Saturday, April 19, 2014
When the "Greatest Democracy on Earth" closes up shop and re-opens as an oligarchy every other supposed democracy, including our own, better sit up and take notice.
The United States of America has proven that the ballot box does not guarantee the health or even the survival of democracy. Citizens can vote to their hearts' content and it doesn't matter if economic and political power resides elsewhere.
Remember that old joke about the Golden Rule? He who has the gold, rules. That's not a joke any longer. It's called "political capture", the process by which political power is taken from the electorate and vested in a group of oligarchs who, through their influence over legislators, call the shots.
It's pretty dismal when you have to realize that whether you vote or how you vote doesn't matter. The day after the election those individuals that have just been 'hired' by your vote will go to work for someone else. Thank you very much. See you in four years or six years or - well, whatever. And, remember, don't call us, we'll call you.
Thanks to a study from Princeton, we now have confirmation that the United States has transformed from democracy to oligarchy. Many of us knew it at a gut level but the study meticulously documents what we suspected. Now, here's the thing. America remains notionally a democracy, one citizen - one vote sort of thing. It has a constitution and bill of rights that reflect democracy, not some other form of political organization. What that means is that the rise of oligarchy is a subversion of democracy and powerful, prima facie evidence of a thoroughly corrupted political process. It reeks of wholesale corruption and, given its once lofty perch atop Mount Democracy, it proclaims America one of the most corrupted states on the planet.
The massive and steadily widening gap between rich and poor in America is no accident. Nor is it the natural outcome of merit-based or market forces. It is the bastard child of the incestuous bedding of the oligarchs and the political classes. Government that pledges to serve the people instead serves them up on a legislative platter to its real masters.
Now we learn, via Paul Krugman and Bill Moyers, that America's oligarchy is in the process of the next stage of its ascendancy, the establishment of a perpetual, inheritance-based aristocracy.
Since spring finally seems to be arriving in my place on the planet, it seems like a propitious time to take a day or two off from this blog and contemplate other matters. In the interim, I recommend the following for your perusal:
The Star's Thomas Walkom writes about democracy, voting and past democratic reform measures in his column today.
A series of thoughtful letters from Star readers provides an ample basis for some serious contemplation of climate change.
And finally, on the oligarchy that has essentially
See you shortly, and enjoy the long weekend.
Friday, April 18, 2014
The Toronto Star recently revealed the following:
Health Canada is keeping secret the vast majority of the drug reviews it conducts despite a clear promise from the federal minister to publish this critical safety information.
Only 24 of 152 drug reviews completed last year by Health Canada are being considered for public release, the Toronto Star has learned. The drug safety reviews that will be open to the public are those triggered by alarms raised by foreign regulators, medical or scientific literature or Health Canada’s routine monitoring activities.
The main reason? Wholly consistent with the Harper regime's legendary secrecy and the preeminence it accords to all things corporate, is this justification:
The information is classified in part because it was provided “with the understanding that this information is proprietary,” a Health Canada spokeswoman told the Star in an email Wednesday.
In layperson's language, corporate concerns trump citizen safety. Aided and abetted by Health Canada, safety information falls under the rubric of commercial secrets - this despite some well-publicized tragedies that might very well have been avoided had the public had access to vital information about toxicity studies and drug side effects.
As usual, perspicacious Star letter-writers offer their views of this intolerable insult to all who believe that the free flow of information is one of the crucial elements of a healthy democracy:
Ottawa keeps drug reviews under wraps, April 12
The Canadian public is once again being “stonewalled” by the Harper government. The reason that I am calling this the “Harper Government” is the fact that Stephen Harper runs this government like a dictatorship. His ministers are muzzled until Harper approves of what statements they are allowed to make to the media.
He arbitrarily releases information only when he feels like doing so, not when the public has a genuine need to know the details of situations, such as rail safety measures put in place after the disaster in Quebec, and now the federal drug reviews of 151 various medications.
According to Dr. David Juurlink from Sunnybrook Hospital, “These drugs harm people and in some instances they kill people. Frankly, shame on (Ottawa) for even contemplating not publishing them.” The doctor doesn’t realize that in Ottawa there is no shame, only secrecy.
