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 19, 2012

Ten Reasons Romney's Hard Right VP Is a Smart Choice

When U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney tapped Paul Ryan, the 42-year-old Wisconsin congressman, to be his running mate, progressives went on a happy-thon. That Romney chose the House Budget Committee chairman known as the architect of draconian budgets that would make huge cuts in every aspect of the safety net -- not to mention his quest to turn Medicare into a voucher program -- just seemed like a major blunder. Many were gleeful and shocked that Romney would seemingly play right into the Obama message on how the Romney agenda harms the middle class.

But I wasn't so happy. The Romney decision signals several things about the future, and none of them good -- rather scary and ugly, as a matter of fact.

F-35 jet program funding unchanged despite promised review

Canadian funding and participation in the F-35 stealth fighter jet program continues unchanged despite the Conservative government’s insistence it has launched a seven-point program to review the controversial purchase.

Steve O’Bryan, Lockheed Martin’s vice-president for F-35 program integration, says the company is still planning its deliveries of 65 of the jets to the Royal Canadian Air Force.

The True Blasphemy: Slavoj Žižek on Pussy Riot

Pussy Riot members accused of blasphemy and hatred of religion? The answer is easy: the true blasphemy is the state accusation itself, formulating as a crime of religious hatred something which was clearly a political act of protest against the ruling clique. Recall Brecht’s old quip from his Beggars’ Opera: “What is the robbing of a bank compared to the founding of a new bank?” In 2008, Wall Street gave us the new version: what is the stealing of a couple of thousand of dollars, for which one goes to prison, compared to financial speculations that deprive tens of millions of their homes and savings, and are then rewarded by state help of sublime grandeur? Now, we got another version from Russia, from the power of the state: What is a modest Pussy Riot obscene provocation in a church compared to the accusation against Pussy Riot, this gigantic obscene provocation of the state apparatus which mocks any notion of decent law and order?

How Paul Ryan Makes It Easier for Republicans to Steal the Election

Everybody, even the Republicans, is talking about how choosing Paul Ryan as his running mate has made winning the election just that much harder for Mitt Romney. But maybe the choice makes it just a little bit easier to steal.

Sure, some down-ballot Republican candidates are scrambling to distance themselves from Ryan’s plan to strangle Medicare; and behind the scenes, many Beltway GOP operatives worry that with Ryan on the ticket, “Romney has practically ceded the election,” as Politico writes. But these scaredy-cats are forgetting that even issues like Medicare may ultimately prove irrelevant as long as their vast system of voter suppression is up and running. As if to remind them, a Pennsylvania judge yesterday upheld that state’s draconian voter ID law, which could keep hundreds of thousands of registered minority, urban and elderly voters from the ballot box—enough to hand this Obama-leaning state to Romney.

This Week in Poverty: Here's to the Houston Janitors

Last week, more than 3,200 janitors in Houston called an end to their five-week strike.

The cleaning contractors initially offered a total wage increase of $.50 an hour phased in over five years—so in 2016 the janitors would earn $8.85 an hour. The janitors asked for a raise to $10 an hour over three years.

In the end, the janitors accepted $9.35 an hour over four years, a 12 percent increase over their current pay. They also fought off an effort by the contractors that would have allowed them to underbid the union wage when competing against non-union shops.

Moscow Dispatch: The Pussy Riot Sentencing

No one reads Anna Karenina these days to find out that poor, messed-up Anna throws herself under the train; we all know she's done for the moment she sets her eyes on Vronsky.

And so it was with the hundreds of people who gathered this afternoon on a leafy street in central Moscow to await the judge's ruling in the Pussy Riot trial. Only an idiot could have doubted that the three young women would be found guilty of anti-religious hooliganism (whatever the hell that is) for their anti-Putin punk-rant in Moscow's central cathedral; that they received a sentence of two years instead of the three demanded by the prosecutor was not viewed by anyone, except perhaps the authorities, as a sign of leniency.

