On a rainy Saturday afternoon in Chadwell Heath, East London, last month, the two came across an EDL march.

Ottawa silences scientist over West Coast salmon study

VANCOUVER — Top bureaucrats in Ottawa have muzzled a leading fisheries scientist whose discovery could help explain why salmon stocks have been crashing off Canada's West Coast, according to documents obtained by Postmedia News.

The documents show the Privy Council Office, which supports the Prime Minister's Office, stopped Kristi Miller from talking about one of the most significant discoveries to come out of a federal fisheries lab in years.

Science, one of the world's top research journals, published Miller's findings in January. The journal considered the work so significant it notified "over 7,400" journalists worldwide about Miller's "Suffering Salmon" study.

Canada's Debt Ceiling Fears: What A Default In Washington Means For Canadians

If Americans are experiencing feelings of helplessness over the political wrangling that is keeping Washington from raising its debt ceiling in the face of a fast-approaching deadline, they should try watching the drama unfold from this side of the border. Despite the fact that Canadians have no control over what happens in Washington, if an agreement is not reached by Aug. 2, to raise the annual amount of debt needed to fund government spending, we will no doubt share in the consequences.

“We are connected to the U.S., to their political decisions,” says James Marple, a senior economist at TD Economics.

Pot growers' kids in good health, study says

A new study has found that children from "grow op" homes were healthy and drug-free, leading to questions about the practice of immediately removing such kids from their parents.

The research from the Motherisk Program at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children suggests the automatic seizure of kids from drug-producing parents can be more detrimental to the wellbeing of the children, said Gideon Koren, a University of Toronto professor and the program's director.

"After examining 75 of the kids over several years, we came to very clear conclusions that a vast majority of these kids are doing well," Koren said. "Well fed, well kept, doing well in school and developing well."

Putting a Price on Carbon

If Canada is to obtain a “clean energy future,” it needs to adopt a harmonized carbon tax.

Federal, provincial, and territorial energy ministers concluded their annual meeting last week by proclaiming a shared vision of Canada as a “global leader in secure and sustainable energy.” Energy conservation, the “transition to a lower-carbon economy,” and technological innovation are among the objectives for future intergovernmental collaboration.

That’s the good news. Worrisome and just as important, though, is what was not said. In particular, there was no acknowledgement of the profound tension between the development of Canada’s fossil-fuel resources – especially its tar sands – and its renewable-energy sources.

Enough Already: Raise Your Taxes, America

Tax increases are still off the table as unemployment and the gap between rich and poor continues to grow in the U.S.

As a result of the fortuitous confluence of sabbatical and research that requires me to search through archives in New York, I’m in the envious position of spending the next six months in Greenwich Village. Ten years after 9-11 and almost three years since the financial meltdown, the city is a curious study in contrasts. Increasingly, Manhattan is a real-life theme park for the wealthy – either for those who live here or for the millions who populate the tour buses and can afford to visit, catered to by a billionaire septuagenarian mayor on the verge of retirement, and serviced by an often racially or ethnically determined underclass that is vulnerable to the vicissitudes of insecure, low-wage, and often illegal employment.

Ottawa bargaining in bad faith on land claims, native groups say

Native organizations have accused the federal government of negotiating in bad faith by imposing deadlines and making “take-it-or-leave-it” offers to bands trying to settle specific land claims.

The allegations were made in a lengthy document released Tuesday by the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, the Nlaka’pamux Nation Tribal Council and the Alliance of Tribal Nations.

The Assembly of First Nations echoed the concerns, with National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo calling on Ottawa to clarify the situation.

“First Nations are naturally concerned about any apparent attempt that may diminish or deny our lawful claims,” said Mr. Atleo.

Corporate cash hoard in the trillions: Moody’s

U.S. non-financial companies sat on a whopping $1.2-trillion (U.S.) in cash and short-term liquid investments at the end of 2010, according to Moody’s. That’s up 11 per cent from the $1.1-trillion at the end of 2009

These cash levels are probably only going to increase. Moody’s review ends at December 31, at which Apple Inc.’s cash and short-term investments balance totalled $60-billion. When it reported quarterly earnings two weeks ago, that balance had climbed to $78-billion.

