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.]

Monday, September 19, 2011

Day urges Cabinet to stick to $11-billion cuts strategy, despite economy

The federal government should stick to its plan to eliminate $11-billion in public spending by 2015, says former Treasury Board president Stockwell Day, despite the state of the economy, but others are calling for a wider discussion in Parliament and in Cabinet as the Canadian and global economy soften.

Mr. Day, who retired from politics prior to the May 2011 federal election, told The Hill Times last week that the Conservatives' majority status gives the government a mandate to take a unique fiscal approach to the economy, and is urging his past colleagues to stick with the government's controversial plan to eliminate $11-billion in public expenditures by 2015.

"Globally, we've got a unique opportunity here to present a very different fiscal approach," Mr. Day said referring to Canada's ability to balance its budget while the U.S. and EU continue to spiral into deeper public indebtedness.

"I hope that my former colleagues do not lose their nerve, but do what's best for the economy and best for individual economic security and stick with the plan. I'd be surprised if they don't," said Mr. Day, who was a fixture of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) Cabinet throughout five years of minority rule, during which time he served as minister of Public Safety and minister of International Trade before ending his career in the role of Treasury Board president.

Tories chastised over economy, job creation

The government defended its record on the economy and job creation Monday as it came under attack from the opposition during the first day of Parliament's fall session.

Official Opposition Leader Nycole Turmel kicked off question period by accusing Prime Minister Stephen Harper of wearing rose-coloured glasses when he looks at the Canadian economy and she asked when the government will take action to create more jobs and prevent the country from slipping into recession.

Harper congratulated Turmel for asking her first question as the NDP's interim leader in the House of Commons then went on to say Canada is part of a fragile global economy and that the government is taking targeted measures to manage the economy and create jobs.

"There are more people working in Canada today than before the recession," Harper said, adding that Turmel needs to get her facts straight. The government is investing in research and development, opening trade markets and keeping taxes low, he said.

John Fleming, GOP Congressman, Blasts Obama Over Buffett Rule: I Can't Afford A Tax Hike

Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) appeared on MSNBC Monday morning to express opposition to President Barack Obama's deficit reduction plan, which includes a proposal to raise taxes on the wealthy.

Fleming charged that the plan is a terrible idea which kills jobs provided by wealthy "job creators" who pay personal income taxes. When asked about his business ventures -- including his role in a number of Subway restaurants and UPS stores -- from which he earned $6.3 million last year, Fleming told MSNBC host Chris Jansing that his business expenses left him with little to tax "by the time I feed my family."

Fleming told Jansing that the $6.3 million is "before you pay 500 employees, you pay rent, you pay equipment and food."

"The actual net income of that was a mere fraction of that amount."

“By the time I feed my family, I have maybe $400,000 left over," Fleming said.

Taser-Struck Man Plunges From Balcony In Toronto

A tense standoff involving Toronto police ended with a man being shot by a Taser before plummeting from a balcony to the concrete below.

The man was rushed to hospital in critical condition just after 5 a.m. Monday, after falling what appeared to be a distance of about nine metres.

The drama began around 1 a.m., when police from 12 Division were dispatched to arrest a suspect on the fourth floor of 1735 Weston Rd. near Lawrence Avenue. The man descended from the balcony to the third floor as he tried to evade officers.

The Emergency Task Force, which serves as the tactical unit of the Toronto police, were called in for assistance. A negotiation team spoke with the man for more than four hours trying to coax him down and persuade him to give himself up for arrest.

Canada's Unions Tell Ottawa To Reconsider Austerity

With the threat of cuts to public services and jobs looming, Canada’s largest unions are imploring Ottawa to reconsider its austerity agenda.

At a summit in Moncton, New Brunswick, on Monday, the leaders of 18 Canadian unions announced plans to launch a country-wide petition calling on Treasury Board president Tony Clement to put the protection of public services ahead of deficit reduction.

“The government’s obsession with austerity in fragile economic times and its suspicion of the public sector will damage the health, safety and well-being of Canadians”, Gary Corbett, president and CEO of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, said in a press release.

In a bid to eliminate the federal budget deficit by 2015, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is looking to trim annual program spending by $4 billion -- about five per cent. Though he has characterized the scope of the impending cuts, which have yet to be outlined, as “not that significant,” some economists have expressed concerns about pursuing austerity in tough times.

Back-To-Work Law Looms In Air Canada Dispute

The federal government has served notice it will introduce back-to-work legislation should there be a strike by Air Canada’s 6,800 flight attendants on Wednesday, Federal Minister of Labour Lisa Raitt said Monday.

Earlier, she had told the Commons, "we will act to protect Canada's economy."

Contract talks between the airline and its flight attendants are continuing ahead of a strike deadline at 12:01 a.m. ET Wednesday. The two sides have been in discussions since Sunday on new proposals they exchanged over the weekend.
Raitt made her comments after meeting with both sides.

