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.]

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The secrets of political summits

It is summit season again. In just over a week we have had three. The Nato summit was held in President Obama's home town Chicago; the G8 met in a display of conspicuous parsimony at Camp David rather than in the usual grand resort; and yet another EU summit took place in Brussels.

Summits happen so often now that leaders see more of their foreign colleagues than they do of their cabinet colleagues or even their families. Prime ministerial and presidential entourages criss-cross the skies in their planes. Aides scurry in the wake of world leaders, clutching bulging piles of agenda papers.

Of course, summits have existed as long as leaders have. Think of Henry VIII's Field of the Cloth of Gold, the Congress of Vienna or Yalta. Those were once-in-a-lifetime events that took leaders weeks or months to get to. But in the 1970s a new sort of summitry began, fuelled by easy air travel and an increasing role for leaders in foreign policy, at the expense of diplomats.

The Outsourcing of the Cyberwar

Among certain national-security and public-policy circles, there is a growing trend to approach the challenges of cyber-security and cyber-war through the lens of the Cold War. While Cold War experiences can be useful to understand recent developments like the “militarization” of cyberspace, adopting Cold War strategies for cyber-security may do more harm than good for many reasons, not the least of which is that such a framework puts at risk Internet freedom – a value recognized at last year’s G8 summit – as it is much easier for governments, both foreign and domestic, to justify Internet censorship and citizen surveillance during times of war.

But Cold War strategies may also pose a risk to security because, in focusing on state-led conduct or state-on-state cyber-activity and conflicts, they fail to adequately address an emerging threat to cyber-security: the role of non-state actors.

The Internet Is Getting A 'Cat Signal'

The Internet has a new line of defense against laws like SOPA and PIPA that threaten the web's free-flow of information: The Internet Defense League.

The roster of websites that have already signed up reads like the Internet's own version of the Justice League. According to AllThingsD, "WordPress, Imgur, Reddit, Cheezburger Network, Public Knowledge, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Craigslist founder Craig Newmark" have all agreed to participate.

The group plans to help organize websites around a specific issue that might threaten the Internet as we know it. Whenever the Defense League wants to organize a new cause, they send out code to participating websites that adds a pop up message -- the 'cat signal' -- for every new user that visits the site. The message will ask visitors to participate in some form of protest, like "a prominent message asking everyone to call their elected leaders," according to the IDL's website.

As the IDL point out on their website, the mass protests and blackouts helped beat SOPA and PIPA in the past, and the aim of the new group is to be able to organize protests and blackouts more quickly should another bill threaten the way the Internet operates.

Original Article
Source: the atlantic wire
Author: Connor Simpson

Ottawa under the gun to end CP strike

As the economic impact of the strike against Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. (CP-T77.17-0.08-0.10%) mounts, industries across the country are urging the federal government to intervene when Parliament resumes Monday.

More than $50-million of grain is stuck in elevators and thousands of new cars and trucks are effectively stranded, awaiting CP to get the trains rolling. Manufacturers and miners are sounding the alarm about disruptions to the supply chain while the propane industry is worried about bottlenecks.

Supply chain pressures for both imports and exports are becoming severe, Port Metro Vancouver said Sunday. The port is part of a growing chorus of industry groups and companies urging Ottawa to introduce back-to-work legislation as the CP strike by 4,800 members of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference enters its sixth day on Monday.

John Cummins casts eye on premier’s chair

John Cummins is looking towards the brass ring.

The B.C. Conservative leader made a forecast for next spring’s provincial election while speaking to about 70 people at the Village Green  Hotel Friday.

“It will be a fight between the Conservatives and the NDP for government in this province,” he said.

Recent polls have placed the B.C. Conservatives in a virtual dead-heat with the ruling Liberals, with the NDP garnering about 50 per cent popularity.

“Our support is growing and people like what they hear,” said Cummins, who has been making stops across the Interior in the last few days.

CP, union talks break off leaving stage clear for back-to-work legislation

OTTAWA - Canadian Pacific says negotiations with its striking employees have stalled.

The railway company says that the mediator withdrew Sunday afternoon leaving the door open for the government to table legislation to end the five-day old strike.

Earlier, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt had said she was still hopeful the two parties could show progress, but that she would not wait long.