Because the value of liquid assets is so high, U.S. companies’ debt-to-cash ratios hit a five-year low of 3.06 times in 2010, despite extremely low interest rates and big corporate debt issuance, particularly last summer.

Norwegian Shooting Suspect’s Views Echo Xenophobia of Right-Wing Extremists in U.S., Europe

Before the deadly attack in Norway that killed 76 people, suspect Anders Behring Breivik left a long trail of material meticulously outlining his political beliefs. His 1,500-page political manifesto, titled "A European Declaration of Independence," seeks common cause with xenophobic right-wing groups around the world, particularly in the United States. It draws heavily on the writing of prominent anti-Islam American bloggers, as well as Unabomber Ted Kaczynski. His writing reveals he is a right-wing nationalist fueled by a combined hatred of Muslims, Marxists, multiculturalists and feminist women. Even after the massacre in Norway, some right-wing pundits in the United States have come out in defense of Breivik’s analysis. We speak with Jeff Sharlet, an author who has written extensively about right-wing movements in the United States, who has read much of Breivik’s 1,500-page manifesto. "What struck me most about this document is just how American it is in every way. I mean, a huge amount of it is from American sources," Sharlet says. "He’s a great admirer of America, because he says United States, unlike Europe, has maintained its 'Christian identity.'"

Source: Democracy Now! 

U.S. Credit Rating Rests On S&P’s London View of Washington

David Beers may be the most influential political commentator in the U.S. right now, even though he’s hardly a household name, that isn’t technically his job and he’s only visiting.

As the London-based managing director of sovereign credit ratings at Standard & Poor’s, Beers will help determine whether the U.S. government’s credit rating will be downgraded as a result of the battle over raising the debt limit.

His company has gone beyond competing credit rating agencies to say that it isn’t enough for lawmakers to agree to lift the government’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling. Congress and the White House also must agree to a deficit-reduction package to avoid a downgrade in the government’s AAA credit rating.

Piers Morgan Appears To Admit To Knowledge Of Phone Hacking In 2009 Interview

In a recently unearthed 2009 interview, CNN host Piers Morgan appears to acknowledge to a BBC radio host that he ran stories based on phone hacking while he was a tabloid editor in Britain.

Morgan edited Rupert Murdoch's News of the World from 1994-1995, before jumping to Murdoch's main tabloid rival, the Daily Mirror, in 1995. He edited the Mirror until 2004, when he was forced out over a faked photo scandal involving the British military.

Morgan's appearance on the venerable BBC radio program "Desert Island Discs" was dusted off by the Daily Telegraph, which uploaded a portion of it to the Internet. The Daily Beast later ran a version of the same audio. In the Telegraph's clip, host Kirsty Young asks Morgan how it felt to "dealing with, I mean essentially people who rake through bins for a living, people who tap people's phones, people who take secret photographs, who do all that nasty down-in-the-gutter stuff."

"Not a lot of that went on," Morgan replies. "A lot of it was done by third parties rather than the staff themselves. That's not to defend it, because obviously you were running the results of their work. I'm quite happy to be parked in the corner of tabloid beast and to have to sit here defending all these things I used to get up to, and I make no pretense about the stuff we used to do."

Full Article
Source: Huffington 

John Baird Orders Quebec Paintings Replaced By Queen's Portrait

OTTAWA - Foreign service staff and art lovers are grumbling about new Minister John Baird's decorating tastes inside the lobby of his department.

A pair of historic paintings by Quebec modern master Alfred Pellan were removed from their decades-old spot and replaced by a 2002 photo portrait of the Queen late last month.

The change was ordered before the visit of Prince William and Kate in late June, and took some staff by surprise when they entered the Lester B. Pearson Building after the long weekend.

Lighten up Doug Ford! Thanks to Margaret Atwood, at least you'll get a footnote

Lighten up, Doug Ford! It's good to be given a sound public thrashing by Margaret Atwood. It's proof that your hitherto meaningless existence has been recognized!

After all, Atwood is an author of historical stature, the sort of person journalists describe as an icon without even bothering to look up the word. In other words, she's someone who, unlike you, history will remember as more than a footnote.

