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.]

Monday, June 25, 2012

St. Jean Baptiste parade gets political as red squares follow

MONTREAL - After the girls dressed as fleurs-de-lis passed, after the giant effigies of historical Quebecers, after the flag dancers, the Rigodon fiddlers, the samba batteries and the Hare Krishnas, the St. Jean Baptiste parade got suddenly, unusually political.

Behind the blue cordon that demarcates the end of the official parade, members of the Réseau de résistance du québécois carried large letters that spelled DEHORS CHAREST — Out Charest.

The real reason Rio+20 failed

Rio+20 failed, plain and simple. Few are surprised, and many are grasping at straws within the weak, toothless text in order to claim victory, but - as one friend said in a final email about Rio+20 - we need to call a cat, a cat. 

Now we don't really know where that phrase comes from, but it's pretty on point. While the failure of Rio+20 is certain, the question that organizers, youth and changemakers fighting for a more just and sustainable planet need ask ourselves is why?

Ethical investors say federal budget creating "financial risk"

OTTAWA — Changes proposed to Canada's environmental laws in the federal government's budget implementation bill could "discourage investment" and create long-term financial risks to the economy, warns a national association representing nearly three dozen financial institutions, investment firms and credit unions.

In a letter sent to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Social Investment Organization said that changes to federal laws governing environmental assessments, fisheries, and endangered species would fail to meet responsible and ethical standards demanded by a growing number of investors.

‘Parks Canada is being gutted,’ former deputy minister warns

A former deputy minister at Environment Canada says the Conservative government is gutting Parks Canada.

Jacques Gérin was with the department from 1977 to 1985, including three years as deputy minister. In a letter to Environment Minister Peter Kent, he said federal budget cuts will undermine a decade of progress on protecting the ecological integrity, or health, of Canada’s national parks.

Harper In Quebec: Harper Government Prepared To Work With Parti Quebecois, Christian Paradis Says

ST.-NARCISSE-DE-BEAURIVAGE, Que. - The Conservative government tried Sunday to downplay concerns about its difficulties in Quebec, saying it has shared interests with the province and is prepared to work with whatever political party is in power.

Christian Paradis, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Quebec lieutenant, suggested the Conservatives would find common ground if the sovereigntist Parti Quebecois won the next provincial election.

Poisoning Workers at the Bottom of the Food Chain

Laboring in the blackberry fields of central Arkansas, the 18-year-old Mexican immigrant suddenly turned ill. Her nose began to bleed, her skin developed a rash, and she vomited.

The doctor told her it was most likely flu or bacterial infection, but farmworker Tania Banda-Rodriguez suspected pesticides. Under federal law, growers must promptly report the chemicals they spray.

Supreme Court: More Elections for Sale

The US Supreme Court may still retain some familiarity with the Constitution when it comes to deciding the nuances of cases involving immigration policy and lifetime incarceration. But when it comes to handing off control of American democracy to corporations, the Court continues to reject the intents of the founders and more than a century of case law to assure that CEOs are in charge.

Make no mistake, this is not a “free speech” or “freedom of association” stance by the Court’s Republican majority. That majority is narrowing the range of debate. It is picking winners. To turn a phrase from the old union song, this Court majority has decided which side it is on.

Eurozone Crisis Sparks Fear Of 'Replay Of 2008 On Steroids'

June 24 (Reuters) - Grim. Serious. Terrifying. Nerve-rattling.

These are the words some prominent American investors and strategists are using to describe the worsening debt crisis in the euro zone and its impact on the global economy.

While growth has been slowing in China and the United States and companies warn about the effect on earnings, there is a mounting sense among the financial community that politicians and markets are operating on two completely different timelines.

George Soros: Germany Has 3 Days Left To Save Eurozone Through Fiscal Union

Billionaire investor George Soros says Germany has three days left to spearhead the creation of the "embryo" of a European fiscal union in order to save the eurozone. (Hat tip: Business Insider's Joe Weisenthal.)

"There's a disagrement on the fiscal side, and unless that is resolved in the next three days, then I'm afraid the summit could turn out to be a fiasco, and that could be acutally fatal because you are facing the possiblity of Greece leaving the euro and perhaps the European Union, and you need to strengthen the remaining euro structure to withstand that shock," Soros told Bloomberg TV.

