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, September 09, 2012

Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan Can't Say Which Tax Loopholes They'd Plug

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), stressed in interviews on Sunday that they would offset tax cuts for the wealthy by closing tax loopholes. But pressed on which loopholes they would close, both of them dodged the question.

"We think the secret to economic growth is lower tax rates for families and successful small businesses by plugging loopholes," Ryan told George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week." "Now the question is not necessarily what loopholes go, but who gets them. High income earners use most of the loopholes. That means they can shelter their income from taxation."

First Nations leery of federal changes to treaty negotiations

OTTAWA – The federal government is changing the way it negotiates treaties and self-government agreements with First Nations.

The government said last week it will focus on negotiations “with the greatest potential for success,” but some third-party negotiators and First Nations say negotiations will continue to stall unless the government speeds up its own internal processes and comes to the table more willing to bargain.

Israeli PM thanks Canada for cutting ties with Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he is grateful that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is getting tough with the Iranian government, saying Canada's decision to suspend diplomatic relations with Tehran is one of "principle and conviction."

Netanyahu made the comments in an exclusive interview with CBC's The National, airing Sunday night.

He reiterated a statement made Friday after learning Canada had closed its embassy in Iran and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird had instructed Iranian diplomats in Ottawa to leave the country within five days. At the time, Netanyahu called severing diplomatic ties "extremely important" to show Iran it can't continue its nuclear program.

Nothing Iran does in wake of severed ties would surprise him: Harper

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says his government will continue to try and help two Canadian citizens currently on death row in Iran, going through allies now that the Canadian Embassy in Tehran is shuttered.

However, Mr. Harper admitted there was “minimal” chance that diplomats from any country could affect the decisions the Iranian government might take. Hamid Ghassemi-Shall, a 43-year-old Toronto shoe salesman convicted of espionage, and Saeed Malekpour, a 36-year-old web programmer from Richmond Hill, Ont. who developed software the Iranian government says was used to spread pornography, have both been sentenced to death and could be executed at any time.

Harper meets Chinese president on last day of APEC summit

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was meeting Chinese President Hu Jintao on the final day of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit.

The two leaders presided over the signing of the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, which was announced during Mr. Harper’s visit to China in February.

Canada-China trade agreement to protect investors: Harper

As China begins rolling out what amounts to a mini-stimulus package, Ottawa and Beijing have inked an agreement intended to better protect Canadian businesses that might want to capitalize on such opportunities.

And with Ottawa in the midst of evaluating a proposed $15.1-billion takeover of Calgary-based oil and gas producer Nexen Inc. by China’s state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corp., Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he used a Sunday meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao to nudge him on the issue of greater reciprocity in terms of market access for Canadian investors, who remain locked out of key sectors that Beijing considers “strategic.”

Too Big To Jail: Wall Street Executives Unlikely To Face Criminal Charges, Source Says

A last-ditch effort by federal and state law enforcement authorities to hold Wall Street accountable for nearly bringing down the U.S. economy is unlikely to lead to any criminal charges against big bank executives, according to a source close to the investigation.

Barring a "hail mary pass," said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is still ongoing, the members of a task force President Barack Obama formed in January to investigate fraud in the residential mortgage bond industry will instead most likely bring civil lawsuits against some of the banks involved, though it isn't clear when these cases might come.

State of the race: Advantage, Obama

President Barack Obama heads out of the national political conventions with a much clearer path to winning, top advisers to Mitt Romney privately concede.

The Romney campaign, while pleasantly surprised by Obama’s lackluster prime-time performance, said the post-convention bounce they hoped for fell well short of expectations and privately lament that state-by-state polling numbers — most glaringly in Ohio — are working in the president’s favor.

A Promise Obama Can Keep Before the Election: Make Trade Transparent

President Obama “talked the talk” about renewing the American manufacturing sector and the broader economy at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. Now, he faces a “walk the walk” challenge.

The Obama administration’s trade representative continues to engage in secretive meetings with multinational corporations as part of the process of negotiating a “new NAFTA” known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The secretiveness mirrors negotiations the led to the North American Free Trade Agreement and other deals that have been devastating to the American manufacturing sector. These are precisely the sort of agreements that take away the “level playing field” both Obama and Mitt Romney say they want for American workers. Yet they keep being negotiated by Republican and Democratic administrations because they are not just favored by Wall Street and the multinationals, they top priorities of the CEOs, hedge-fund managers and speculators who form the donor class of American politics.

