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.]

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Vic Toews on the hot seat in security talks

A gang of cabinet ministers and bureaucrats from both sides of the border has spent much of the summer working to craft a historic overhaul of Canada-U.S. relations.

Some 32 different aspects of that relationship are under negotiation in the perimeter security talks and most of the heavy lifting is being done under the radar.

At this point, that is understandable.

But at some point the Harper government is going to have to come out of the bunker and level with the Canadian electorate on the messy parts of such huge negotiations.

When it does, it will be clear the toughest piece of this puzzle rests with Vic Toews.

It is the security piece that is driving the American agenda, while the Canadian agenda is dominated by facilitating trade and easing the flow of goods across the border.

Andrew Cuomo, New York Governor, Used State Aircraft To Fly Home Despite Budget Cut Calls

ALBANY, N.Y. -- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo used state aircraft for more than a dozen flights to or from his home following statewide tours in which he called for belt-tightening and budget cuts for schools and other services, records show.

Cuomo used state aircraft far less than his predecessors and there is no record of any politicking or fundraising in the trips, according to records obtained by The Associated Press under the state Freedom of Information Law.

The records show Cuomo used a state plane and helicopter to return to suburban Westchester County at the end of statewide tours more than a dozen times from when he took office in January through June, the end of his first legislative session.

David Cameron Pledges Zero Tolerance Approach To Gangs As He Clashes With Police Over 'Supercop'

David Cameron has vowed a new "zero tolerance" attitude to gangs as opposition towards his appointment of US Supercop Bill Bratton grows.

In his first interview since the UK suffered four nights of rioting he told the Sunday Telegraph there was a simple answer to the violence and pledged to crackdown on crime: “I think there is a danger sometimes of people seeking very, very complicated answers when there are quite simple [explanations] … these people who were nicking televisions were not complaining about the reform of the education maintenance allowance or tuition fees.

“They were nicking televisions because they wanted a television and they weren’t prepared to save up and get it like normal people.”

Auto labour costs and auto industry recovery

I was recently invited to speak to the annual management briefing conference sponsored in Michigan by the Center for Automotive Research, a fine outfit which does the best research work in the continent on auto employment, workers, and skills. My slides are available here.

My panel was addressing the current UAW negotiations with the Detroit Three automakers -- the first big contract talks since the meltdown and bailouts of 2009. I was diplomatic enough as a visitor to the U.S. not to make any direct comment on the UAW talks (the "host" union), but rather addressed the broader economic issue about the North American auto industry's painful recovery, and what role -- if any -- labour costs have played.

Most of the media hype about these talks so far has focused on whether the union and the companies will be able to turn over a "new leaf" in their relationship. They warn against the two sides going back to their "bad old ways," driving up labour costs and bankrupting the companies in the process. To try to combat this "frame," UAW President Bob King and the lead company negotiators have gone to great lengths to stress a "new way of working," their new sense of partnership, and their shared recognition that bargaining can't add to labour costs or else the North American companies won't be competitive anymore.

The Case for Bike Lanes

New research makes a strong case for building bike and pedestrian infrastructure: more jobs.

The U.S. is currently experiencing high unemployment, an unsustainable level of use of carbon-based energy, and a national obesity epidemic. All three of these problems can be partly addressed through increased walking and cycling. Providing pedestrian and cycling infrastructure such as sidewalks, bike lanes, and trails for the purposes of commuting, recreation, and fitness is arguably more important than ever before. These types of infrastructure have been shown to create many benefits for their users, as well as for the rest of the community. There are economic benefits, such as increased revenues and jobs for local businesses, as well as things like reduced congestion, better air quality, safer travel routes, and improved health outcomes.

Tories tussle with widow over use of party logo in asbestos ad campaign

The federal Conservative party has sent a threatening email to the widow of an asbestos victim in the latest chapter of Canada's debate over the hazardous mineral.

A top Tory official is warning the woman to stop using the party logo in an online ad campaign against the controversial industry — a campaign she started after her husband died of an asbestos-related cancer.

Michaela Keyserlingk, whose husband Robert died in 2009 of mesothelioma, has been running an online banner since the spring that reads, “Canada is the only western country that still exports deadly asbestos!”

Why Rick Perry Won't Win

A few days ago I rashly said, "For the record, I don't think Rick Perry can win the Republican nomination, and I know that he can't beat Obama in a general election." Unsurprisingly, a lot of people wanted to know just what made me so sure of that. So with Perry now officially in the race, I guess it's time to explain myself.