Why all of this secrecy when Ottawa has supposedly made a commitment to being more transparent? This government is as “transparent” as the heavily tinted windows in a motor vehicle.
In 1947, there was a movie starring Danny Kaye, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. This movie was re-made in 2013 with Ben Stiller as the star. In Canada, it could have been made as The Secret Life of Stephen Harper, starring our Prime Minister.
Also, Harper would have been the perfect guest on the 1950s and 1960s TV show I’ve Got A Secret. He has so many secrets that the panel would never guess to which one he was referring.
Warren Dalton, Scarborough
The reason Ottawa keeps drug reviews under wraps is the same reason Transport Canada keeps under wraps the movement of toxic materials through highly populated areas. The “conservative corporate party” in Ottawa is not about to bite the hand that feeds it. Ask yourself: who is damaged by disclosure?
Nicholas Kostiak, Tottenham
Drugs that have been developed under the sole funding of the private sector may, indeed, legitimize claims to exclusive rights to such information. Where the public has funded the research and development of pharmaceuticals, however, the public has a right to the results of such research.
Canadian taxpayers have contributed billions of dollars, under a multitude of programs, to the development of pharmaceuticals. We seem to have forgotten Harper’s Economic Action Plan and the Canada Foundation for Innovation, which funnelled hundreds of millions of dollars to the research and development of pharmaceuticals in the year 2009 alone. If you follow the money, you’ll discover that the public has just as many proprietary rights to the much-guarded research.
Those who wish to have exclusive rights to research results, data, analyses, outcomes or reports should also ensure their exclusive funding of such research activity rather than looking to the public purse for support. Until then, we have a right to know exactly what our money has produced.
Stella Kargiannakis, Toronto
Thursday, April 17, 2014
Now comes word from Edmonton of more abuse by the hamburger giant, this time of its temporary workers. CBC News reports the following:
Foreign workers recruited from Belize are accusing McDonald’s Canada of treating them like "slaves," by effectively forcing them to share an expensive apartment – then deducting almost half their take-home pay as rent.
Records from three employees show they made $11 an hour working at various McDonald’s locations and the company took $280 from their pay for rent, bi-weekly. Their remaining take-home pay for the same pay periods was roughly $350.
“[The apartment lease] contracts are signed by McDonald’s. All of our bills – utility bills – were billed [to us] under the name of McDonald’s,” said Montero.
“They brought us here and they are this big huge corporation. We felt that we didn’t have a chance to even voice our opinion to them because they had brought us here so they could ship us back whenever they wanted to," said Montero. "It was like modern day slavery."
You can read the full tawdry tale of corporate malfeasance here, and watch a video report below:
Kind of takes away your appetite for when the next 'Mac attack' happens, doesn't it?
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
However, those mired in an earlier time are not so happy. You can click here to see why they have gotten their tunics in a twist, but I'll offer you just a hint from this excerpt:
Jennifer LeClaire, news editor at Charisma, an evangelical online magazine, wasn't amused: "Nabisco's brand is no longer wholesome," she wrote in a piece titled "Gay-Affirming Nabisco Is Shoving More Than Oreos Down Our Throats."
LeClaire pointed out that members of the conservative American Family Association's One Million Moms group were "up in arms": "The American Family Association-linked group insists Nabisco should be ashamed of itself for the cracker commercial that attempts to 'normalize sin.'"
"One Million Moms stands up for Biblical truth which is very clear in Romans 1:26-27 about this particular type of sexual perversion," the group stated. "Honey Maid is also using the hashtag #thisiswholesome. There is concern about the way this ad is pushing the LGBT agenda, but an even greater concern is the way that they are changing the meaning of the word 'wholesome.' This is truly sad. If this is what Honey Maid thinks is wholesome, then my family will no longer purchase Honey Maid or Nabisco products."
And below is how Honey Maid responded to those residing in that earlier time of absolutism and intolerance in the name of an apparently very angry and very limited deity:
In the twisted morality of the Harper universe, it will be claimed and conveyed as a complete vindication of the Prime Minister.
That the RCMP has found no grounds upon which to lay criminal charges against Nigel Wright in the $90,000 payoff-to-Mike-Duffy-scandal does nothing to dissolve the deep and abiding suspicions about Harper's influence-peddling machinations was not lost on the At Issue panelists last night: