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.]

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

As Hotels Outsource Jobs, Workers Lose Hold On Living Wage

INDIANAPOLIS -- Maria Fajardo has been working as a housekeeper and janitor in Indianapolis hotels since 1987. The job has changed a lot in 24 years, but not for the better. The work is much more difficult than it used to be, and the pay comparatively much less.

"It's really sad," the 62-year-old grandmother from Mexico said in Spanish through a translator. "We're hurting our bodies more and more, and we're not getting any closer to getting out of poverty."

Hotel workers in this town say their workloads have increased in recent years while their wages have remained flat or even fallen. In some cases, the housekeepers are expected to clean roughly twice as many rooms as they were just a few years ago, often working off the clock to meet their quota and avoid being disciplined. As the cost of living has climbed, they find themselves worse off than they were a decade ago.

Harper defends controversial Arctic mine

BAKER LAKE, Nunavut — Prime Minister Stephen Harper pointed to environmental impacts of development in Canada’s largest cities Wednesday as he defended a government decision to allow a local gold mine to dump its waste into nearby fish habitat.

“Obviously, when you dig holes here, you know, you create some environmental issues and those have to be addressed, but that can’t stop development, any more than we would let that stop development in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver,” Harper said, drawing applause from local workers at the Meadowbank gold mine, as he took questions from reporters.

“The people here care about the environment. They’re partners in the environment but they have as much right to development and opportunity as people in any other part of the country.”

The Meadowbank project was launched in recent years by Toronto-based Agnico-Eagle Mines Limited, following a $1.4 billion investment that was originally designed to stay open for about a decade, creating hundreds of jobs and regional growth.

Harper seeks to expand mining development in Nunavut

Prime Minister Stephen Harper travelled to the only working mine in Nunavut Tuesday to announce his government would provide funding to establish an office to develop mining in the North.

The Meadowbank gold mine near this town on the Canadian tundra employs more than 1,100 people – nearly 300 of them from the surrounding Inuit communities – and its owner, Agninco-Eagle Mines Ltd., is in the exploration phase of a similar operation near Rankin Inlet.

The GDP in this territory rose by nearly 15 per cent last year, due in large part to the Meadowbank mine.

And the resources that lie beneath Nunavut’s permafrost – gold, uranium, diamonds and iron ore – have prompted interest in another dozen potential mining operations here.

Tories’ asbestos policy ‘unethical and shameful’ say Canadian doctors

ST. JOHN’S—The Canadian Medical Association condemned the Conservative government for blocking asbestos from being listed as a hazardous substance around the world earlier this summer.

“I think this sends a strong message to the federal government that their unethical and shameful behaviour will not be tolerated by the physicians of Canada,” Dr. Barry Turchen of Abbotsford, B.C. told the annual gathering of the national body representing about 75,000 doctors on Wednesday.

Canada opposed the inclusion of chrysotile asbestos in a United Nations treaty last June that would have forced exporters to warn importing countries of health hazards.

The Rotterdam Convention, which operates by consensus, would have also given recipient countries the freedom to refuse to allow the product to enter their borders if they did not believe they could handle it safely.

Inequality is bad for business

The business establishment is becoming increasingly concerned about income inequality. That’s because inequality—measured by the extent to which the distribution of income within a country deviates from perfect equality—is bad for business.

The cautions are getting more numerous and blunt. Since January, heavyweights who have spoken out include Joseph Stiglitz, former chief economist of the World Bank, Chrystia Freeland, editor of Thomson Reuters Digital and former managing editor of the Financial Times, and even America’s staunchest defender of laissez-faire economics, the five-term former chair of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan. Here in Canada, the Conference Board of Canada has recently released two studies on inequality, funded by 24 influential corporations. The studies warn, “High inequality can diminish economic growth if it means that the country is not fully using the skills and capabilities of all its citizens or if it undermines social cohesion, leading to increased social tensions. Second, high inequality raises a moral question about fairness and social justice.”

WikiLeaks: 35,000 Diplomatic Cables To Be Released

The whistleblower website WikiLeaks announced it was releasing 35,000 U.S. diplomatic cables late Tuesday night. The official Twitter account broke the news to its more than one million followers, asking for help scouring the cables for discoveries.

So far, cables have been posted from China, Taiwan and Libya. Cables from other countries -- including Russia, Venezuela, Indonesia, Syria, Somalia, Bahrain, South Africa, Yemen, Cuba, Germany, Iran, Afghanistan, Poland, France, Turkey, Romania and Rwanda -- are reportedly to be released later.