So you should treat the talking-to you've just received from her as a blessing, a gift from the Gods, proof that you are not merely a gnat, no matter what the rest of us may think.

Let's pause here for a little background: For Western Canadian readers who may have missed it, Ford is a Toronto city councillor of a particularly odious neo-Con stripe and also the brother of that unfortunate city's mayor, Rob Ford.

The myth of expansionary austerity

As the U.S. and Europe turn from stimulus to fiscal austerity, claims are heard that spending cuts actually stimulate economic growth. That is the argument heard, not just from the Republicans in the U.S. Congress, but also from the Obama Administration who have pretty much stopped listening to even mainstream macro-economists. And it is the argument of European finance ministers and the European Central Bank who think that a sharp dose of fiscal austerity across the Eurozone need not imperil economic recovery.

However, there is very rarely any such thing as expansionary austerity, according to IMF staff economists.

In a careful review of the historical evidence, they find that, typically, a 1 per cent of GDP fiscal consolidation reduces real private consumption over the next two years by 0.75 per cent, while real GDP declines by 0.62 per cent.

They do allow that the drag on GDP coming from spending cuts can sometimes be offset by positive confidence and interest rate effects if a country is facing an acute fiscal crisis, and that the effects of fiscal contraction can also be offset by a weaker exchange rate, as was the case for Canada under Chretien and Paul Martin.

But, as a rule, the Keynesian position that reduction of government spending reduces short-term effective demand and thus growth and employment is found to be supported by a less selective reading of the evidence than that of Alesina and other right-wing economists.

For Canadians this is surely sobering. We face no fiscal crisis -- our net debt is far below the OECD average. Austerity cannot produce lower interest rates -- short-term rates are near zero and the 10-year Government of Canada bond rate is at a near historic low of under 3 per cent. And, with the dollar hugely over-valued and the U.S. teetering on the edge of another downturn, there will be no offset to fiscal contraction from higher exports this time around.

As we begin the 2012 federal budget debate, Flaherty must be asked why his planned cuts do not risk derailing an already very fragile recovery.


Calgary to put ‘support our troops’ stickers on city cars

Calgary city council has reversed its 2007 refusal to put yellow “support our troops” decals on city cars now that Canada’s combat role in Afghanistan is over, but will allow city employees to opt out.

“There have been some political debates in the past about whether it was worth it, and now that the mission is over, it’s just as important to say thank you for what they’ve done; whether it’s in Afghanistan or going all the way back to World War Two,” said Alderman Shane Keating, who brought forward the proposal and reportedly lost a nephew during Canada’s war in Afghanistan.

Not all Native land claims face final offer, Aboriginal Affairs minister says

OTTAWA — The federal government is preparing to make final cash offers to several First Nations who, in some cases, have been in land-claim negotiations with Ottawa for years.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan told First Nations representatives on Tuesday that negotiations would continue in some of the hundreds of outstanding land-claim cases.

A department spokeswoman echoed the Minister, saying the government is working to reach settlements within a three-year time frame wherever possible. “However, in cases where Canada feels it has enough information to make a fair and reasonable settlement offer, it is proceeding to do so,” Madalina Carlea said.

Constituents to Ford: Lose our library and lose our votes

Doug Ford had a message Tuesday morning for Margaret Atwood and her campaign to prevent service cuts to public libraries.

“Tell her to go run in the next election and get democratically elected,” the Etobicoke councillor said, adding as an example that it “wouldn't bother” his constituents if the Northern Elms library branch at Kipling Ave. and Rexdale Blvd. were closed.

“Why do we need another little library in the middle of nowhere that no one uses?” he said.

Fadumo Elmi had a message for Doug Ford Tuesday night. “I gave him my vote,” she said sternly outside Northern Elms.

“If he closes the library, I want back my vote.”

Issa: Obama admin intimidating witnesses in ATF gun probe

The Obama administration sought to intimidate witnesses into not testifying to Congress on Tuesday about whether ATF knowingly allowed weapons, including assault rifles, to be “walked” into Mexico, the chairman of a House committee investigating the program said in an interview Monday.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell E. Issa, California Republican, said at least two scheduled witnesses expected to be asked about a controversial weapons investigation known as “Fast and Furious”received warning letters from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to limit their testimony.