Raitt warned last week that the government is prepared to introduce back-to-work legislation as early as Monday if CP and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference — which represents workers at CP as well as employees at Canadian National Railway (TSX:CN) can't reach a deal.

Raitt signalled her intention to introduce back to work legislation last week and is now in position to table it on Monday, when the House resumes from a week's recess.

About 4,800 unionized CP workers walked off the job Wednesday, halting the company's freight train service across the country.

Original Article
Source: winnipeg free press
Author: The Canadian Press 

Afghanistan: NATO Airstrikes Killed 8 Civilians

KABUL, Afghanistan — The U.S.-led coalition on Sunday disputed reports that eight civilians, including children, were killed in a NATO airstrike in a remote part of eastern Afghanistan.

Afghan officials said an airstrike Saturday night killed eight members of a family, but a senior NATO official said that so far, there is no evidence of any civilian casualties. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose the information.

Separately, NATO reported that three coalition service members were killed Sunday in eastern Afghanistan – two during an insurgent attack and one from a roadside bombing.

U.S. Hopes Assad Can Be Eased Out With Russia’s Aid

WASHINGTON — In a new effort to halt more than a year of bloodshed in Syria, President Obama will push for the departure of President Bashar al-Assad under a proposal modeled on the transition in another strife-torn Arab country, Yemen.

The plan calls for a negotiated political settlement that would satisfy Syrian opposition groups but that could leave remnants of Mr. Assad’s government in place. Its goal is the kind of transition under way in Yemen, where after months of violent unrest, President Ali Abdullah Saleh agreed to step down and hand control to his vice president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, in a deal arranged by Yemen’s Arab neighbors. Mr. Hadi, though later elected in an uncontested vote, is viewed as a transitional leader.

The success of the plan hinges on Russia, one of Mr. Assad’s staunchest allies, which has strongly opposed his removal.

The Brash Hypocrisy of Lanny Davis

Guys, we need to talk about Lanny Davis. Let me update you on what you've missed:

First, Lanny Davis spent the last decade or so selling influence in Washington, using various platforms -- often without disclosing his financial interest -- to take up the causes of for-profit colleges, chemical companies, and even violent dictators and a military junta.

And then the other day, I made a joke at his expense.

    There is too much wrong with Washington to say "So and so represents everything that's wrong with Washington." But it's Lanny Davis.

Alberta Speeding Laws: Province Considers Allowing Vehicle Seizure For Extreme Speeds

EDMONTON - Alberta will consider giving police the authority to immediately seize the vehicles of people caught driving at extreme speeds as one way to reduce highway deaths and injuries.

Transportation Minister Ric McIver said speeding is rampant in the province and noted that police recently nabbed two pickup trucks roaring down the dangerous highway between Edmonton and Fort McMurray at 180 km/h.

"I think it is worth looking at. I think it is worth it for me hearing out Albertans' opinions on this to see if they would support it," McIver said. "I think the public would support taking those vehicles right away."

Moscow Gay Pride Protests Blocked By Russia Police

MOSCOW -- Gay activists tried to stage two demonstrations in Moscow on Sunday to demand the right to hold a gay pride parade in the Russian capital, but they were blocked first by Orthodox Christian opponents and then by police, who detained a total of about 40 people from both sides.

The gay activists first gathered outside the city council building, where a few scuffles occurred as their opponents tried to disrupt the demonstration, decrying homosexuality as a sin. After police broke up that protest, another group tried to stage a second protest at city hall, but once again police moved in and detained participants, including prominent gay rights activist Nikolai Alexeyev.

The majority of those detained were gay activists, but some of the Christian demonstrators also were pushed into police buses. Police said about 40 people were detained in all.

Canada's Income Inequality: What Is It, And How Bad?

In the past year the Occupy movement and its rallying cry of “we are the 99 per cent” brought into the limelight the growing gap between the richest and poorest in the United States and the world. In December, columnist Charles M. Blow wrote in the New York Times that income inequality could be “the new global warming.”

Over the last 30 years, the distance between the richest and poorest Canadians has widened considerably. Using different income definitions will slightly change who belongs to Canada’s “one per cent” and “99 per cent,” but the basic story stays the same across a wide breadth of statistics: the richest Canadians make disproportionately more than the poorest, and, more importantly, in the last three decades income for the richest Canadians has increased far faster than it has for the poorest.

