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, March 23, 2012

Tories seek to spur corporate R&D spending with new budget

If Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is the axe man, Gary Goodyear is the tooth fairy.

As Ottawa braces for the harshest federal budget in years, the Minister of State for Science and Technology is flitting across the country handing out cheques and talking up a looming overhaul of federal research and development programs.

Mr. Goodyear is the front man on the innovation file, and his domain is expected to consume a good chunk of the scant good news in the Conservative government’s first majority budget next week.

Speaking exactly one week before the budget, Mr. Flaherty acknowledged on Thursday that innovation and productivity will play a big part in Ottawa’s spending plans, now and for years to come.

“One of the major themes of the budget is going to be innovation, research and development and narrowing the productivity gap,” Mr. Flaherty said. “We’re looking at 2020 and beyond. We’re not just looking at next year and the year after that.”

The highlights of the plan are expected to include a move to more company-focused research in government labs, a shift to more direct funding of business research-and-development and fewer tax credits, and a rationalization of the dozens of government programs available to companies.

No 'substantial harm' from Paradis conflict of interest: Harper

BANGKOK, Thailand — Prime Minister Stephen Harper indicated Friday he has no intention of punishing Christian Paradis after the federal ethics commissioner found the industry minister to have been in a conflict of interest after arranging meetings for former Tory MP Rahim Jaffer.

"The appropriate thing in this case is for the minister simply to learn and to conduct himself with greater precaution in the future," Harper said at a press conference in Bangkok after announcing the first step towards free trade talks with Thailand.

Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson ruled Thursday that Paradis was in a conflict of interest when he arranged for Jaffer to meet with government officials and lobby them about a green business idea.

Responding to reporters' questions, Harper said he had read Dawson's report and "two things are clear."

"First of all, the minister didn't act with any ill intention of any kind. Nor has any substantial harm of any kind occurred."

Tories play down Flaherty’s time frame for OAS changes

For a brief moment, the fog of confusion hanging over Ottawa’s plans for Old Age Security lifted.

It didn’t last long.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty appeared to put a time frame on yet-to-be-announced changes to OAS.

“This is not for tomorrow morning,” said the 62-year-old minister, who was joined at an announcement in Oshawa by 52-year-old Conservative MP Colin Carrie. “This is for 2020, 2025 so that people who are middle-age and younger today, like Colin – not me – can be assured that they will have these social programs properly funded, fiscally responsible, that they’ll be there for them in the future.”

t no changes are imminent. In other words, exactly what the government has been saying since Prime Minister Stephen Harper started talking last month about addressing problems in Canada’s retirement income system.

Mr. Harper and Human Resources Minister Diane Finley have since confirmed that one option would be to raise the age of eligibility gradually to 67 from the current 65.

The War in the Woods

More than six years after a historic agreement to save the Great Bear Rainforest, the promise of protection remains unmet.

This is the first article in a three-part series on Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest. February marked the six-year anniversary of the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements, which were celebrated around the world as one of the greatest rainforest conservation stories of our time. To this day, however, half of the Great Bear Rainforest is still open to logging. Greenpeace, Sierra Club BC, and ForestEthics have launched a campaign calling on B.C. Premier Christy Clark to speed up the outstanding steps for healthy forests and thriving communities, before it’s too late.

In the spring of 2009, then-agriculture and lands minister Ron Cantelon declared, “The war [in the woods] is over.” The provincial government, industry, First Nations, and environmental groups had recently renewed their commitment to protect the Great Bear Rainforest from unsustainable levels of logging. The announcement came at the start of a heated election race in British Columbia, and was quickly established as a wedge issue, with voters long-convinced that the largest intact coastal temperate rainforest on the planet (which happened to be located in their backyard) should be preserved.

Harper sets Canada, Thailand on path to free-trade agreement

Thailand’s prime minister’s hailed the possibility of free-trade negotiations with Canada on Thursday and welcomed Ottawa’s rediscovered interest in southeast Asia.

In her remarks, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra noted that it has been 15 years since a Canadian prime minister last made a bilateral visit to the nation of 66 million, which is among the world’s fastest growing economies.

“This visit not only highlights the strong relations between our two countries but also reaffirms Canada’s re-engagement in Asia,” Ms. Shinawatra said after the two countries announced exploratory talks meant to determine if a trade pact is possible.

Jean Chrétien led the last official visit to Thailand when he brought along a Team Canada trade mission here.

Since coming to power in 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has faced criticism that he’s neglected trade opportunities in Asia, particularly in China where his administration’s strident criticism on human rights led to a cooling of relations.

Mr. Harper restated his desire to diversify Canada’s trade away from the U.S. market and preferred not to dwell on the past.

"How to Survive a Plague": As ACT UP Turns 25, New Film Chronicles History of AIDS Activism in U.S.