NDP Labour critic Yvon Godin urged the government not to force the flight attendants back to work.

"People have the right to have a union. They have the right to negotiate. They have a right to have a strike," he said.

Membership Dues

Nauru is a destitute Pacific island with a population of just over nine thousand. The country’s failed economic strategies have included offshore-banking schemes and providing Australia with refugee-detention services. For a time, the national airline had no plane—it had been repossessed. Nauru is also, however, one of the hundred and ninety-three member states in good standing at the United Nations. The underpublicized countries of Kiribati, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu are also in. Kosovo and Taiwan are not. South Sudan was the most recent to be welcomed, in July. South Ossetia remains on the outside. As on a night-club rope line, if you have to ask what it takes to get into the U.N., you may not be suitable for admittance.

Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, has provoked the latest turmoil in Middle Eastern diplomacy by suggesting that the U.N. should recognize Palestine as a state, even though it is clear that no such nation can be self-sustaining without a negotiated peace with Israel. Abbas has not yet pursued the fullest membership rights, but he has implied that an elevated observer status is in order, whereby Palestine would be sanctified as a formal country.

Noam Chomsky: 2012 GOP Candidates Views are "Off the International Spectrum of Sane Behavior"

MIT Professor Emeritus Noam Chomsky discusses the position of the Republican presidential candidates on issues such as climate change and calls them "utterly outlandish." "I’m not a great enthusiast for Obama, as you know, from way back, but at least he’s somewhere in the real world," Chomsky says. "Perry, who’s very likely … to win the primary and win the nomination, and maybe to win the election, he’s often in outer space."

Source: Democracy Now! 

The call to occupy Wall Street resonates around the world

On Saturday 17 September, many of us watched in awe as 5,000 Americans descended on to the financial district of lower Manhattan, waved signs, unfurled banners, beat drums, chanted slogans and proceeded to walk towards the "financial Gomorrah" of the nation. They vowed to "occupy Wall Street" and to "bring justice to the bankers", but the New York police thwarted their efforts temporarily, locking down the symbolic street with barricades and checkpoints.

Undeterred, protesters walked laps around the area before holding a people's assembly and setting up a semi-permanent protest encampment in a park on Liberty Street, a stone's throw from Wall Street and a block from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Three hundred spent the night, several hundred reinforcements arrived the next day and as we write this article, the encampment is rolling out sleeping bags once again. When they tweeted to the world that they were hungry, a nearby pizzeria received $2,800 in orders for delivery in a single hour. Emboldened by an outpouring of international solidarity, these American indignados said they'd be there to greet the bankers when the stock market opened on Monday. It looks like, for now, the police don't think they can stop them. ABC News reports that "even though the demonstrators don't have a permit for the protest, [the New York police department says that] they have no plans to remove those protesters who seem determined to stay on the streets." Organisers on the ground say, "we're digging in for a long-term occupation".

Let's Enroll

Last winter, the Department of Veterans Affairs tasked its newly hired blogger, a cantankerous Iraq vet named Alex Horton, with investigating the website, one of many official-looking links that come up when you Google terms like "GI Bill schools." With names like and, these sites purport to inform military veterans how to best use their education benefits. In reality, Horton found, they're run by marketing firms hired by for-profit colleges to extol the virtues of high-priced online or evening courses. He concluded that "serves little purpose other than to funnel student veterans and convince them their options for education are limited to their advertisers."

The 65-year-old GI Bill is widely credited with transforming post-World War II America by subsidizing vets' college education and fueling the expansion of the middle class. Yet recently, the program has also become a cash cow for for-profit schools like Capella, DeVry, ITT Tech, Kaplan, and the University of Phoenix, eager to capitalize on vets coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan.

As a beefier post-9/11 GI Bill has kicked in, a surge of service members has left the ranks armed with benefits that will cover the full cost of attending public college. In 2009, the for-profits took in almost as much military money as public colleges, even though they enrolled about one-third the number of vets. Spending on military education benefits has shot up to $10 billion; for-profit schools' share of that money has gone up 600 percent, as revealed in a recent PBS Frontline exposé. For example, at Kaplan—owned by the Washington Post Co.—military revenues grew to an estimated $48.9 million last year, up from $2.6 million in 2006.

Rick Perry and Phil "Nation of Whiners" Gramm: A Love Stor

In January 2008, former US senator Phil Gramm took the podium at a confab hosted by the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation to introduce the keynote speaker—and his political protégé. "I feel confident in saying that Rick Perry, in terms of hard achievement, is the greatest governor of my lifetime," he gushed.

A short time later, stepping up to the mike and grinning broadly, Gov. Perry returned the compliment: "I love Phil Gramm!"