Environmental coalition pulls out of talks with B.C.'s largest fish-farm company

VANCOUVER - A unique relationship meant to reduce conflict between environmental groups and British Columbia's largest salmon farming company has fallen apart.

The Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform and Marine Harvest Canada confirmed Saturday that the project, known as the Framework for Dialogue, is officially over.

It appears the two sides could not agree on research related to sea lice and closed- containment farming. What remains unclear now is whether or not more conflict is coming to the often testy and confrontational debate over salmon farming.

"The industry growing salmon in British Columbia is continuing to improve," said Clare Backman, a spokesman for Marine Harvest Canada.

NATO Signs Contract For New Generation UAVs While Canada Opts Out of the Alliance Ground Surveillance System

The contract is intended to provide for the purchase and initial operation and maintenance of five Block 40 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft equipped with an advanced ground surveillance radar sensor — the Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program (MP-RTIP).

Under the contract, European industry contributors will be responsible for development and delivery of the transportable ground stations suitable for in-theatre support directly to commanders of deployed forces, mobile ground stations for close support to moving operations, and remote workstations for higher echelon commands.

Northrop Grumman and its industrial partners joined NATO leadership and 28 ministers of defense from NATO member countries for the signing in Chicago.

Harper is right: Foreign radicals are after the oil sands

Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have courageously chosen to expose and confront foreign interests that have surreptitiously been infiltrating the Canadian oil industry – and they don’t mean their Chinese Communist partners. They are apparently in possession of revelations about these extremists and criminals that, in the words of Senator Nicole Eaton, “would make your blood boil.”

Launching a much-needed Senate inquiry into “interference of foreign foundations in Canada’s domestic affairs” and their “abuse” of registered charitable status, Ms. Eaton stated: “There is political manipulation. There is influence peddling. There are millions of dollars crossing borders masquerading as charitable donations.” I am glad to contribute to their work.

Pollution monitoring team faces cuts

The federal government plans to break up a team of Environment Canada smokestack specialists that played a key role working with enforcement officers and industry to crack down on toxic pollution, a Postmedia News investigation has revealed.

Details of the cuts emerged through a series of leaked documents and interviews that revealed members of the Ottawa-based group of scientists were told their current roles would be eliminated over the next year.

Environment Minister Peter Kent declined an interview request from Postmedia News on Friday about cuts in his department, but a spokesman said the department was shifting toward using outside sources of research to avoid “duplication” on information that “already is obtained from credible sources.” One month earlier, his office declined to comment about cuts to the team, explaining that it couldn’t answer questions because of “privacy” concerns and “consideration” for the department’s employees.

Internal review absolves bureaucrats who violated privacy of veterans

OTTAWA - An independent investigator who reviewed privacy violations at Veterans Affairs Canada told the Harper government in late 2010 it was appropriate to include the personal medical information of an outspoken advocate in briefing material, say internal federal documents.

The central finding of the Amprax Inc. review flies in the face of the country's privacy watchdog, who concluded almost two years ago that two briefing notes sprinkled with the references to well-known critic Sean Bruyea's psychiatric reports broke the law.

The report was prepared for former veterans minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn at the insistence of bureaucrats who were the target of Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart's scathing critique of the case.

Talks between CP, union stall; Raitt prepared to step in

Talks between Canadian Pacific Railway and the union representing its 4,800 striking workers broke off Sunday, paving the way for the federal government to introduce back-to-work legislation when MPs return to Ottawa on Monday.

"Talks between #CPRail & @TeamstersCanada derailed; back-to-work legislation expected Monday #cdnpoli," CTV's Richard Madan tweeted late Sunday afternoon.

CP said the mediator working to bring the two sides to a deal walked away from the talks Sunday afternoon.

The news came hours after Labour Minister Lisa Raitt expressed hope the two sides would come to a resolution, but indicated the federal government was prepared to step in if the ongoing labour dispute appeared to threaten the economy.

Montreal protesters march in peaceful defiance

The clanging of pots and pans sounded throughout Montreal's downtown core Saturday night and into early Sunday morning, as thousands of protesters marched on in peaceful — but loud — defiance of Bill 78.