Why Women Still Can’t Have It All

Eighteen months into my job as the first woman director of policy planning at the State Department, a foreign-policy dream job that traces its origins back to George Kennan, I found myself in New York, at the United Nations’ annual assemblage of every foreign minister and head of state in the world. On a Wednesday evening, President and Mrs. Obama hosted a glamorous reception at the American Museum of Natural History. I sipped champagne, greeted foreign dignitaries, and mingled. But I could not stop thinking about my 14-year-old son, who had started eighth grade three weeks earlier and was already resuming what had become his pattern of skipping homework, disrupting classes, failing math, and tuning out any adult who tried to reach him. Over the summer, we had barely spoken to each other—or, more accurately, he had barely spoken to me. And the previous spring I had received several urgent phone calls—invariably on the day of an important meeting—that required me to take the first train from Washington, D.C., where I worked, back to Princeton, New Jersey, where he lived. My husband, who has always done everything possible to support my career, took care of him and his 12-year-old brother during the week; outside of those midweek emergencies, I came home only on weekends. 

A Greener Way to Get Bitumen?

Late last March, an Alberta engineer appeared before a House Subcommittee on Energy and Power in Washington, D.C.

Dressed in a black suit fitted to his narrow frame and speaking in a soft, careful tone, John Nenniger, CEO of Calgary-based technology firm N-Solv Corp., read closely from a prepared statement, making darting glances now and then towards the front of the room.

War of 1812 re-enactors recall a forgotten invasion: The Battle of Frenchman’s Creek

FORT ERIE, ONT.—It was the battle most people forgot.

Just before dawn on Nov. 28, 1812, American soldiers crossed the Niagara River in a preparatory raid to prepare for a larger invasion. But after pushing back the British defenders originally, they failed to destroy the bridge over Frenchman’s Creek, a deep and wide rivulet, and the batteries the soldiers had overrun were soon overtaken by British regulars, Canadian militia and their native allies. Eventually, the Americans were pushed back and the attack failed, ending any hopes of victory on the Niagara frontier in 1812.

Libya descending into chaos after NATO ‘success’

Last week, it was reported that the Canadian military is studying their options should an international intervention in war-torn Syria become a reality.

The Defence Department sources quoted claimed this preparatory planning was not being conducted at the request of the government, rather it was simply a prudent exercise given the escalating violence in Syria.

No troops or squadrons have been put on alert as of yet, but if the international community comes calling for partners in a coalition force, the Canadian military wants to have a handy list of options available to present Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Elections complaints filed too late, Tory lawyer tells Federal Court

OTTAWA - A bid to overturn the federal election results in a handful of tightly contested ridings should be tossed out, because the cases were filed too late, the Federal Court heard Monday.

The Council of Canadians has asked the court to review the May 2011 election results in seven ridings where Conservative MPs narrowly won their seats.

David Suzuki on Rio+20, "Green Economy" & Why Planet’s Survival Requires Undoing Its Economic Model

As the Rio+20 Earth Summit — the largest U.N. conference ever — ends in disappointment, we’re joined by the leading Canadian scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster David Suzuki. As host of the long-running CBC program, "The Nature of Things," seen in more than 40 countries, Suzuki has helped educate millions about the rich biodiversity of the planet and the threats it faces from human-driven global warming. In 1990 he co-founded the David Suzuki Foundation which focuses on sustainable ecology and in 2009, he was awarded the Right Livelihood Award. Suzuki joins us from the summit in Rio de Janeiro to talk about the climate crisis, the student protests in Quebec, his childhood growing up in an internment camp, and his daughter Severn’s historic speech at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 when she was 12 years-old. "If we don’t see that we are utterly embedded in the natural world and dependent on Mother Nature for our very well-being and survival ... then our priorities will continue to be driven by man-made constructs like national borders, economies, corporations, markets," Suzuki says. "Those are all human created things. They shouldn’t dominate the way we live. It should be the biosphere, and the leaders in that should be indigenous people who still have that sense that the earth is truly our mother, that it gives birth to us. You don’t treat your mother the way we treat the planet or the biosphere today."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Coup in Paraguay: Will U.S. Join Latin America in Condemning Ouster of President Fernando Lugo?

Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo has been ousted in what he has described as a parliamentary coup. On Friday, the Paraguayan Senate voted 39-to-4 to impeach Lugo, saying he had failed in his duty to maintain social order following a recent land dispute which resulted in the deaths of six police officers and 11 peasant farmers. A former priest, Lugo was once called the "Bishop of the Poor" and was known for defending peasant rights. Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Chile and Uruguay have all condemned Lugo’s ouster, but the question remains whether the Obama administration will recognize the new government. We’re joined by Greg Grandin, professor of Latin American history at New York University and author of "Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism." His most recent book, "Fordlandia," was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in history.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Lawmakers reworked financial portfolios after talks with Fed, Treasury officials

In January 2008, President George W. Bush was scrambling to bolster the American economy. The subprime mortgage industry was collapsing, and the Dow Jones industrial average had lost more than 2,000 points in less than three months.

