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, January 14, 2015

Kansas Is Totally Screwed

In 2012, when Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback first pitched his plan to drastically slash the state's income taxes, he promised "a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy." Brownback brought in Arthur Laffer, Ronald Reagan's trickle-down economics guru, to help sell the idea that the cuts—which zeroed out taxes for 200,000 businesses and slashed rates for top earners—were guaranteed to boost the state's fortunes, prop up the economy, and bring in countless new jobs as businesses and individuals flocked to Kansas to escape the tyrannies of higher-tax states.

Nutrition North board filled with Tory donors

OTTAWA - The board that advises the federal cabinet minister in charge of Canada's controversial Nutrition North food subsidy program is almost entirely made up of Conservative donors, public records show.

Five of the six people appointed to the Nutrition North advisory board have donated money to the Conservatives. One of the five Conservative donors also gave to the Liberals, while a sixth member has not contributed to any party.

The individual donations range from $20 to $1,200 and span a time frame of February 2007 to July 2014.

Sorry, Naomi Klein, social movements are not enough to save us

Naomi Klein has done it again with her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate. She challenges the existing ignorance and denial on climate change and administers her own form of shock doctrine on that all-consuming issue. I do find, however, that her complete reliance on the power of social movements to bring about needed and urgent change is flawed and incomplete.
By way of background, there is by now widespread scientific consensus that climate change is occurring as a result of human activity. Carbon emissions are being trapped in the atmosphere and warming the planet. If we do not reduce fossil fuel consumption, scientists say, the results will be catastrophic. In fact, the collapse of ice sheets and the ensuing rapid rise in sea levels has already begun.

Workers' Wages Have Barely Grown in Decades. Here's What Obama's Doing About It.

The economy finally kicked into second gear in the second half of 2014. Growth hit 5 percent in the third quarter and the economyadded 321,000 jobs in November. Plummeting oil prices have also givenand will continue to giveU.S. consumers extra money to spend on dinners, clothing and other goods and services. Americans are finally showing confidence in the economy. But the recovery is still missing one big thing: wage growth.

Deep Questions Arise Over Portland's Corporate Water Takeover

A simmering water war is about to come to a boil over the fate of historic, well-loved public reservoirs in Portland, Oregon. At the heart of the controversy is a breakdown in public trust that reflects the dangers of corporate-led water privatization schemes in the United States and around the world.

In an emotionally charged public meeting on November 18, 2014, Portland residents bombarded two of their city commissioners with questions about what they believe is a cronyism-driven plan to kill the elegant, gravity-fed, open water reservoir system that has reliably served their city safe, clean drinking water for more than 100 years.

Government Censorship of Websites On the Rise: Unions

Government rules that dictate the type of websites that civil servants can view for work have become so strict that many employees in Ottawa use personal electronics -- such as smart phones and tablets -- to access information needed to do their jobs, say public sector unions.

In some cases, they say employees must make special requests to the government department they work at to get websites unblocked in order to view the material they require.

The government has argued that it blocks certain sites to protect its system from viruses and to prevent workers from viewing illicit material.

Happy New Year, Wall Street: Congress Has Another Gift For You

WASHINGTON -- After stuffing Wall Street's stockings in December with subsidies for risky trading, the House of Representatives plans to wish big banks a happy New Year on Wednesday by hacking up and delaying the Volcker Rule.

The Volcker Rule is a key reform adopted after the 2008 financial meltdown that bans banks from gambling in securities markets with taxpayer money -- a tactic known as proprietary trading. But under legislation slated for a Wednesday vote, banks would be given a two-year reprieve from unloading some of their riskiest holdings -- known as collateralized loan obligations.

Great firewall of Ottawa: feds banned employee access to news site

A federal agency blocked public employees from accessing news at Blacklock’s Reporter using government internet servers, Access to Information documents revealed. Shared Services Canada imposed the government-wide blackout on website access by hundreds of thousands of staff last August.

“This is outrageous conduct,” Blacklock publisher Holly Doan wrote on her publication's site after learning about the ban. “This is not only Orwellian, it appears to breach the government’s own guidelines on workplace internet use.”

Canadians Are Turning Sour On The Housing Market

With oil prices falling like a brick and the loonie not far behind, Canadians are turning pessimistic on the future prospects of the housing market.

