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 30, 2011

Biodiversity On Earth Plummets, Despite Growth in Protected Habitats

Despite rapid and substantial growth in the amount of land and sea designated as protected habitat over the last four decades, the diversity of species the world over is plummeting, a new study has found.

Over 100,000 so-called "protected areas" representing some 7 million square miles of land and nearly 1 million square miles of ocean have been established since the 1960's, noted the analysis, published Thursday in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series.

And yet, according to a widely cited index used to track planetary biodiversity, the wealth of terrestrial and marine species has seen steady decline over roughly the same period, suggesting that simply protecting swaths of land and sea -- a common conservation strategy worldwide -- is inadequate for preventing the steady disappearance of earth's creatures.

Somalia Famine: Aid Workers Report Fewer Refugees Making It To Food Supplies Safely

The number of refugees pouring out of famine-stricken Somalia has greatly reduced in recent days, aid workers in the region say -- and that may not be a good thing.

"We are seeing this, and we're really not sure why," says Giammichele De Maio, the head of the World Food Program's refugee program in Ethiopia.

He explained, "Unfortunately, it's one of those borders we cannot pass and so we don't have a complete picture there [in Somalia]. We know that some food assistance is reaching the people there, and it may well be that their hope of receiving assistance makes them decide to wait rather than walk the miles and miles it takes to cross the border."

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford And Brother Doug: Straight-Talking Right-Wingers Make Waves

TORONTO - Who are Rob and Doug Ford? The answer depends entirely on who you ask.

Some have hailed Toronto's new mayor and his city councillor brother as men of the people with their fingers on the pulses and their eyes on the welfare of Joe Q public.

Others decry them as intolerant autocrats who would sacrifice the city's cultural, educational and economic future on the altar of fiscal restraint.

Some facts are indisputable — the Ford brothers govern from the right, shoot from the hip, and cause a stir both at home and farther afield.

UN commemorates first anniversary of resolution on the human right to water and sanitation

Maude Barlow (National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians), Anil Naidoo (Blue Planet Organizer) and I were in New York City this week to participate in events commemorating the one year anniversary of the UN General Assembly (GA) resolution on the human right to water and sanitation.

On Wednesday morning, joined by colleagues from Food and Water Watch, Corporate Accountability International and Michigan State University, we met with Catarina de Albuquerque, the first UN Special Rapporteur on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation. We discussed how to advance and make concrete the historic UN resolutions passed last year recognizing water and sanitation as a fundamental human right.

All-nighter didn’t shed any light on budget process

It’s great to know that hundreds of people are willing to stay up all night to fight for their vision of Toronto. But, sad to say, that’s about the only good news to come out of Thursday’s and Friday’s filibuster-by-committee down at City Hall.

Reports have a grand total of three of 169 deputants at Executive Committee speaking generally in favour of Rob Ford’s vision of Toronto. Deputants spoke for three-fifths of the time they’d normally have been allotted, and half the people who signed up to speak didn’t end up doing so at all because Mayor Rob Ford decided to run the meeting all night — all so everyone could get away for the long weekend on time.

Toronto wants its vote back

No. No. No. And still no. That’s all Mayor Rob Ford and his executive committee heard from the public for almost 23 hours Thursday, into Friday. Do not take the axe to city services that have made Toronto an enviable place to live.

How many ways can you say no? How about 169 — the number of deputants who overcame obstacles the mayor put in their way to speak out — in verse and rhyme and satire and a puppet show. Only one or two told the mayor to cut away to his heart’s content.

Why are so many people opposed to the mayor’s direction, months after electing him? Where are the supposed majority who want Ford to take the axe to the bloated bureaucracy and too-rich services? Where is Ford Nation? Ford’s Flock? Where’s the average citizen, not belonging to any of those partisan groups, who just wants a healthy, affordable city?

Ford’s council allies suggest these people are all too busy working to find time to give their views on city finances. The ones who showed up at city hall are unionists, the usual suspects with vested interests, organizations whose reps are being paid, by taxpayers, to show up and protest.

The argument doesn’t sell.

What the USDA Doesn't Want You to Know About Antibiotics and Factory Farms

Here is a document the USDA doesn't want you to see. It's what the agency calls a "technical review"—nothing more than a USDA-contracted researcher's simple, blunt summary of recent academic findings on the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant infections and their link with factory animal farms. The topic is a serious one. A single antibiotic-resistant pathogen, MRSA—just one of many now circulating among Americans—now claims more lives each year than AIDS.

Back in June, the USDA put the review up on its National Agricultural Library website. Soon after, a Dow Jones story quoted a USDA official who declared it to be based on "reputed, scientific, peer-reviewed, and scholarly journals." She added that the report should not be seen as a "representation of the official position of USDA." That's fair enough—the review was designed to sum up the state of science on antibiotic resistance and factory farms, not the USDA's position on the matter.

Toronto budget alternatives

With all the news around the City of Toronto's upcoming budget and looming upcoming cuts, here is an alternative for Torontonians to consider.

In a report released this week by the Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance titled: Breaking Boundaries: Time to Think and Act Like a Region, the group recommends the opposite to vast service cuts which will harm Toronto's neighbourhoods. In fact, it recommends a proactive approach to revitalizing and supporting communities by investing money in Toronto neighbourhoods.

Regarding the issue of neighbourhood, the report reads: "The Greater Toronto region is celebrated for its many vibrant and unique neighbourhoods, but growing concentrations of poverty threaten the health and vitality of many -- in 2006, 46% of low-income families lived in higher poverty neighbourhoods in Toronto, up from 18% two decades earlier."

City waits for first service cut

Despite months of meetings and hundreds of consultations with citizens who have packed City Hall over the past few weeks to discuss potentially widespread cuts to city services, people are no closer today to knowing what services the Mayor or city leadership believes the city should stop delivering.

Beginning Thursday morning, the Executive Committee met for 22 hours, until 8 a.m. Friday, hearing from hundreds of citizens, but took no votes on cuts.

On Friday at 1 p.m. an exhausted-looking Joe Pennachetti, the city manager, told bleary-eyed reporters in the city council members lounge that he now will take everybody’s advice and put together a report to go to a special meeting of Mayor Rob Ford’s Executive Committee on Sept. 19, and then to a special meeting of city council later in September.