Republicans, the Post-Truth Party

The acceptance speeches by Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney at the GOP convention were only slightly more grounded in reality than Clint Eastwood’s conversation with an empty chair. Ryan is infamous for his pack of lies, from the attempt to blame President Obama for the closing of a Wisconsin GM factory that began shutting down during the Bush presidency, to the fantasy that Ryan’s austerity agenda is about something other than gutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in order to enrich Wall Street speculators and the insurance industry.

My Personal Stake in the Election

Ramesh Ponnuru writes today that if Barack Obama wins reelection, nothing will change. Republicans will not feel chastened one bit. Instead, they'll conclude that they can't win with a faux conservative like Romney, and will spend the next four years amping up the obstruction machine while they wait for Paul Ryan or Marco Rubio to save them. It will be gridlock as far as the eye can see.

I think he's probably right. For the most part, the American public has a choice this November between four years of Republican radicalism and four years of nothing much changing. But Ed Kilgore points out at least one major change that Americans can expect if Obama is reelected:

    For the record, there's at least one area of highly significant, powerful activity that will occur automatically if Barack Obama is re-elected, even if Republicans make congressional gains and convince themselves to go even crazier: the Affordable Care Act will be implemented, and 30 million or so Americans without health insurance will be covered, making the big step back towards "individual responsibility" for health care conservatives crave that much less likely.

How neo-Nazis think: Calgary photojournalist spends three years following skinheads' lives

Gallery: Life as a skinhead.

It could have been any four Calgary men on the bus headed downtown. Except that three of the four were among the most dangerous skinheads in Canada. And that was a very unfortunate thing for the Asian teens who were now the centre of their attention.

Fuelled by alcohol, Rob, Tyler and Kevin, leaders of Western European Bloodline, a neo-Nazi group, began with taunts about the Asian kids’ language and race. That increased to more aggressive behaviour, until the skinheads were standing over the cowering group of terrified high schoolers, debating how far to take it.

Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline: Environmental Groups Inquire About Potential For Chinese Investment

EDMONTON - Lawyers for environmental groups have pressed Northern Gateway pipeline representatives about the hypothetical possibility of Chinese interests buying control of the project.

Barry Robinson, one of the lawyers who represents three different environmental organizations, raised the issue on Saturday during federal review hearings into the proposed $6-billion line.

Enbridge's (TSX:ENB) line would ship Alberta's crude to the B.C. coast where it could be loaded onto tankers.

Tim 2.0 needs to upgrade Tory gaming — and delete union scapegoating

When Tory Leader Tim Hudak had a tough night, he stayed out of sight.

His reaction to losing two critical byelections? Issue a prepared statement accusing “union bosses” of having “bought” the NDP’s stunning victory in Kitchener-Waterloo (K-W).

When he finally faced the media Friday morning, Hudak reflexively uttered a post-election cliché: “The buck stops with me.”

Except it didn’t. Instead, he kept blaming those big bad union “bosses” for buying off voters.

Canada severs ties with Iran, as storm clouds gather

Storm clouds of war with Iran are gathering strength. Nothing else explains Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s abrupt and unwelcome decision to sever diplomatic ties. Even with a regime as obdurate as the one in Tehran, it’s better to talk with one’s adversaries than to freeze them out.

That said, Iran’s leaders must know that the clock is running down.

Indeed the sheer suddenness of Canada’s move on Friday stoked fears of an imminent attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, which Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird tried to dispel. “We have no information about a military strike,” his office said. None that it is prepared to share, at least.

Harper, Chinese leader wrap APEC summit with trade deal

Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with Chinese President Hu Jintao met on the final day of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit on Sunday, after witnessing the signing of a wide-ranging investment pact.

The two leaders watched as Ed Fast, Canada's minister of international trade, and Chen Deming, China's minister of commerce, signed the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, which was announced during Harper's visit to China in February.

China worries probed at Northern Gateway hearing

Lawyers for environmental groups have pressed Northern Gateway pipeline representatives about the hypothetical possibility of Chinese interests buying control of the project.

Barry Robinson, one of the lawyers who represents three different environmental organizations, raised the issue Saturday during federal review hearings into the proposed $6-billion line, which would ship Alberta's crude to the British Columbia coast where it could be loaded aboard tankers.

Oda charged taxpayers for hotel room smoking penalty

OTTAWA—A penalty of $250 (U.S.) for smoking in a hotel room was among the expenses charged to taxpayers by Bev Oda, Canada’s former minister of international co-operation.

The then-minister was dinged in 2010 for smoking in a hotel room during a trip to Washington, D.C.

Oda had been in the U.S. capital for a conference organized by maternal health advocates.