According to the latest consumer confidence index from Nanos Research and Bloomberg, the number of Canadians expecting house prices to keep rising has fallen to 31 per cent, from a high around 47 per cent last summer.

Canada on fast track to a not-so-benign dictatorship

From the cold porches of January, 2015 stretches out like a thousand miles of gravel road.

The country is facing an election that will be nasty, brutish and long — from now until the vote occurs, whenever that may be. The writ period is essentially meaningless. Under the Conservatives, it is always political game on.

True to his word, Stephen Harper has transformed the country, largely by stealth. Canada is now a nation that spies on its friends, guests, and citizens. It accepts foreign intelligence even when there is a likelihood that it was obtained by torture. The government lies to the electorate on policy matters. It accuses veterans of exaggerating their injuries in order to take the taxpayer for a ride. It washes its hands of any stake in the fate of 1,200 missing or murdered Aboriginal women. It does not practise unite-and-lead politics, but divide-and-conquer stratagems. A government, by any democratic measure, in disgrace.

Stephen Harper position on global Arms Trade Treaty reads like a page out of NRA handbook

The global Arms Trade Treaty, brokered through the United Nations in a lengthy process, came into effect this Christmas Eve, 2014, 90 days after the 50th nation had ratified it.

Canada has refused to sign or ratify this landmark agreement, which will begin to stem the vast tide of armaments, from pistols to rocket launchers to tanks, which sweeps over the world every day.

Most arms come from rich industrial nations like Canada and the US and go to poor countries with undemocratic governments.

EI backlog leaves Canadians in lurch

People buy insurance to have a safety net in an emergency.

With federal Employment Insurance, of course, it’s usually not optional — most working Canadians must pay EI premiums — but the basic concept is the same. If someone loses his job, EI is supposed to kick in after a couple of weeks to help pay the bills until that person can find alternative employment.

That means the federal government has a tremendous duty of care to ensure the EI system is functioning as expected. Legitimate claimants who’ve paid into the system expect — indeed, count on — the program to work when needed. Discovering it doesn’t can inflict real damage in people’s lives.

Stephen Harper’s scary crime bluster

Editor’s note: Last Tuesday, legendary Canadian defence attorney Edward “Eddie” Greenspan passed away. Hours before his death, he submitted an article to the National Post. With the permission of his co-author, Anthony Doob, we are honoured to run that article below.

“All convicted criminals belong behind bars.”

We know of no person knowledgeable about criminal justice in any democratic society who has ever proposed imprisonment for all convicted offenders. But earlier this month, Canada’s Public Safety Minister, Steven Blaney, who oversees our penitentiaries, bluntly told Parliament that “Our Conservative government believes that convicted criminals belong behind bars.” No qualifications, no exceptions.

US and Russia in danger of returning to era of nuclear rivalry

A widening rift between Moscow and Washington over cruise missiles and increasingly daring patrols by nuclear-capable Russian submarines threatens to end an era of arms control and bring back a dangerous rivalry between the world’s two dominant nuclear arsenals.

Tensions have been taken to a new level by US threats of retaliatory action for Russian development of a new cruise missile. Washington alleges it violates one of the key arms control treaties of the cold war, and has raised the prospect of redeploying its own cruise missiles in Europe after a 23-year absence.

Israel Withholds Palestinian Tax Revenues After Move To Join ICC

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel halted transfers of the tax revenue it collects on behalf of the Palestinians in retaliation for their move to join the International Criminal Court in the Hague, Israeli media reported Saturday.

The Palestinians announced earlier this week that they are joining the International Criminal Court in the Hague to pursue war-crimes charges against Israel. The move is meant to pressure Israel into withdrawing from the territories that Palestinians demand for a future state.

Inside an Unfolding Toxic 'Marine Disaster' on BC's Coast

The continuing deterioration of a derelict ship moored to an unsecured toxic waste site on the B.C. central coast is a marine ''disaster'' in the making, say groups long pressing for it to be cleaned up.

The failure to act, they say, proves the inability of government to keep the Pacific Coast safe from pollution.

New video acquired by The Tyee, shot by Pacific Wild Executive Director Ian McAllister and April Bencze on Dec. 10, shows a timelapse of the 570-tonne Chilcotin Princess loosely moored to the dock of the former BC Packers salmon cannery at Namu and crashing against crumbling foreshore buildings known to hold barrels of oil and other waste. (Play the video at the top of this story.)