New York Attorney General Kicked Off Government Group Leading Foreclosure Probe

WASHINGTON -- New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Tuesday was kicked off the committee leading the 50-state task force charged with probing foreclosure abuses and negotiating a possible settlement agreement with the nation's five largest mortgage firms, according to an email reviewed by The Huffington Post.

Schneiderman was one of roughly a dozen state attorneys general leading the talks with the five companies, alongside representatives of the U.S. Department of Justice, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and other federal agencies. The government launched the negotiations in the spring after widespread reports of foreclosure irregularities, such as so-called "robo-signing" and illegal home seizures, emerged.

NYPD CIA Anti-Terror Operations Conducted In Secret For Years

NEW YORK — In New Brunswick, N.J., a building superintendent opened the door to apartment No. 1076 one balmy Tuesday and discovered an alarming scene: terrorist literature strewn about the table and computer and surveillance equipment set up in the next room.

The panicked superintendent dialed 911, sending police and the FBI rushing to the building near Rutgers University on the afternoon of June 2, 2009. What they found in that first-floor apartment, however, was not a terrorist hideout but a command center set up by a secret team of New York Police Department intelligence officers.

From that apartment, about an hour outside the department's jurisdiction, the NYPD had been staging undercover operations and conducting surveillance throughout New Jersey. Neither the FBI nor the local police had any idea.

What's All the Fuss About the Keystone XL Pipeline?

Hundreds of activists have arrived in Washington, DC, to protest the proposed Keystone XL project, a 1,661-mile pipeline that would carry oil from Canada's tar sands to refineries in Texas. If TransCanada gets the green light from the Obama administration, the pipeline would carry as much as 900,000 barrels of oil every day—oil with a carbon output 20 percent higher than conventional oil supplies.

The State Department is expected to release a final environmental impact statement on the proposal this month and issue a decision by the end of the year. The looming ruling has prompted activists to organize two weeks of protests at the White House—with several thousand expected to risk arrest.

Since the action began on Saturday, 212 people have been arrested outside of the White House. The majority have been processed and released, though some of the higher-profile activists were kept from Saturday through Monday morning, a move they believe was made to deter further protests. Writer and activist Bill McKibben (also a Mother Jones contributor), lawyer and environmental leader Gus Speth, and LGBT-rights activist Lt. Dan Choi were among those kept in jail.

Opposition to Keystone XL pipeline grows

The White House was rocked Tuesday, not only by a 5.9-magnitude earthquake, but by the protests mounting outside its gates. More than 2,100 people say they'll risk arrest there during the next two weeks. They oppose the Keystone XL pipeline project, designed to carry heavy crude oil from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

A "keystone" in architecture is the stone at the top of an arch that holds the arch together; without it, the structure collapses. By putting their bodies on the line -- as more than 200 have already at the time of this writing -- these practitioners of the proud tradition of civil disobedience hope to collapse not only the pipeline, but the fossil-fuel dependence that is accelerating disruptive global climate change.

Bill McKibben was among those already arrested. He is an environmentalist and author who founded the group, named after the estimated safe upper limit of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of 350 ppm (parts per million -- the planet is currently at 390 ppm). In a call to action to join the protest, McKibben, along with others including journalist Naomi Klein, actor Danny Glover and NASA scientist James Hansen, wrote the Keystone pipeline is "a 1,500-mile fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the continent, a way to make it easier and faster to trigger the final overheating of our planet."

The Earth's water crisis, our water crisis

Clean water is a right, enshrined both for humans under the UN World Water Program (though in a still-limited capacity because of politics ) and for the earth in Cochabamba's Rights of Mother Earth Accord.

Canada has been one of countries that has either blocked or failed to back motions on secure water rights. At the UN Commission on Human Rights in 2002, Canada was the only country to vote against the Right to Drinking Water and Sanitation. In the most recent vote in 2010, Canada abstained.

One of the main reasons for the Canadian government's unwillingness to enshrine water rights for even its own citizens is its complete failure to provide and ensure clean water for its First Nations communities. In fact, Canada's record on providing clean water to First Nations communities is both wretched and unforgivable; as the cost to fix the problem is not something any government has wanted to tackle, leaving remote -- and thus removed from Ottawa's concern -- communities to suffer the most due to lack of access to clean water and proper sanitation. This is racism in action.

Aboriginal Incarceration: Black Mark for Canada

Abhorrent rates of aboriginal imprisonment are linked, inextricably, to the social and economic position of First Nations communities.

In April, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo addressed the lack of discussion surrounding First Nations' issues during the 2011 Canadian federal election, suggesting that First Nations children are more likely to go to jail than to graduate from high school. The connection between school and prison is not accidental: Failure to graduate from high school and failure to make the transition from school to work are known to be linked with crime.