Wages up, but are Canadians spending more, and where?

Canadians are earning more, with average hourly pay up nearly four per cent from a year earlier, three times the 1.3 per cent increase in the cost of living over the same period.

That’s good news for those with jobs, but how good that is for the economy depends, at least in part, on whether they are also spending more, and where?

The spending habits of Canadians and their impact, for better or worse, on the economy, will be the focus of several economic reports this coming week, including June’s wholesale trade on Tuesday, retail sales on Wednesday and same-day car visits to the U.S — a proxy for cross-border shopping — on Thursday.

Northern Gateway And 'Science': Time, Budget Running Out For Proper Environmental Assessment By DFO Says Critics

VANCOUVER - While Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the fate of Enbridge's proposed pipeline from the Alberta oilsands to tankers on the British Columbia coast will be based on science and not politics, documents show some of that science isn't forthcoming.

And critics say there is no time for the science to be completed before a federal deadline for the environmental assessment currently underway.

DFO promises science later, but budget "disembowelled": former officer

VANCOUVER - While Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the fate of Enbridge's proposed pipeline from the Alberta oilsands to tankers on the British Columbia coast will be based on science and not politics, documents show some of that science isn't forthcoming.

And critics say there is no time for the science to be completed before a federal deadline for the environmental assessment currently underway.

Northern Gateway review hobbled by budget cuts, critics say

Critics of Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline from the Alberta oilsands to tankers on the British Columbia coast say there is no time for the science to be completed before a federal deadline for the environmental assessment currently underway.

Documents filed with the National Energy Board show the environmental review panel studying the Northern Gateway project asked Fisheries and Oceans Canada for risk assessments for the bodies of water the proposed pipeline will cross. The pipeline is to traverse nearly 1,000 streams and rivers in the upper Fraser, Skeena and Kitimat watersheds.

The department didn't have them.

Budget cuts delay research for Enbridge pipeline approval

While Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the fate of Enbridge’s proposed pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to tankers on the British Columbia coast will be based on science and not politics, documents show some of that science isn’t forthcoming.

And critics say there is no time for the science to be completed before a federal deadline for the environmental assessment currently underway.

Berlin wallet: Merkel invests, Harper divests

I recently ran across the following article: "Evaluation of the rate constant for the SN2 reaction fluoromethane + hydride .fwdarw. methane + fluoride in the gas phase." Sound familiar? Perhaps slightly arcane for the general reader? The lead author? Angela Merkel -- yes, that Angela Merkel. Merkel is not only the chancellor of Germany, the de facto leader of the European Union and according to the Daily Telegraph (London), "the most powerful woman in the world," she is also a whip-smart Ph.D. quantum chemist with a sheaf of scientific publications under her professional belt.

The connection between the two -- academic chops and political success -- is not simply coincidental. That's because Merkel is more than clever -- she's intelligent and smart. Quantum chemistry is no discipline for intellectual slackers. Applying quantum mechanics to theoretical and experimental chemistry is a highly demanding discipline involving immense creativity, an intuitive grasp of complex and abstract ideas, great computational abilities, and the talent to unravel, understand, and creatively tinker with highly complicated physio-chemical and theoretical systems. In other words, it's a superb basis for developing an imaginative approach to politics and renewable energy policy.

The Pussy Riot Verdict

The trial of Pussy Riot ended as it began: as an egregious expression of contempt for law, justice, and common sense. The verdict—two years in prison camp for each of the three women, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, members of the punk band Pussy Riot, which had staged a brief anti-Putin performance in a cathedral, was a triumph of anti-modern obscurantism over young Russian modernity, the crushing power of the state over the individual, servility over independence.

