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.]

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The deeper roots of Wall Street rage

The protests against Wall Street, which are now north on Bay Street, are too easily dismissed as “rent-a-rabble,” the predictable social aftershocks of a financial crisis-turned-recession, which is now a fiscal crisis in the U.S. and elsewhere. Similar protests have taken place across Europe. Some even turned horribly violent as in London this past summer.

The North American version of this movement is directed at the financial community, which is seen as the culprit and undeserved winner of this crisis. Government bailouts have not been accompanied by reductions in executive pay and end-of-year bonuses. The rich still pay fewer taxes than the middle class or the poor, as Warren Buffett, one of the world’s richest men, has gone to great pains to point out.

Bankers and investors are never popular even at the best of times. From Shakespeare’s Shylock in the Elizabethan era to the present, they have been the object of public ridicule and scorn. However, Canadian banks and investment houses weathered the recent financial storm and economic downturn without government handouts so protestors will have a harder time pressing their case here.

Even so, we must be attentive to the deeper roots of this rage. Our homegrown (and perhaps tepid) variety of the Western “Arab Spring” is symptomatic of a much deeper structural problem that is pervasive throughout the world’s advanced industrial economies — chronic unemployment among our youth.

Military draws blanks in bids for rifles

The Canadian military’s plan to buy new pistols for its troops and rifles for the Canadian Rangers in the Arctic has suffered a major setback after international firearms companies balked at turning over their confidential technical data to one of their competitors so the guns could be manufactured in Canada.

Just a few weeks ago, the Defence Department and Public Works issued a notice to companies that it would be buying 10,000 new rifles and 10,000 pistols.

But DND also stipulated that any firms wanting to bid on the two contracts would have to turn over their technical data and proprietary information to the government, which in turn would pass it on to Colt Canada. Colt would then manufacture the weapons at its plant in Kitchener, Ont.

But defence sources say companies told the government they had no intention of turning over the details of their firearms designs to a subsidiary of the U.S. small arms giant Colt, a key competitor for many of the firms on the international market.

The government then hastily retreated, cancelling its request to the companies for information about prices and availability.

ANALYSIS: 'Oppressive' no more: Harper's 'reorganized' Wheat Board

Stephen Harper doesn’t mince words when it comes to his dislike for the Canadian Wheat Board.

In a review of Don Baron's Jailhouse Justice, a 2001 book about some Western farmers' long and bitter fight to market their own grain, Harper said the Wheat Board was an "oppressive monopoly" and called its "legal bullying" of farmers "one of Canada's best-kept and most shameful secrets."

Ten years later, Prime Minister Harper is finally in a position to do something about it. His government is introducing legislation to dismantle the Wheat Board's single-desk marketing system in time for selling next year’s harvest.

The writing's been on the wall for the Wheat Board ever since Harper won his majority government on May 2. But while the prime minister vowed that night to listen and to use the lessons his government had learned in minority government, moderating his plans to overhaul the wheat board wasn't what he had in mind.

Fish advisory council disbanded, MP says

A New Democratic MP said Monday that the federal government has shut down an advisory body that collected the views of fishermen to help make better science decisions.

"This is just a shameful decision," said Ryan Cleary, the MP for St. John's South-Mount Pearl. The Fisheries Resource Conservation Council (FRCC) was shut down on Thursday, he said.

Cleary said he was unsure whether the closure is part of a series of cuts at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans that are expected to save the department $56.8 million in the coming year.

The FRCC was founded in the early 1990s, in the wake of closures that rocked the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery starting with a moratorium on northern cod in 1992.

"This is basically a voice for fishermen.… The fishermen on the water are essentially scientists in a way," said Cleary, who intends to raise the issue in the House of Commons.

"When you axe this, you take away a critical, a crucial voice for fishermen."

Our houses no longer homes for Democracy

The speaker was explaining that she didn't think much of the work conducted in the provincial legislative assembly.

"Most of my issues are around the quality of debate and the research and the fact that you can pretty well get up in the house of assembly and say whatever it is you like," she said. "You don't have to be concerned with truth."

Put more bluntly, she was saying that the province's elected members were often full of what might be charitably called hooey. Bunkum and horsefeathers.

It's not an uncommon sentiment among members of the public, and if the statement was from one of those ubiquitous morning-radio bits where they stick a microphone in front of someone who is filling their gas tank to measure "the public's" opinion, it would have been unremarkable.

But this was the Premier speaking. Kathy Dunderdale, the newly elected Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador. She was defending a decision to keep the legislative assembly closed for what could be months - it might not sit again until spring. Spring! Her explanation, she told the CBC, is that important work can be done outside the legislature.

"I don't find it a place for a very healthy, open, constructive debate to start with," she said.