Before I get to that, though, I have a mealymouthed caveat or three. First, if the economy is bad enough, anyone can win. And right now, the odds of the economy being bad enough are a little too close for comfort. Second, in recent years you could lose a lot of money continually underestimating the lemming-like power of the Republican Party to dive off ever-higher cliffs. Third, it's absolutely true that you can make a pretty good case that none of the current GOP candidates can possibly win the nomination. And yet, someone will.

Ames Win Positions Michele Bachmann As Rick Perry's Top Obstacle To Be Anti-Romney

AMES, Iowa -- Michele Bachmann is Rick Perry's main rival now in the battle to give Republicans a viable alternative to Mitt Romney. Tim Pawlenty's campaign is on life support. And Ron Paul's jaw-dropping straw poll result showed how much the Republican party has turned toward a robust, full-throated, small government conservatism.

Those were the lessons of Ames in 2011.

The 4,823-vote win by Rep. Bachmann (R-Minn.) was announced as Perry greeted voters in New Hampshire. The Texas governor had flown there after announcing his candidacy earlier in the day in South Carolina.

Despite not having his name on the ballot, Perry got a surprisingly high number as well: 718 votes. That beat Mitt Romney's total of 567 votes, despite the fact that the former Massachusetts governor's name was on the ballot while Perry was a write-in.

Understanding Norway's terrorism

There are several things we must grasp if we're ever going to understand what motivated Anders Breivik's murderous rampage in Norway. As is well known now, Mr. Breivik was a devotee of those many strident voices on the web who accuse the Norwegian Labour Party and its ilk of treason for being too soft on Muslims. For him, the logical response was to slaughter the children of the "traitors" in huge numbers.

The first thing we need to understand is the all-important difference between Muslim terrorists and European terrorists like Mr. Breivik and American terrorists like Timothy McVeigh, the Unabomber and Jared Loughner (killer of six in Tucson, Arizona, attempted killer of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords). Here's the difference: Apparently Muslim terrorists terrorize because they are Muslims and that's what Muslims do. White, European, American and Christian terrorists terrorize because they are psychotic loners who represent nothing besides themselves.

Big Brother isn't watching you

Dismissing rioters as mindless is futile rhetoric. However unacceptable the UK riots, we need to ask why they are happening.

I no longer live in London. I've been transplanted to Los Angeles by a combination of love and money; such good fortune and opportunity, in both cases, you might think disqualify me from commenting on matters in my homeland. Even the results of Britain's Got Ice-Factor may lay prettily glistening beyond my remit now that I am self-banished.

To be honest when I lived in England I didn't really care too much for the fabricated theatrics of reality TV. Except when I worked for Big Brother, then it was my job to slosh about in the amplified trivia of the housemates/inmates. Sometimes it was actually quite bloody interesting. Particularly the year that Nadia won. She was the Portuguese transsexual. Remember? No? Well, that's the nature of the medium; as it whizzes past the eyes it seems very relevant but the malady of reality TV stars is that their shelf life expires, like dog years, by the power of seven. To me it seems as if Nadia's triumph took place during the silver jubilee, we had a street party.

U.K. riots: Feral capitalism is at least as big a culprit

"Nihilistic and feral teenagers" London's Daily Mail called them: the crazy youths from all walks of life who raced around the streets mindlessly and desperately hurling bricks, stones and bottles at the cops while looting here and setting bonfires there, leading the authorities on a merry chase of catch-as-catch-can as they tweeted their way from one strategic target to another.

The word "feral" pulled me up short. It reminded me of how the communards in Paris in 1871 were depicted as wild animals, as hyenas, that deserved to be (and often were) summarily executed in the name of the sanctity of private property, morality, religion, and the family. But then the word conjured up another association: Tony Blair attacking the "feral media," having for so long been comfortably lodged in the left pocket of Rupert Murdoch only later to be substituted as Murdoch reached into his right pocket to pluck out David Cameron.

Unionized workers locked out at Toronto's St. Lawrence Centre

Management at a city-owned entertainment facility in Toronto have locked out their unionized employees after months of trying to reach a new agreement.

Negotiations between the Stage Technicians Union IATSE Local 58 and management at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts broke down early Saturday morning.

The facility's board of directors is hoping to change a clause in the current contract that requires management to continue paying employees even if there is no work.