Ryan’s Medicare Reform: An Early Supporter Recants

One of the things we’ll hear quite a bit from Republicans in the coming months is that the Ryan/Romney approach to reforming Medicare, which involves issuing vouchers to future retirees so they can choose from various health-insurance options, has bipartisan support. Up to a point, that is true. In the community of economists, policymakers, and policy wonks which has studied and debated this issue, there are some Democrats and progressives who favor moving to a voucher system, although they usually avoid that phrase and use the less controversial term “premium support.”

Mr. Romney’s ‘garbage’

FORMER GOVERNOR Mitt Romney, the presumed Republican nominee for president, promises to lower everyone’s income tax rate without reducing revenue. This sounds terrific. Why didn’t we think of it sooner?

Mr. Romney says that he can achieve this seemingly magical result by “broadening the base” for income tax collection. This, too, sounds great. In principle, everyone favors “broadening the base,” also known as closing loopholes. But everyone favors closing someone else’s loopholes: those of oil companies, say, or of plutocrats who park their money in the Cayman Islands.

Washington Post: Mitt Romney Tax Plan 'Garbage'

The Washington Post's editorial board mocked Mitt Romney's tax plan on Sunday.

"Mitt Romney, the presumed Republican nominee for president, promises to lower everyone’s income tax rate without reducing revenue. This sounds terrific. Why didn’t we think of it sooner?"

The editorial, titled 'Mitt Romney's garbage', argued that Romney's plan to cut taxes and lower the deficit is unfeasible.

Paul Ryan Defended Stimulus -- When George W. Bush Wanted It In 2002

WASHINGTON - When Congressman Paul Ryan has been asked the past few years about the value of stimulus to the sagging economy and the nation's jobless, the Wisconsin Republican has dismissed it as meaningless, and dubbed it "sugar-high economics."

But that's when President Obama is pushing for the spending. When it was President George W. Bush arguing for more stimulus to boost a slow economy in the early 2000s, Ryan's economic analysis was entirely different.

South Africa Police Say They Killed 34 Miners

MARIKANA, South Africa — President Jacob Zuma rushed home from a regional summit Friday and announced an official inquiry into a police shooting of striking miners that left 34 dead and 78 wounded, an incident that police claimed was self-defense despite video recordings suggesting the protesters were not attacking them but running from clouds of tear gas.

Wives of miners at the Lonmin platinum mine northwest of Johannesburg searched for loved ones missing from Thursday's shooting and staged a protest, demanding to know why officers fired automatic rifles, pistols and shotguns at the strikers, many of whom had been armed with spears, machetes and clubs.

Sissyphobia: a new political condition

Mayor Rob Ford’s insistence on driving himself around the city, despite the fact that using his car as if it were his office is endangering lives, may be a symptom of a disease that seems to particularly afflict white male conservative politicians of a certain age.

Other white male conservatives with unusually high levels of testosterone mask the symptoms of their condition better. They listen to their press people’s advice and they avoid situations where streetcar drivers, pinko cyclists and car drivers of all political hues can easily observe the behaviour of the White Male Conservative Politician in his natural environment, namely the SUV. If left to his own devices, someone like John Baird might punch a reporter who is in hot pursuit of a news lead: but we’ll never know, since the Prime Minister’s Office micromanages what his cabinet ministers do and say in public.

Assange says U.S. must end 'witch hunt' against WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange urged President Barack Obama to end the US “witch hunt” against his whistleblowing website, in a speech Sunday from the balcony of Ecuador’s London embassy.

“I ask President Obama to do the right thing, the United States must renounce its witch hunt against WikiLeaks,” said Mr. Assange, making his first public statement since being granted political asylum by Ecuador on Thursday.

Iran commander ‘welcomes’ possible Israeli strike

TEHRAN, IRAN — A senior Iranian commander says a possible Israeli airstrike against his country’s nuclear facilities is “welcome” because it would give Iran a reason to retaliate and “get rid of” the Jewish state “forever.”

The remarks by Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of the Revolutionary Guard’s air force, were reported Saturday by the official IRNA news agency.