The pair share a lengthy history stretching from Perry's days as an undergraduate at Texas A&M, where he was one of Gramm's economics students, to the state Capitol, where the Texas governor's policies have been significantly influenced by the man he's called "a mentor to me in Texas politics."

Most Americans remember Gramm as the grumpy co-chair of John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, who resigned over his controversial remark that America was "a nation of whiners" and claim that the country's economic woes were merely the product of a "mental recession." It was the very same Gramm, who, just hours before Congress recessed for the Christmas holiday in December 2000, slipped a measure into an 11,000-page bill that deregulated the commodity markets and helped transform Wall Street into a casino. The legacy of "Foreclosure Phil" helped lay the groundwork for the financial tsunami that torpedoed the American economy.

Obama Will Veto Super-Committee Plan That's All Medicare Cuts And No Tax Hikes

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama will veto a comprehensive deficit reduction package if it includes cuts to entitlement program benefits but no tax hikes on the wealthy or well-to-do corporations, senior advisers said on Sunday.

The veto threat is an addendum of sorts to a $3 trillion-plus set of deficit reduction proposals that the White House will make to the congressional super committee tasked with comprehensive deficit reduction. But if administration officials are to be believed, it is now a principle by which the committee must act and it raises the specter of gridlock. Just last week, House Speaker John Boehner insisted that tax hikes should be off the table.

"[W]hat the president is saying is he is not doing [beneficiary reforms] if the Republicans are unwilling to ask the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to pay their fair share," explained a senior administration official. "What they can't do is send something to us with the things we propose and without the stuff on the revenue side because we will veto that."

Previewing the president's proposal during a conference call on Sunday evening, the same administration officials confirmed that Obama would not be calling for changes to Social Security payments or a raising of the eligibility age of Medicare -- reforms that he had embraced during talks with Boehner over the summer.

Return To House Of Commons To Be Polarizing Battle For Conservatives, NDP

OTTAWA - When the House of Commons resumes Monday, there will be a short period of non-partisan esprit de corps — but then an ideological battle begins in earnest between the Conservatives and the NDP on everything from the economy to crime.

Canada's 41st Parliament gets back to business in the morning with tributes to late NDP leader Jack Layton, his absence felt more keenly because he spoke in the Commons until the very last day of the spring session in June.

New Democrat MPs enter the chamber knowing this was where Layton was in his element. Many are still grieving.

"It's been really difficult," says MP Brian Masse. "For me, I lost more of a friend than a leader when Jack passed away."

Liberal House Leader Ralph Goodale says a more civil debate in the Commons would be a lasting memorial to Layton.

What 9/11 Didn't Change

The anger and suspicion that proliferated after the twin towers fell was just the latest instalment in North America's often racist and xenophobic past.

The 10th anniversary of 9/11 has come and gone. The memorial in New York was unveiled, the names of the dead intoned, heroes remembered, and the strength and courage of the American people affirmed. It was a day of mourning, of reflection, and of renewing a commitment to freedom and against terror – a day of reminders of how much the world has changed since that fateful September day. That has been one of the most powerful organizing narratives of the post-9/11 world. Indeed, the idea that there is a “post-9/11 world” has been axiomatic since the towers fell.

In his State of the Union address nine days after the attack, then president George W. Bush said that on Sept. 11, “night fell on a different world.” There’s just one problem with that story: It isn’t true. 9/11 didn’t fundamentally change anything. It exposed, and gave expression to, not only what is best, but also what is worst in human beings. However, those elements were already there, and had been for a long time. And the fiction – no, the lie – that we’ve told ourselves ever since has helped us to ignore history and rationalize moral bankruptcy. Not just in the United States, either. Canada, too, has been in thrall to the idea of a post-9/11 world, and we are paying a price.

Woodland Caribou are at a Crossroads

The science is clear about what must be done to save this species from extinction. But will we do it?

As a nation and a global community, Canada has a history of ignoring environmental crises until it’s all but too late. Many of us remember the 1990s, when tens of thousands of Canadians in the Maritimes lost their livelihoods after overfishing wiped out fish stocks.

The boom-and-bust history reflected in the collapse of the East Coast cod fishery, and in logging communities and mining towns, should teach us that when an opportunity to get something right on the environment comes along we must take immediate action or suffer the inevitable ecological and social consequences of our own short-sightedness.

"Occupy Wall Street": Thousands March in NYC Financial District, Set Up Protest Encampment

Demonstrators are marching on Wall Street today on the third day of a campaign dubbed "Occupy Wall Street," which began on Saturday when thousands gathered in New York City’s Financial District. Inspired by the massive public protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and Madrid’s Puerta del Sol Square, hundreds have slept outside near Wall Street for the past two nights. We play a video report on the protest by Democracy Now!'s Sam Alcoff and get a live update from the streets from Nathan Schneider, editor of the blog "Waging Nonviolence." We also speak with David Graeber, an anthropologist who participated in the activities. "If you look at who showed up [in Egypt and Spain], it was mostly young people, and most of them were people who had gone through the educational system, who were deeply in debt, and who found it completely impossible to get jobs," says Graeber. "The system has completely failed them... If there's going to be any kind of society worth living in, we’re going to have to create it ourselves."

