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.]

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Dalai Lama Visit: President Obama Meets Spiritual Leader, China Complains

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama held a White House meeting Saturday with the Dalai Lama, a fellow Nobel Peace laureate, hours after China called on the U.S. to rescind an invitation that could sour relations with Beijing.

The Tibetan spiritual leader has been in Washington for an 11-day Buddhist ritual. Thousands of expatriate Tibetans joined a 76th birthday celebration Wednesday for the Dalai Lama, who's just relinquished leadership of Tibet's government-in-exile.

The White House said the 45-minute private session in the Map Room showed Obama's support for preserving Tibet's culture and protecting human rights, as well reaffirming his belief that Chinese government should engage with representatives of the Dalai Lama to resolve their differences.

China Calls On Obama To Cancel Dalai Lama Meeting

BEIJING — China has called on the U.S. to withdraw an invitation for the Dalai Lama to meet with President Barack Obama at the White House, saying it could hurt relations between the two countries.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in a statement Saturday that China opposes any foreign official meeting with the Tibetan spiritual leader and asked the U.S. to withdraw its invitation to avoid interfering in China's internal affairs.

Obama's planned meeting Saturday coincides with the Dalai Lama's visit to Washington for an 11-day Buddhist ritual expected to draw upward of 10,000 followers a day.

Obama last met with the Dalai Lama in February 2010, infuriating Chinese officials, who accuse the Nobel Peace Prize laureate of seeking Tibet's independence from China.

Source: Huffington 

No Canadian Tea Party

Those who paint the rise of Canada's right as a "tea party" movement are missing the point.

For months now, I’ve been reading a lot of “punditry” about the alleged influence of the U.S. tea party movement on Canadian politics. Out East, at least, this hysterical yammer probably reached its nadir last fall with the election of Rob Ford as mayor of Toronto. Never mind the endless cheap shots about the man’s girth and reputed coarseness of manner; much of this “analysis” darkly hinted that the Ford phenomenon was somehow propelled by the fascist rabble agitating things south of the border.

This may have been inevitable: Consider the equally fatuous commentary about the tea partiers from within the rarefied ranks of the U.S. commentariat itself. A while back, for example, I attended a speech by New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore. Lepore was promoting her book on the subject entitled The Whites of Their Eyes – itself a sufficiently loaded title to give you an immediate sense of her take on all this without having to so much as crack the spine. In a nutshell, here’s her thesis: The tea partiers wave the U.S. Constitution about with a kind of religious fervour (which is true enough – it’s the flippin’ U.S. Constitution). This therefore makes all tea partiers a horde of religious nutjobs. It then follows that the tea partiers have corrupted the secular principles upon which the constitution is based, and that, as a consequence, they are all utterly offside with the predominant narrative of U.S. political culture, and are therefore a bunch of dangerous, ignorant oafs – or worse.

'He's too far right' doesn't cut it anymore for Harper's critics

It’s been years now since Stephen Harper moved into 24 Sussex. Throughout, there’s been plenty of speculation about how far he’s determined to shift Canada to the right.

The Prime Minister has never tried to camouflage that his personal values are conservative. But he's also consistently maintained he won't pursue a conservative agenda on hot-button social issues. And on economic issues, the PM's approach has felt like “we won’t rock the boat, not much anyway.”
Over time then, the argument Mr. Harper’s critics have often used -- that he's a radical who will change the country dramatically -- sits more and more uncomfortably alongside the evidence, as many voters have judged it.

New Afghan mission will end in failure, say Taliban

OTTAWA—Canada spent billions of dollars on military might and development aid in its efforts to wage war and make peace in Kandahar, but throughout the five-year mission, the battle of words was just as important.

It’s a fight the Taliban won, experts say.

The insurgency’s parting message to Canadians in Kandahar marked the pinnacle of the Taliban’s ongoing information campaign, which made many Afghans think twice about supporting foreign soldiers and also kept Canadians on their toes.

Waukesha County Clerk's Latest Snafu Nearly a $1 Million Mistake

Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus – already under investigation for a snafu in reporting votes in the state Supreme Court election  – is coming under fire from county leaders again after an error made by her staff nearly cost the county $1 million.

The latest controversy surrounds a crucial letter that Waste Management Inc. sent to Nickolaus’ office in May regarding the expansion of a landfill the company operates in Menomonee Falls.

The letter notifying the county of the expansion should have prompted the County Board to take action to join a local committee that will have oversight over the expansion. By joining the committee, the county also will receive $1 million from Waste Management over the next decade.

'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' To Remain In Place, 9th Circuit Court Rules

LOS ANGELES -- A federal appeals court late Friday ordered the military to temporarily continue its "don't ask, don't tell" policy for openly gay service members, responding to a request from the Obama administration.

In its three-page decision, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the ruling was based on new information provided by the federal government, including a declaration from Major General Steven A. Hummer, who is leading the effort to repeal the policy.

Beyond a default: Catastrophic calculations

And their trouble borrowing is the primary way a default, or even something too close to it for the market’s comfort, could deal a body blow to the economy.

Why is the Most Wasteful Government Agency Not Part of the Deficit Discussion?

In all the talk about the federal deficit, why is the single largest culprit left out of the conversation? Why is the one part of government that best epitomizes everything conservatives say they hate about government—- waste, incompetence, and corruption—all but exempt from conservative criticism?

Of course, I’m talking about the Pentagon. Any serious battle plan to reduce the deficit must take on the Pentagon. In 2011 military spending accounted for more than 58 percent of all federal discretionary spending and even more if the interest on the federal debt that is related to military spending were added. In the last ten years we have spent more than $7.6 trillion on military and homeland security according to the National Priorities Project.

