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.]

Friday, December 23, 2011

Canadian Forces aims to build alliances outside traditional partners: MacKay

Canada wants to expand its strategic military alliances beyond the traditional partners, says National Defence Minister Peter MacKay.

In a year-end interview with iPolitics, MacKay said Canada is looking to build stronger strategic partnerships with countries such as Kuwait and Qatar that are outside the “traditional circles.” Expanding relations outside NATO would enable Canada to put a “light footprint” in the region, he said.

“We’re not talking about setting up big full-time infrastructure, but having the ability, in some cases, to land aircraft, store equipment, to deploy in or through another country if need be,” McKay said. “So it has that very basic strategic interest and it also allows us to benefit from others experience and proximity. We’re constantly looking to share information with like-minded countries. There is a criteria to determining who those partners are — and some of it’s based on history, and some of it’s based on more recent history.”

Kuwait and Qatar are small, but strategically important countries in the Gulf region, both are wealthy and under less authoritarian rule than some of their neighbouring countries.

I Shall Not Hate: A small book that should change Harper’s foreign policy

Exactly three years ago, Israel attacked the Gaza Strip. It is of course quite impossible to write anything about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without being accused of bias by someone, and the Gaza war is no exception. But here are what I believe to be agreed facts.

Israel stated the attack was to stop rockets being fired from Gaza into Israel. Since 2001, thousands had been launched resulting in 28 Israeli deaths and hundreds of casualties. The Gazans responsible said they were justified in attacking Israel as an occupying power.

During the three-week operation, 1,200 to 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed. Of the 13, three were civilians and ten soldiers. Of the Palestinians, about 700 were civilians, 250 of them younger than 16. All fighting occurred on Gaza soil. Four thousand homes were destroyed by the Israeli Defence Forces. Tens of thousands were left homeless. Many observers, including Israeli human rights groups and a UN commission, found the Israelis guilty of using seriously disproportionate force.

The Emergent Voice of Afghanistan's Women

While oppression still dominates, Afghan women can now be the authors of a new narrative.

Stories of the honour killing and ongoing oppression of Afghan women are agonizing, but it is promising to see that the killers are being trailed and the news is reaching the world. The tragic case of the Shafia family is still underway in Canada, and, in November, in the Ghazni province of Afghanistan, a mother and daughter were stoned and shot dead 300 meters away from the governor’s office. They were charged with “immoral deviation and adultery” – another instance of women’s oppression in Afghanistan. And yet, perversely, for women living in Afghanistan, these, and many similar, stories show the strengthened voice that they have gained in civil society. The dominant culture still creates case after case of oppression against women, yet the Independent Human Rights Commission, which is headed by a woman, documents and publicizes these cases for the first time.

Questioning the Merits of Globalization

Not everyone buys into the notion that the world is increasingly integrated, or that such integration is a good thing.

Visit the new CIC website at OpenCanada.Org. Canada's hub for international affairs.

Thomas Friedman has had a difficult couple of weeks. If one follows the statements and actions of major figures in international affairs – and commentaries on OpenCanada – over the last couple of weeks, it appears that his “flat world” thesis is no longer so flatly uncontested. Not everyone buys into the notion that the world is increasingly integrated, and that we need to embrace the tide of integration.

First, David Cameron vetoed a new EU-wide treaty designed to address the eurozone’s economic plight. Jennifer Welsh repudiated any analogy between Cameron’s embrace of “splendid and detached isolation” and Churchill’s over 70 years earlier. While going alone served the British national interest then, in a world of Globalization 3.0 (as Friedman describes it), the case is much less clear. The financial sector accounts for only 10 per cent of British GDP – was spurning key allies like France and Germany really worth saving the city? It would be one thing if Cameron had closed the door to Europe with the intention of opening it to, say, China. It appears, however, that he simply said a Tory ta-ta to globalization.

Then, as John Hancock put it, Canada gave the finger to the rest of the world over Kyoto. For all of its inadequacies, Kyoto represented a global solution to a global problem. Like the Montreal protocol before it, Kyoto accepted that certain problems cannot be dealt with by individual nations acting alone. It implicitly acknowledged that national borders are coming down – that globalization is as much of a reality as global warming. Canada’s withdrawal, then, represented another Tory ta-ta to globalization.

Canada’s F-you – and Britain’s, to a lesser extent – was incredibly shortsighted. It is not just Chiquita banana that took note – so, too, did international organizations like Oxfam (which tweeted that it was “an affront to poor people fighting #climate change around the world”) and the international media (like The Globe’s Doug Saunders, who tweeted: “You can just watch Canada’s international reputation collapse in the international press this morning. All to save $14 billion”).