Source: Democracy Now! 

Toronto Mayor Ford to retreat from controversial cuts

Library closings will not be part of Rob Ford’s money-saving plans and no child will lose a daycare subsidy, says a member of his inner circle, the first sign that Toronto’s mayor is stepping back from the most controversial cost-cutting proposals as he begins to steer his austerity agenda through city council.

The city’s powerful executive committee, chaired by the mayor and filled with his supporters, will begin meeting Monday morning for what is expected to be an around-the-clock session, with about 300 members of the public signed up to talk. It will consider a long list of penny-pinching measures – everything from ending a small fund that co-ordinates Christmas gifts for needy children, to closing museums and reducing snow clearing and grass cutting.

One proposal that will get the mayor’s full backing is the sale of three city-owned theatres – Toronto Centre for the Arts, the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts and the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts – said Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, an ally of the mayor.

Monday’s meeting will provide the first glimpse of how the mayor plans to rally support for his agenda after a series of setbacks including falling public approval ratings and a flamboyant plan for a Ferris wheel and mega-mall in the Port Lands that quickly met with opposition from the public and city councillors.

Taxing the rich may be fair, but it won’t fill the coffers

President Obama’s proposal to increase taxes on those earning more than $1-million may help him persuade U.S. voters that his government is trying to do something to attenuate the increasing trend to which incomes have been concentrated among a very small group of high earners. But as the article notes, this measure is not expected to be an important source of government revenues.

This is also the case for Canada. Even though incomes are increasingly concentrated among high earners, a ‘tax on millionaires’ is unlikely to generate much new revenue. What follows is very much a back-of-the envelope exercise, but it should provide a rough order of magnitude for the sort of revenues we could expect from a similar proposal in Canada.

According to the most recent data from 2007, the top 0.1 per cent of the distribution earned at least $620,000 a year and received 5.5 per cent of all income. Checking this against data from the Canadian Revenue Agency, this means that 23,549 people earned $52.2-billion -- an average of $2.2-million. In 2007, the threshold above which the top federal tax rate of 29 per cent applied was $121,000.

Harper’s moment to entrench Conservative politics has arrived

For going on six years, Stephen Harper has sought to remake federal politics in his political image. Monday, he finally gets his chance, as the 41st Parliament begins its first fall sitting.

The calendar will soon be chock full of bills, many of which had been voted down by previous Parliaments. Now that the Conservatives have a majority, all this legislation will pass.

Things will die. The Wheat Board will be wound down. The long-gun registry will be put out of its misery. Public funding for political parties will be phased into extinction.

Other things will be born: Canada is finally going to get a new, modern much-overdue copyright law. An omnibus crime bill will impose mandatory minimum sentences for some drug and sex offences, limit house arrest, expand police powers to acquire evidence, and re-equip the state with powers to fight terrorism. Those powers had expired under previous legislation.

Most important, while American and European governments debate whether and how to inject a new round of stimulus spending to fight unemployment and a possible second recession, Canada’s federal government will continue to focus on deficit reduction.

Doug Ford accused of ‘horse-trading’ for Port Lands vote

Councillor Doug Ford, the brother and closest adviser of Mayor Rob Ford, said he would appear on colleague Josh Matlow’s radio show only if Matlow voted in favour of the Fords’ controversial Port Lands plan at council, Matlow told listeners Sunday.

Doug Ford then called in to Matlow’s afternoon Newstalk 1010 show, The City, and angrily denied trying to buy Matlow’s vote. He said what he told the councillor was: “I don’t believe in supporting someone that doesn’t support us.”

Speaking with guests Michelle Berardinetti and Jaye Robinson, both councillors on Mayor Ford’s executive, Matlow noted Doug Ford was scheduled to be on the Sunday afternoon show but cancelled.

“He came up to me (Friday) and he told me that actually there was going to be a problem, he couldn’t come on the show,” Matlow said.

“And I said, ‘Doug, I was going to give you a couple of hours to express your vision to talk about why you love Toronto, what you want to do, talk about the Port Lands.’

“And he said ‘I can’t come on the show this Sunday, but maybe next Sunday.’ I said, ‘Okay, sure, let’s organize that, we’re going to have a lot of fun.’

“And he said: ‘It depends on how you vote on the Port Lands.’ My jaw dropped and I looked at Doug Ford and I asked, ‘Are you serious? I don’t horse-trade.’ He replied, ‘Everybody does; everybody’s got their price.’”