This weekend marks the 25th anniversary of ACT UP — the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power — an international direct action advocacy group formed by a coalition of activists outraged over the government’s mismanagement of the AIDS crisis. We speak with ACT UP founding member Peter Staley, one of the longest AIDS survivors in the country; and David France, director of the new documentary "How to Survive a Plague," which tells a remarkable history of AIDS activism and how it changed the country. "I’m alive because of that activism," Staley says of the triple drug therapy he was able to take. "This was a major victory this movie tells about getting these therapies. But that was only the beginning of the battle. Now we have these treatments that can keep people alive, and there are still two to three million dying every year. There are more dying now than when we actually got the therapies to save people. So it’s a huge failure of leadership internationally. And it shows a failure of our own healthcare system."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

As Reactors Age, the Money to Close Them Lags

WASHINGTON — The operators of 20 of the nation’s aging nuclear reactors, including some whose licenses expire soon, have not saved nearly enough money for prompt and proper dismantling. If it turns out that they must close, the owners intend to let them sit like industrial relics for 20 to 60 years or even longer while interest accrues in the reactors’ retirement accounts.

Decommissioning a reactor is a painstaking and expensive process that involves taking down huge structures and transporting the radioactive materials to the few sites around the country that can bury them. The cost is projected at $400 million to $1 billion per reactor, which in some cases is more than what it cost to build the plants in the 1960s and ’70s.

Mothballing the plants makes hundreds of acres of prime industrial land unavailable for decades and leaves open the possibility that radioactive contamination in the structures could spread. While the radioactivity levels decline over time, many communities worry about safe oversight.

Bills that once seemed far into the future may be coming due. The license for Vermont Yankee in Vernon, Vt., at 40 the nation’s oldest reactor, expires on Wednesday, for example. And while the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has granted its owner, Entergy, a new 20-year permit, the State of Vermont is trying to close the plant.

Canada ranked worst of G7 nations in fighting bribery, corruption

Canada has again been scolded on the international stage for its “lack of progress” in fighting bribery and corruption by a watchdog agency that ranks it among the worst of nearly 40 countries.

Transparency International, a group that monitors global corruption, put Canada in the lowest category of countries with “little or no enforcement” when it comes to applying bribery standards set out by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

In a report to be released Tuesday, the group singled out Canada as the only G7 country that has been stuck at the bottom of bribery-fighting rankings since TI began issuing its reports in 2005.

“Unless there is strong political will to take this on as an important issue, Canada and other countries that are laggards will remain behind,” said Huguette Labelle, the chair of Transparency International and a Canadian who served as a deputy minister in Ottawa for 19 years. “It is important for Canada’s reputation. We need to move from where we are now.”

The poor rating places Canada in the embarrassing company of countries like Greece, Hungary, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia – although New Zealand and Australia are also among the 21 countries in the bottom rung.

Student protest: Solidarity in the streets

MONTREAL - There was no denying the magnitude of the message delivered by striking university and CÉGEP students on Thursday, as tens of thousands of them marched peacefully - albeit noisily - through the streets of Montreal to denounce the provincial government’s plan to raise tuition fees.

The scope of this student movement could suddenly be seen and protesters themselves could be heard muttering reverential “wows” and “awesome” as they surveyed the crowd, estimated at 200,000 by student organizers, but believed to be somewhat lower by police who don’t give official numbers.

Still, it was impressive - likely matching or surpassing the huge pre-referendum rally in 1995 and said by organizers to have spanned 50 city blocks.

Sporting symbolic red felt squares and red tank tops, coveralls, kilts and anything else they could find, the students congregated at Peel St. and René Levesque Blvd. for a couple of hours, enjoying the summery day and a festive atmosphere before the actual march through downtown and into Old Montreal.

Air Canada ramp crews stage ‘illegal’ strike at Toronto’s Pearson airport

Air Canada ramp crews walked off the job and staged a demonstration at Terminal 1 at Pearson airport Thursday night.

“I can confirm that there has been illegal job action by a small number of ground handling employees at Pearson,” Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said in an email.

“However, the majority of employees continue to do their jobs and take care of our customers. It is too soon to say what if any effect this activity will have on our schedule, however it has not resulted in any cancellations at this point.”

GTAA spokesman Scott Armstrong confirmed the late-night demonstration resulted in some delays. At least 12 planes leaving from Toronto between 9 p.m. and midnight were reported delayed on GTAA’s website.

Ramp attendants prepare planes for takeoff and landing on the ground and handle baggage.

Some passengers on board Air Canada flight 140, which landed at 9:49, said on Twitter they were stuck on their plane for nearly an hour and a half while the ground crews were striking.

“Customers shout #westjet as they leave #AC140 flight!” Lucia Conner, a marketing director at Yorkdale shopping centre, wrote. Half an hour later, Conner tweeted she was still waiting for her baggage.

More than a dozen Air Canada flights were cancelled last weekend after pilots called in sick. The airline suggested the pilots were engaging in illegal strike action after the federal government ordered no strikes or lockouts, but union officials blamed foggy weather for the cancellations.

Original Article
Source: Star
Author: Emily Jackson