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.]

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Why Whites Are More Pessimistic About Their Future Than Minorities

They dream in water, cotton, and brick. One of them is losing hope.

Not Tierra, who is black, and whose nursing ambitions could be delayed by another brutal electric bill. Not Ambar, a Latina and an aspiring lawyer who just lost the only home she ever knew.

Dave. Who is white, and who thought, finally, he'd made it. Who broke his back for a dream--a pension, a getaway cottage, security--that seems to be wavering in the Lake Erie haze.

He grew up in Detroit, where the upward mobility of the American middle class could be seen every Friday afternoon. Factory workers, driving cars they'd built, crowded I-75, heading north to their cottages. That was the deal that Dave Miller signed up for when he dropped out of Wayne State University and followed his dad into the firefighting ranks. The deal was supposed to include decent wages, health insurance, tuition, retirement, mortgages, and maybe, with overtime pay, a boat and a house on the lake--a physical reminder that hard work still pays like it always did.

Foreign Affairs Minister Baird demands gold on new business cards

OTTAWA - John Baird has set a new gold standard for business cards.

The Conservative foreign affairs minister demanded — and got — gold embossing on his business cards shortly after being shuffled into the portfolio last May, contrary to government rules.

Baird then ordered the word "Canada" dropped from the standard design, also against federal policy.

And he insisted that "Lester B. Pearson Building" be removed from the standard street address for Foreign Affairs' headquarters in Ottawa, thereby erasing the name of a former Liberal prime minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner.

The controversial changes initially provoked resistance from the senior Foreign Affairs bureaucrats who are responsible for implementing policies on government branding.

But in the end, Baird won a temporary exemption from the rules — and got his way.

A gold-embossed Canadian coat of arms now glistens from his unilingual English business cards, which lack the wordmark "Canada," a federal branding design that features a small Canadian flag above the last letter.

Geist: Why are consumers missing from CRTC’s online video ruling?

Earlier this year, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission launched a consultation into the policy implications of increasingly popular Internet-based video services such as Netflix.

The consultation was the CRTC’s response to broadcaster and cultural groups including Bell Media, Astral Media, ACTRA, the Canadian Media Production Association, and SOCAN, who formed the Online Broadcasting Working Group to urge it to step up to the regulatory plate.

While many feared the CRTC would jump at the chance for new Internet regulation, last week it surprised observers by rightly concluding that its consultation generated plenty of rhetoric about the dangers of an unregulated over-the-top video services market, but no evidence of real harm.

Given the lack of evidence and the absence of entry barriers for Canadian companies to establish their own competitive offerings, the CRTC decided to open a “watching brief” with the promise to revisit the issue in another fact-finding exercise next year.

Shipbuilding and politics

Twenty-five years ago this month, the federal government brokered one of the ugliest procurement deals in Canadian history. In October 1986, Brian Mulroney's Progressive Conservative administration awarded a maintenance contract for CF-18 fighter jets. The $100-million project went to a firm in Quebec.

However, internal documents showed a Winnipegbased company should have won the competition. Bristol Aerospace submitted a cheaper, better-supported bid.

But Quebec had some thing to offer that Manitoba did not. The province boasted 60 Tory MPs - almost a third of Mulroney's caucus. Although Ottawa promised to keep politics out of the decision, the fix was in from the start.

A quarter of a century later, B.C. shipbuilders must be wondering if history is about to repeat itself. The Department of Public Works and Government Services is preparing to award several packages of contracts for naval and non-combat vessels. And once again, Quebec is flexing its political muscles.

The bulk of the project, worth $33 billion, will be divided between two yards. Both are guaranteed at least 30 years of work.

Seaspan Marine, based in Vancouver, is one of four competitors. Company officials are confident they have a strong bid. All they need is a fair hearing. But will they get it?

Veterans complain Ottawa denying health-related travel benefits

Former members of the Canadian military who are struggling with mental health problems say they’re being denied benefits from Veterans Affairs to cover travel costs to their psychologists and other medical professionals.

Two veterans said they’ve received notice from the department that their travel coverage to psychologists and psychiatrists would end last summer, leaving them on the hook for the payments if they wanted to continue seeing them.

Steve Bird said he was told in June that Veterans Affairs would no longer pay costs associated with his regular trips from his home in southeastern Saskatchewan to Saskatoon to see a team of health-care providers.

Instead, he said the department wanted him to find a psychiatrist and psychologist in Regina, which is about two hours closer.

But Mr. Bird, who says he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and was medically released from the Forces in 2008, said he has made progress with his doctors and switching psychiatrists would only set him back.

The Fight for 'Real Democracy' at the Heart of Occupy Wall Street

Demonstrations under the banner of Occupy Wall Street resonate with so many people not only because they give voice to a widespread sense of economic injustice but also, and perhaps more important, because they express political grievances and aspirations. As protests have spread from Lower Manhattan to cities and towns across the country, they have made clear that indignation against corporate greed and economic inequality is real and deep. But at least equally important is the protest against the lack -- or failure -- of political representation. It is not so much a question of whether this or that politician, or this or that party, is ineffective or corrupt (although that, too, is true) but whether the representational political system more generally is inadequate. This protest movement could, and perhaps must, transform into a genuine, democratic constituent process.

The political face of the Occupy Wall Street protests comes into view when we situate it alongside the other "encampments" of the past year. Together, they form an emerging cycle of struggles. In many cases, the lines of influence are explicit. Occupy Wall Street takes inspiration from the encampments of central squares in Spain, which began on May 15 and followed the occupation of Cairo's Tahrir Square earlier last spring. To this succession of demonstrations, one should add a series of parallel events, such as the extended protests at the Wisconsin statehouse, the occupation of Syntagma Square in Athens, and the Israeli tent encampments for economic justice. The context of these various protests are very different, of course, and they are not simply iterations of what happened elsewhere. Rather each of these movements has managed to translate a few common elements into their own situation.