Oil patch pushes for immigration change

Canada’s energy industry is pushing the federal government to reform the country’s immigration policy as the oil patch grapples with the looming threat of a severe labour shortage.

Alberta is facing a shortage of 77,000 workers within the next 10 years, according to a recent report from Ernst & Young, which cited the provincial government. The oil sands’ projected growth is a key force behind the deficit, with bitumen production expected to double by 2020 as companies pour billions of dollars into their projects. While labourers enjoy higher wages as the employee pool dries up, rising salaries eat into corporate profits and put projects at risk of delay.

“There obviously is an increasing gap between what we think we need to deliver these sorts of growth projects and the available work force,” Mr. Collyer said in an interview on Thursday. “The industry and governments, frankly, need to get ourselves better organized to deal with those issues.”

Ottawa needs to put “more focus on people who have the kinds of skills to advance the interest of the Canadian economy,” he said. “Our industry is saying: ‘Let’s look at the gaps, let’s understand what the economy needs.’”

Why was ORNGE chopper delayed 44 minutes as cyclist lay dying in rural hospital?

Lindsey Sanders, second from righ
Lindsey Sanders was a smart, community-minded young student at the University of Guelph with a future as promising as it gets. She was named Citizen of the Year for saving a senior’s life; she did important research in Honduras.

In an instant on a road in Uxbridge last summer that changed. A truck crashed into her bike, leaving her critically injured.

She had been on her way to visit her grandparents.

Four months later the Sanders case is one of a series that provincial investigators are probing to see if problems at Ontario’s ORNGE air ambulance service extend to patient care.

The Star has discovered that in the Sanders accident a series of mistakes and miscues led to a 44-minute delay in dispatching an air ambulance helicopter from Toronto in a desperate bid to save her life.

ORNGE documents show the medical air service is trying to reduce the number of times it launches an aircraft and then calls it back. The problem is this policy has resulted in numerous occasions when the air ambulance should have been launched but is delayed.

Federal Judge Questions SEC Settlement

A federal judge in Milwaukee has criticized the Securities and Exchange Commission for being too soft with corporate enforcement, marking the second time the agency has been criticized for weak settlements in the past month.

Shadowing last month's decision by U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff to kibosh the agency's $258 million proposed settlement with Citibank, a federal judge in Milwaukee told the SEC that its proposed settlement with the Koss Corp. is too vague and asked the agency to provide more facts by January 24. In October the SEC charged Koss Corp., a headphone-manufacturer, with accounting fraud.

Wednesday's ruling from U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa is the latest in a string of actions by federal judges to challenge the way the government agency enforces regulations. The decision underscores the significance of the November ruling by Judge Rakoff to toss out the proposed settlement between the SEC and Citigroup that didn't have enough facts, Rakoff said, and did not force the corporation to admit guilt.

After the Citibank settlement, the SEC responded, saying the proposed agreement was business as usual. But Judge Rakoff's decision -- now followed by Judge Randa -- suggests the status quo is getting a rethink.

Occupy Wall Street Protesters Sue Over Free Speech, Use Of Force

Most major Occupy encampments have been dispersed, but they live on in a flurry of lawsuits in which protesters are asserting their constitutional rights to free speech and assembly and challenging authorities' mass arrests and use of force to break up tent cities.

Lawyers representing protesters have filed lawsuits – or are planning them – in state and federal courts from coast to coast, challenging eviction orders and what they call heavy-handed police tactics and the banning of demonstrators from public properties.

Some say the fundamental right of protest has been criminalized in places, with protesters facing arrest and charges while doing nothing more than exercising protected rights to demonstrate.

"When I think about the tents as an expression of the First Amendment here, I compare it to Tahrir Square in Egypt," said Carol Sobel, co-chairwoman of the National Lawyers Guild's Mass Defense Committee.

Defence Minister MacKay granted $477 million budget to keep Canada in space race

OTTAWA — Every few days or so, a list of decisions made by the federal cabinet quietly is published on a government website.

For the most part, it is a rather bland listing dealing with the minutiae of running government.

On Oct. 6, however, an interesting one popped up. Essentially, it gave Defence Minister Peter MacKay permission to spend up to $477 million to ensure Canada's involvement in a new, U.S.-led military satellite program.

It's unclear how long the government had been negotiating to get on board, but this order-in-council posting was the first public indication of how close a deal really was.

The Global Wideband Satellite program, or Mercury Global, is interesting for a number of reasons.

First, Boeing, the company in charge of developing it, says it is for "warfighters."

The idea is to place satellites in set locations all over the world so U.S. and allied soldiers operating overseas will have access to top-quality, secure wide-band communications.

The Conservative government's intention to spend up to half-a-billion dollars to sign Canada onto the program is a sign it sees Canadian soldiers continuing to be deployed to hot spots around the globe.