Missouri River Oil Spill: 900 Gallons Spill In North Dakota

WILLISTON, N.D. -- Damage around a North Dakota oil well site where officials believe floodwaters shifted a storage tank, causing at least 900 gallons of oil to spill into the Missouri River, does not appear to be significant, state health department officials said Friday.

The tank is at a well site owned by Ryan Exploration Inc., which has committed to cleaning up the mess. The site is among about 40 on the flood plain southwest of Williston shut down under state orders when the river started to rise in May. Some companies emptied storage tanks of oil and refilled them with water to hold them down in the high water.

A Canada without YouTube? It could happen

Here’s an interesting if somewhat disturbing thought: can you picture a world without YouTube? Or more specifically, a country without YouTube?

It seems improbable, almost impossible, but it’s entirely conceivable if the CRTC loses its collective mind and decides to regulate such “over-the-top” Internet services in Canada.

The regulator, answering to cajoling from traditional broadcasters, has now concluded its “fact-finding mission” on whether YouTube, Netflix and other OTT services should have Canadian content rules foisted on to them. At some point, it will decide on whether to proceed with a new, full hearing, or whether it will just drop the issue, at least for now.

Property taxes could rise 3%, Ford warns

Toronto may have to raise property taxes by up to 3% next year in order to balance its books, Mayor Rob Ford told radio listeners Friday morning.

“At the very, very most I’ve said you can raise property taxes, at the most, 2½, maybe 3%,” Mr. Ford said on The John Oakley Show. “We didn’t have a property tax increase last year, and I said that’s it, we’re not going one dime higher than that.”

Mr. Ford promised during his 2010 election campaign to keep any tax hike at the rate of inflation. Canada’s inflation rate hit 3.7% in May, while the core inflation figure, which factors out volatile items including food and gas, was 1.8%.

Ford’s financial numbers don’t add up

It was a hairy week at city hall, a foreshadowing of the tumult the city is likely to face as it seeks to cut hundreds of millions of dollars in spending. The city rolled out an employee-buyout plan aimed at cutting thousands of staff, launched task force investigations on daycare, homelessness and arena construction and released consultants’ reports that floated the idea of cuts on everything from daycares to zoos to fluoridation of the water supply.

With so much at stake, it would be nice to think that there is someone in charge who seems to know what he is doing. Instead, we have His Worship Mayor Rob Ford.

Ford vows to clean up budget 'mess'

Toronto mayor Rob Ford is vowing to clean up the city's financial "mess" in less than a year despite a burgeoning budget shortfall.

The promise from the cost-conscious mayor was made Friday in a wide-ranging interview on radio station AM640. His comments come at the end of a week that saw reports of possible cuts to police, fire services, daycare spaces and park maintenance.

Toronto is facing a projected budget shortfall of $774 million. The mayor ran on a platform of eliminating the so-called "gravy" from city hall in last fall's election.

Shipyard funding had lax record-keeping

A $50-million lifeline the Harper government threw to ailing shipyards in 2007 lacked basic record-keeping, raising questions about the management of Canada's national shipbuilding program.

The so-called Structured Financing Facility, a fund designed to keep shipyards on life support until this year, lacked any "rigorous" reporting on how well the money was spent, says an internal evaluation.

Bureaucrats did not properly monitor the eight ship projects that received millions in federal subsidies, leaving no record of basic information such as the number of jobs created.

Shell wants out of Mackenzie pipeline project

Shell Canada is planning to pull out of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline project and sell its assets in the region.

The company is trying to sell its share in the $16.2-billion natural gas project in the Northwest Territories, according to company documents obtained by CBC News.

Shell is part of a corporate consortium, led by Imperial Oil, that is backing the proposed pipeline. Other members of the consortium are Exxon Mobil Corp., ConocoPhillips, and the Aboriginal Pipeline Group.

Meet three people helped by Toronto’s city grants

Marion Hall, Jenn Irving and Cheyenne Allen don’t pay too much attention to the politics at Toronto City Hall.

But if Mayor Rob Ford had gotten his way with his “just say no” attitude to grants this past week, their lives might have been completely changed.

The mayor was overwhelmingly defeated when council voted in favour of six grant programs totalling $7.2 million for 259 groups. The money for seniors, children, neighbourhoods and other projects that help make up a city will continue.

Ford makes layoffs sound like a certainty

Mayor Rob Ford is making layoffs of some of the city’s roughly 50,000 employees sound like a virtual certainty.

Ford made the remarks Friday morning in an interview on AM 640’s The John Oakley Morning Show.

“In business the first thing you look at is the labour. Your labour should be making up maximum 20 per cent, not what we’re at, 80 per cent, it’s just unheard of. So we’re going to have to take a serious look at union and non-union employees and looking at exactly what they’re doing and taking it from there . . . ,” Ford told Oakley.

We may not recognize post-Rob Ford Toronto

Toronto as we know it is about to undergo drastic surgery. What emerges by year’s end could be a fiscal transformation that ushers in a period of municipal budget wonder or a civic catastrophe.

Mayor Rob Ford, the catalyst behind the unprecedented makeover, is such a polarizing leader — and proud of it — that the transition is bound to be tumultuous.

This week’s dizzying blitz of proposed service cuts sets up another round of daily offerings, starting Monday — an orchestrated raid with one main goal: the sacking of Toronto the Good, Toronto the Beautiful, Toronto the Caring, Toronto the Livable.