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, November 02, 2011

The Commons: A gun-measuring contest in the House

“Mr. Speaker,” declared Alice Wong, minister of state for seniors, reading carefully from the piece of paper in front of her, “I will take no lesson from the opposition.”

Both sides variously roared with agreement and soon thereafter the farce of this afternoon’s proceedings moved from thinly veiled to unabashed. Switch “I” for “we” and the government might have an answer for everything and we might be able to pronounce closure on this entire business of parliamentary democracy for at least the next four years. Think of all the time that would free up. Not to mention the money saved on electricity bills when we no longer have to bother pretending there’s a reason to keep the lights on in here.

The hour had actually begun on a stridently serious note, at least insofar as there is surely nothing more serious than the gun.

Wheat-board chief fears final harvest if Harper has his way

The Canadian Wheat Board is doomed if the Harper government proceeds with a bill to strip it of control over western grain sales, the beleaguered marketing agency’s chairman warns.

The farmer-controlled board is currently the world’s biggest grain exporter by volume but Allan Oberg says scrapping its monopoly power and allowing producers to sell their output through any middleman would spell the end of the agency.

Mr. Oberg is in Ottawa Wednesday to appear before a Conservative-dominated Commons committee that is briefly reviewing legislation to scrap the board’s monopoly over grain sales throughout Western Canada.

The debate over the wheat board is fundamentally a battle between individualism and collectivism – over whether, in 2011, these farmers should be obliged to pool their grain to seek a better price or whether they should be free to pursue their fortunes alone.

Pollution a threat to progress of poorest countries, says report

As the gap between rich and poor grows, along with reports of environmental disaster, many worry that their children’s lives will be worse than their own.

A report released Wednesday by the UN’s development program warns that unless there’s a serious global change of direction, living standards will plunge in the poorest countries by 2050, reversing decades of gradual gains.

RELATED: The UNDP report

Ford allies shelve ‘free press’ motion

Mayor Rob Ford’s executive committee has unanimously shelved a motion that would have stopped Ford and his staff from withholding official communications from media outlets they don’t like.

Councillor Adam Vaughan’s “free press and democracy” motion would have prohibited city employees and politicians from excluding any specific journalist or news outlet from any “media conference,” “media event” or news release.

Vaughan told executive committee members that his motion was not specifically about Ford’s relations with the Star. Ford’s office does not send releases or notices of events to the newspaper, rarely answers questions from it, and has excluded its reporters from background briefings.

Ford started to freeze out the Star as a mayoral candidate in July 2010 after it published a story about a confrontation between him and a high school football player he was coaching. Ford says the article was false, and he seeks a front-page apology.

Greek vote call risks Europe crisis plans

ATHENS — Europe’s days-old plan to solve its crippling debt crisis and restore faith in the global economy has been thrown into chaos by the Greek prime minister’s stunning decision to call a referendum on the country’s latest rescue package.

A ‘no’ vote could cause a devastating disorderly debt default in Athens that would cause bank failures across Europe, new recessions in the developed world and see Greece leave the common euro union. A top European official warned that if Athens were to go ahead with the referendum, it might not get the bailout funds it needs to avoid bankruptcy in two weeks.

The reaction in the markets was brutal, particularly in Europe, with the Athens exchange down a massive 6.8 percent on worries the turmoil could bring down the government.

Moshe Dayan's Widow Ruth: Zionist Dream Has Run Its Course

Elegantly dressed and perfectly made up, Ruth Dayan, 95, receives me with a wide smile in her Tel Aviv home overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The charismatic, alert, and extremely intelligent Dayan is the widow of Moshe Dayan, legendary chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Forces and a key leader in the war of independence in 1948. Indeed, Moshe Dayan was transformed into a symbol of national strength during the Six-Day War in 1967, when Israel took control of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights. The Israelis felt invincible with this imposing figure at the helm. Having lost his eye in battle, he chose to wear a black eye patch, which became his trademark. In the years since his death, Ruth has continued to act as one of Israel’s most outspoken elder statesmen.

Sixty-three years after the founders began to build a democratic, secure, prosperous state, Israel is still struggling: there is no peace deal in place with the Palestinians, tensions between Arabs and Israelis grow by the day, and the violence drags on. Under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party, Israel has been racked with political divisions. The government has moved to the right politically in order to keep a majority in Parliament. Yet over the summer, liberal Israelis set up tent cities protesting the massive income inequality and high cost of living that are plaguing the nation. Moshe Dayan is very much seen as one of the “founding fathers” of Israel. And there is a nostalgic turn today, mainly among the middle-class Ashkenazi who see him and his brethren as symbols of collective sacrifice and communal bonds.

MF Global Admitted Using Client Money As Troubles Mounted: Official

WASHINGTON — MF Global, the securities firm led by Jon Corzine, admitted using clients' money as its financial troubles mounted, a federal official says. The FBI is expected to investigate whether the firm's actions violated criminal laws, according to two people familiar with the situation.

An MF Global executive told regulators early Monday that the company had diverted client money, according to an official familiar with a separate probe by regulators. It isn't clear where the money ended up or what it might have been used for, the official said.

All three people spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

MF Global filed for bankruptcy protection Monday, after a big bet on European debt threatened to topple it. It became the first big Wall Street casualty of the European debt crisis.

Super Committee Could Pass A Resolution Giving Itself More Time

WASHINGTON -- The congressional super committee tasked with finding $1.5 trillion or so in deficit reduction is racing against the clock. Under its charter, the committee's 12 members must pass a proposal and make recommendation to Congress by November 23. Before that vote, however, they are required to take two days to look over Congressional Budget Office estimates of the proposal. The Congressional Budget Office, in turn, has indicated that it will likely need some set of proposals by early November if it is to produce the type of estimates that committee members need.

But if the super committee is running out of time, its members have the luxury of granting themselves an extension.

The committee can pass a resolution that would move the November 23 deadline back a few weeks (or more, if necessary). That resolution, provided that seven of the 12 members agree to it, would be sent to Congress. Once there, it would be granted the same parliamentary benefits enjoyed by the recommendations the committee is supposed to produce -- meaning it can neither be amended nor filibustered.

Harper’s fast-paced agenda designed to clear ‘tough stuff’ first, experts say

The Conservative government is racing at a hare’s pace to pass some key legislation – a deliberate bid to settle the “tough stuff” early in to the four-year mandate, according to experts.

From the omnibus crime bill, to wheat board reform, repealing the gun registry and adding seats to the House of Commons, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has adopted a quick tempo to tabling bills. The government is also moving fast to cross other campaign promises off the checklist, from building a memorial to Holocaust victims to forging new international trade ties.

University of Toronto Prof. Sandford Borins said Harper is delivering to his base on the social and cultural issues he wasn’t able to carry through without the majority.

He has the benefit of rewarding supporters – who have donated, voted and volunteered for the party – while capitalizing on the scattered opposition that is currently “in disarray.”

Borins said the fragile state of the economy is likely pushing Harper to deliver on the promises to core loyalists, which he may need to soften the blow if he needs to move to the centre on other fiscal issues.