Hajizadeh says in the event of an Israeli strike, Iran’s response would be “swift, decisive and destructive.” But he also claims Israeli threats of a strike are just part of a psychological war against Iran.

His comments are the latest in a war of words between the archenemies.

Israel considers Iran an existential threat because of its suspect nuclear program. Iran denies seeking atomic weapons, saying its uranium enrichment is for peaceful purposes only.

Original Article
Source: the star
Author: AP

Details of Stephen Harper’s panda diplomacy threaten national security: Environment Canada

Do details of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s panda diplomacy represent a potential threat to Canada’s national security?

The federal government has suggested that the answer to this question is yes, in response to a request for access to an internal memorandum on the issue.

Harper announced during a trade mission last February that China had agreed to loan two pandas to Canadian zoos in Toronto and Calgary for a 10-year period that was expected to start in 2013.

Household debt at all time high, but banking industry says it’s making prudent decisions

Low credit default rates reflect industry and consumer prudence, says the Canadian Bankers Association, but the federal government continues to urge consumers to curb borrowing as household indebtedness reaches all-time highs.

Terry Campbell, president and CEO of the Canadian Bankers Association, said that his industry agrees with the federal government’s emphasis on curbing consumer borrowing, but insisted that Canadian banks are practicing sound lending standards.

Government’s food inspection overhaul ‘ambitious’ move, CFIA needs resources to deliver

The federal government quietly introduced legislation to overhaul Canada’s food inspection system in June, and while some organizations support the bill, they question whether the Canadian Food Inspection Agency will have the resources to effectively implement the legislation.

“The legislation is good. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it, but our concern is that they won’t have the capacity to deliver,” Agriculture Union president Bob Kingston told The Hill Times last week. “Whenever we’ve seen situations where they don’t have the capacity to deliver, they turn more responsibility over to the regulated parties. They keep saying that’s not going to happen, but mathematics would tell you otherwise.”

CRTC should regulate wireless service terms and conditions to create certainty for industry, consumers

The Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission is considering calls by industry and consumer advocacy groups to regulate Canada’s wireless telecommunications sector because an absence of federal regulation has led to different rules around wireless services in different provinces.

NDP consumer affairs critic Glenn Thibeault is in favour of the CRTC resuming its regulatory authority over wireless service terms and conditions. He said that a national code of conduct would create certainty for the industry and consumers.

NDP leader considers Northern Gateway pipeline dead

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair says he supports the idea of refining Alberta's oil in Canada instead of shipping crude to Kitimat, B.C., and then on to Asia, as would be the case with Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project — which he calls a "non-starter."

In an interview that aired Saturday on CBC Radio's The House, the leader of the Official Opposition told guest host Chris Hall he supports the overall idea "of adding the value in Canada, developing, upgrading, processing, refining our own natural resources here."

Zellers employees walk away empty-handed in $1.825-billion deal

Angela Rankin knows exactly how much Target paid Zellers for the leases to 220 stores across Canada.

It wasn’t a billion. It was $1.8-billion -- $1.825-billion to be more precise.

Rankin was let go on July 28 from the Zellers at Dufferin and Dupont in Toronto after 13 years working the cash, the sales floor and as a pharmacy technician, with nothing more than the legally mandated severance pay her employers were required to give.

On the brink with Israel and Iran

Fifty years ago the world stood on the brink of nuclear war in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Today we are on the brink of another crisis of similar global proportions. It is the crisis stoked by Iran’s quest to acquire a nuclear weapons capability and the real risk that in the coming months Israel will launch an attack on Iran’s nuclear installations.

This is not just a war of words between Israel and Iran. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak have made no secret of the fact that they view Iran’s nuclear ambitions as a mortal threat to Israel’s survival. They have repeatedly threatened to use military force to arrest those ambitions just as Israel did when it bombed Iraq’s and then Syria’s nuclear installations years ago.