Klaszus: CBC elbowed out as state broadcaster

As journalists in many countries fight for the right to expression, some Canadians are making a show of grumbling about our socalled "state broadcaster," the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. This language is intentional, suggesting a dangerous deference to power, collusion between government and newsroom.

It makes one think of the Soviet Union, of Iran and Libya, of regimes that forcefully use media outlets to act as megaphones for propaganda. State broadcasters typically ignore legitimate news stories (such as antigovernment protests) while promoting others (progovernment rallies). They dutifully broadcast leaders' rants, no matter how nonsensical. We are led to believe that CBC is this kind of organization, corrupt and untrustworthy. But if CBC is indeed a state broadcaster, it's a shoddy one, critical of the ruling party and strangely supportive of populist movements (take a headline from last week as an example: "Occupy Canada rallies spread in economic 'awakening'").

Apparently, nobody at CBC got the memo on how a state broadcaster is supposed to conduct itself.

Canada firm on budget cuts despite global risks

OTTAWA – Canada will press ahead with billions of dollars in cuts to wipe out its budget deficit, despite an uncertain world economic outlook, and may even reduce spending more deeply than already promised, the federal minister in charge of the program said on Monday.

Dismissing opposition concerns that both the domestic and the global recoveries are too fragile to withstand cuts right now, Treasury Board Minister Tony Clement said eliminating the deficit was the best way to keep the Canadian economy strong.
“This is a very different kind of economic situation than that which was facing the world three years ago,” he told Reuters in an interview.

“Here what we’re facing is uncertainties in the marketplace caused by sovereign debt… The best way to deal with that as a government is to offer the fiscal virtue of lowering the deficit in stages to get back to balance with a plan that will get you there, that is a real plan, and is a legitimate plan.”
Canada weathered the economic crisis of 2008 better than most of its trading partners, as its raw material exports stayed in demand and the government cut taxes and boosted government spending to bring the country out of recession.

Colleagues of Slain Kansas Abortion Doctor George Tiller Continue His Fight for Reproductive Rights

A federal judge has blocked the impact of one of the laws aimed at defunding Planned Parenthood, ordering Kansas to restore federal family planning funds to a clinic that claims it suffered "collateral damage" from the law because it would be forced to close, leaving 650 mostly low-income patients without access to reproductive healthcare services. Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, and the unaffiliated Dodge City clinic, are challenging a law requiring the state to first allocate Title X funds to public health departments and hospitals, which leaves no funds for specialty family planning clinics. This is just the latest development in Kansas, which saw the murder of one of its staunchest supporters of women’s access to abortion: Dr. George Tiller. For more, we are joined by Julie Burkhart, who worked for eight years with Tiller before he was killed in 2009. She is the founder and director of the Trust Women Foundation and PAC, which focuses on protecting women’s access to reproductive healthcare, as well as the rights of the physicians who provide these services.

Source: Democracy Now! 

Moroun should stop meddling in a new Canada-U.S. crossing

The busiest crossing between Canada and the United States is in private hands. That’s worked well enough for decades, but the owner is now getting in the way of a much-needed expansion of capacity at the border. He should end his campaign of obstruction and alarmism.

Matty Moroun of Grosse Pointe, Mich., has a good reason to protect his 81-year-old Ambassador Bridge – the sole above-ground span linking Windsor, Ont., and Detroit. More than two million trucks have crossed the bridge this year; that’s 7,200 a day, and this is a bad year. The trucks carry cargo equal to about one-quarter of all trade between Canada and the U.S., worth around $150-billion. Together with millions of passenger vehicles, the trucks rumble to or from the bridge through an overwhelmed customs plaza and onto the streets of downtown Windsor. Delays can stretch into hours, costing businesses in the two countries’ manufacturing heartland millions of dollars.

The bridge and its related infrastructure are too old and too small to meet the current or future needs of North American businesses and local residents.

Protesters block rush hour traffic with roaming protest

At the height of Toronto's rush hour commute, a group of about 100 to 125 people staged a roaming protest starting with the occupation of Bay and King Sts.

The demonstrators sat in the intersection for several minutes before marching north to occupy the intersection of Yonge and Dundas Sts. around 6 p.m.

“Whose streets? Our streets!” the protesters chanted at Bay and King Sts.

After several minutes, the group marched north in the middle of Bay St., to Queen St., where they marched east.

The group stopped in front of the Eaton Centre, blocking traffic.

They marched to the intersection of Yonge and Dundas Sts. where protestors sat on the ground, forming a “99%” symbol to viewers in nearby buildings.

When asked how long the protesters would be allowed to occupy the streets, Staff Sergeant Andy Norrie said, “It’s one of those things that evolves as the event carries on.”