Showing posts from March 20, 2015

Oregon’s Radical Innovation: Make Democracy Easy

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[Good ideas on making voting and democracy easy from Oregon. *RON*]

By John Nichols, Moyers & Company, 19 March 2015

This post first appeared at The Nation.
Here is a novel notion: Why not make democracy easy?

Why not take the trouble out of registering to vote — and out of voting?

It can be done. Other countries, where voter turnout is dramatically higher than in the United States, craft their laws to encourage voting.

Unfortunately, politics gets in the way of voting-friendly elections in the United States.

At least in most states.

It is no secret that these have not been easy times for the cause of voting rights.

An activist majority on the US Supreme Court has invalidated key sections of the Voting Rights Act, and the traditional defenders of the franchise — Congressmen John Conyers (D-MI), and James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) — are struggling to renew the bipartisan coalition in support of robust protection for free and fair elections.

Beyond Washing…

'Frackademia' Report Reveals Ties Between Government, Universities, and Shale Industry

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[The influence of economics and politics on science. This is an apparently anonymous article on DeSmog Blog. Is it time for government to step in and regulate the scientific process? Arguably, the scientific community has been arrogant in stating that they are the only ones smart enough to regulate themselves. Clearly this process has been failing big-time as scientists-as-employees are drawn into corporatocratic debates. *RON*]

Guest, DeSmog Blog, 19 March 2015

While the government has decided to provide tax breaks for the oil industry in the 2015 Government Budget, everyone else has been talking about divestment. Ben Lucas looks at the growing movement and new evidence published this week on the relationship between government, universities and fracking companies.

What started out as a grassroots campaigning tactic to lobby big institutions to stop backing non-renewable energy production, has this week gained large-scale mainstream support.


The uncounted: why the US can't keep track of people killed by police

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["The federal government counts many things very well.... It counts nut consumption by non-Hispanic white men over the age of 20 (42.4% enjoyed nuts on any given day in 2009-2010). It counts how many women aged 15-44 use contraception (60.9 million, or 61.7%). The US government is a virtuoso counter. So why can’t it count people killed by police?" See also The Gawker's Ferguson and the Criminalization of American Life. *RON*]

Tom McCarthy, The Guardian, 18 March 2015

A year ago, in a bureaucratic shift that went unremarked in the somnolent days before Michael Brown was shot dead in Ferguson, Missouri, the US government admitted a disturbing failure. The top crime-data experts in Washington had determined that they could not properly count how many Americans die each year at the hands of police. So they stopped.

The move did not make headlines. Before Brown was killed, a major government effort to count people killed by police could …

Florida employee 'punished for using phrase climate change'

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[There are very real echoes of Soviet Russia here. In a complaint against the state, worker says he was accused of violating policy and instructed to get a mental health evaluation after mentioning climate change. Climate denialism as public policy. *RON*]
Katherine Krueger, The Guardian, 19 March 2015
An employee of Florida’s environmental protection department was forced to take a leave of absence and seek a mental health evaluation for violating governor Rick Scott’s unwritten ban on using the phrases “climate change” or “global warming” under any circumstance, according to a complaint filed against the state.

Longtime employee Barton Bibler reportedly included an explicit mention of climate change in his official notes from a Florida Coastal Managers Forum meeting in late February, during which climate change, rising sea levels and the possible environmental impact of the Keystone XL Pipeline were discussed.

On 9 March, Bibler received a formal…

Fixing Canada Without Raising Taxes on (Most) Canadians

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[Email this to your MP whether you think it will do any good or not. Use this spiffy MP finder to do so. If you also want to find out who your BC MLA is, you can do that here. At least it will show them that you are aware that there are lots of good alternative policies out there. *RON*]
Dennis Howlett, Canadians for Tax Fairness, Huffington Post, 19 March 2015

The Harper Conservatives have done a lot of damage to Canada. It has been the proverbial death by a thousand cuts: health transfers, aboriginal education and health, child care, social and co-op housing. The list goes on. It has increased stress on ordinary Canadians and created a huge social, economic and environmental deficit. And it has increased unemployment and harmed economic growth.

We're told so-called austerity is necessary because Canada doesn't have enough money. That is untrue. Our economy and our people could be in a much better position with leadership, savvy fiscal m…

Civic literacy and the assault on Canadian democracy

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[Amen to this but I don't see anyone trying to do anything about it. Adult Continuing Education? Municipal community centre programs? Union-organized workplace study groups? Church-run educational sessions? Include civics lessons in ESL classes? *RON*]
By Murray Dobbin,, 20 March 2015

The Harper government's pursuit of its odious Secret Police Act (C-51) is just another chapter in the most through-going and massive social engineering project in the history of the country. Social engineering used to be one of the favourite phrases of the right in its attack on social programs -- accusing both liberal-minded politicians and meddling bureaucrats with manufacturing the welfare state. They conveniently ignored the fact that there was huge popular demand and support for activist government.

That was the so-called golden age of capitalism and it wasn't just because of expanding government services. It was so-called because of a mu…

Worried about C-51? You’re probably a terrorist.

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[Happy solstice - we hit 25,000 views this morning. I wonder if these guys have even read Kafka? *RON*]
By Joanna Kerr, iPolitics, 17 March 2015

Are you now, or have you ever been, a terrorist?

That, in one form or another, is the question being asked over and over by Conservative MPs of expert witnesses called before the Commons standing committee reviewing Bill C-51, the so-called anti-terrorism law.

I spoke before the committee last week. I pointed to the danger in the bill’s much-expanded definition of national security and in its false conflation of peaceful protest with terrorism. I was expecting to be called on to defend our arguments, to cite evidence on how the bill’s sweeping new powers could be used against peaceful advocates for action on climate change.

No one on the government side seemed terribly interested in our argument — but they were very interested in us.

Conservative MP LaVar Payne asked me if I consider myself to be a threa…