The nightly student protests have expanded to include other groups primarily concerned with the new special law, which sets restrictions for organized public rallies.

There was no such mass violence or chaos reported late Saturday, as there had been a week before. More than 300 people were arrested during those weekend clashes between riot police and demonstrators. About 10 people were injured.

Are schools going too far in measuring student BMI and banning junk food?

It’s the takes-a-village question, applied to waistlines.

Around the world, children are being weighed and measured not just by their family doctors but by educators – and that information is being tallied alongside their grades on report cards. School nurses in such places as Arkansas, Malaysia and the United Kingdom have been measuring students’ body mass index and sending home assessments of their risk for obesity.

Is that going too far? Is it really a school’s role to make sure kids are physically healthy? Or is that solely the parents’ responsibility?

When Arkansas legislated BMI recording in 2003, many parents were outraged. “There were those who felt like it led to kids being teased and embarrassed, and placed an unfair burden on school districts to conduct the screenings,” said Seth Blomley, the communications director of the Arkansas Education Department. “Some felt that parents, not schools, should take the lead in making sure their kids were healthy.”

Mayor Rob Ford has deeply cut his workload, documents show

Documents obtained by the Star through a freedom of information request suggest Mayor Rob Ford is doing less than half the official work he was doing this time last year.

The mayor’s official itineraries appear to lend credence to accusations levied by his opponents earlier this week that Ford is an absentee mayor.

Unlike predecessor David Miller, who released his schedule in advance, Ford keeps his itinerary secret. The Star obtains his daily schedules months later under freedom of information legislation.

The most recent batch, released Friday, covers the period from November 2011 until mid-March 2012. It paints a picture of a mayor who has withdrawn from the day-to-day operations of the city.

N.L. Premier 'At Odds' With Peter MacKay

The government of Newfoundland and Labrador is growing increasingly frustrated with Conservative MP Peter MacKay, whose responsibilities as minister of national defence include overseeing search and rescue.

In an interview airing Saturday on CBC Radio's The House, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale was asked if she was at odds with her federal counterparts, to which she told host Evan Solomon: "I'm certainly at odds with Minister MacKay."

"Certainly in terms of search and rescue here in the province, but particularly in terms of the humanitarian response that we looked for [from] them on the search for that young man from Labrador."

CAW-CEP Merger: As Membership Declines, Some Unions Decide To Fight In Unexpected Places

In a bid to reinvent themselves amid flagging influence and a less-than-friendly political atmosphere, unions are increasingly focusing their attention outside their ranks, advocating for workers who don’t have a collective bargaining agreement -- or pay membership dues.

Part outreach and part marketing, the strategy is being lauded by experts who say that to regain relevance, unions must look beyond their traditional base, which is increasingly under siege. But for unions accustomed to organizing large groups of workers under a single roof, it’s also an approach that will require considerable resources and adaptability, reflecting the fundamental nature of the transition that Big Labour is eyeing.

Quebec students signal they could be ready to compromise on tuition hikes

MONTREAL—Quebec student leaders are signalling they may be ready to compromise on the core of their dispute with the government — the province’s plan to raise tuition.

Leaders of the province’s three main student associations could meet the province’s education minister as early as Monday.

Martine Desjardins, a leader for one of the groups, says both sides must be prepared to compromise for the crisis to come to an end.

Another student leader, Leo Bureau-Blouin, made headlines Saturday when he told CBC Radio he would be willing to accept some form of tuition increase.

G20 senior commander facing misconduct charges for ordering U of T mass arrest

Toronto police Insp. Gary Meissner is facing disciplinary action for ordering the early-morning raid and unlawful mass arrests at the University of Toronto during the G20 summit two years ago, the Star has learned.

In a 120-page report, the province’s police complaint’s watchdog alleges Meissner was responsible for one of the most embarrassing errors committed by police during the G20. On June 27, 2010, he failed to obtain a proper warrant before officers under his command barged into a U of T gym and arrested more than 100 people — all of whom later had their charges withdrawn due to the oversight. In a report dated March 2011, a House of Commons standing committee condemned the U of T operation.

While it has been previously reported that Meissner is one of two senior Toronto police officers facing misconduct hearings, it was unclear what the allegations were against him until now. He was also in charge of deploying the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) at Queen’s Park.