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner became the Bush administration’s point person on Capitol Hill to negotiate a $150 billion stimulus package.

The Robin Hood Tax: A Powerful Antidote to Austerity

Last week, nurses rallied, bank staff marched, conservatives coalesced and finance professionals petitioned—all in support of a global tax on Wall Street speculation. You wouldn’t know it from the headlines (Financial Times: “Push for EU-wide ‘Robin Hood Tax’ ends”), but by week’s end, that elusive goal was closer than ever.

“We don’t just advocate for people when they’re ill, and we don’t just advocate for them when they’re in the hospital,” says Jean Ross, a registered nurse and co-president of National Nurses United, the country’s largest nursing union. “We have to have a society where they can get well and stay well.”

Throwaway People: Teens Sent to Die in Prison Will Get a Second Chance

On Monday, June 25 the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling striking down mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles on Eighth Amendment grounds, regardless of their crime. As reflected during oral arguments, the justices were particularly concerned that mandatory sentencing statutes—which are responsible for the vast majority of cases in which teens have been sent to die in prison—fail to take into consideration the defendants' youth, background, and the specifics of the crime. "Such mandatory penalties, by their nature, preclude a sentencer from taking account of an offender’s age and the wealth of characteristics and circumstances attendant to it," Justice Kagan wrote for the majority. "Under these schemes, every juvenile will receive the same sentence as every other—the 17-year-old and the 14-year-old, the shooter and the accomplice, the child from a stable household and the child from a chaotic and abusive one. This ruling means that prisoners like Trina Garnett will be entitled to a re-sentencing hearing and, in her case, after 30 years behind bars, may be freed.

Harper Government Rejects Economist Christopher Ragan's Financial Crisis Warning

OTTAWA - The Harper government has firmly rejected a McGill University economist's prescription for surviving the next financial meltdown.

A newly released briefing note shows Christopher Ragan's proposal to strengthen oversight of the Canadian economy went all the way to Stephen Harper, himself a former economist.

Moving Canadian Forces Staff and DND Employees To the Former Nortel Campus – Is It Worth The Effort?

Defence Watch has received a number of emails from DND/CF personnel over the last few weeks questioning the value of moving many of the DND and CF staff in the National Capital Region out to one location in the west end of Ottawa.

They say it is not only going to be too costly but it puts an additional burden of extra travel time on many of the personnel whom live in the eastern suburb of Orleans. In addition, there is the potential issue of security – they argue that 10,000 military and civilian staff in one location makes for a prime target – one stop shopping for terrorists so to speak.

Render unto Caesar — but leave church politics alone, Mr. Harper

In fairness to Senator Nicole Eaton, she seemed to regret the words even as they left her mouth.

Speaking on the June 5th edition of CBC Radio's As it Happens, Eaton said this, unprompted: "I'll raise something and I'm sure I'll get thousands of letters now — you know, why is the United Church, you know, their boycott against Israel, well, is that helping the poor, educating the poor or giving people a hand up? Or is that political work?"

Environmental crisis? We have a democratic crisis

Bill C-38 is now law. After a marathon (22 hour plus) parliamentary session and quashing the more than 800 proposed amendments, sleepy MPs passed the 425-page omnibus budget bill.

Every proposed amendment was defeated, rendering weeks of committee hearings, parliamentary debate and expert witnesses as useless exercises in faux democratic policy making.

Bill C-38 is an oil baron’s dream come true. It’s the largest environmental bill ever adopted in Canada and it does not strengthen any aspect of environmental protection. It radically weakens the laws used to protect our natural environment, including exempting projects from environmental assessment, limiting the time provided for public and expert input into environmentally sensitive projects and removing habitat protection from the Fisheries Act. That prompted even two former Conservative fisheries ministers to publicly oppose the bill.

Everything you ever wanted to know about Bill C-38, but were afraid to ask

Part 1 implements some tax and related financial measures introduced in the March 29 budget, including:

• temporary measures to allow certain family members to open a Registered Disability Savings Plan for an adult individual who might not be able to enter into a contract;

• extending for one year the Mineral Exploration Tax Credit;

• allowing corporations to make split and late eligible dividend designations;

• making Governor General’s salary taxable;

With whitewash in hand, we now commemorate 1812

PARLIAMENT HILL—Cabinet members, soft and chauffeured, proclaim a summer celebration of death in battle—not that they’ve seen it first-hand. Non-combatants outnumber veterans in Cabinet by 37-to-one, excluding Environment Minister Peter Kent who as a war correspondent covered the fall of South Vietnam in 1975.

Most combat veterans rate war an obscenity. On Parliament Hill, it is cast as a thrilling test of national manhood. Heritage Minister James Moore, neither a veteran nor historian, explained it to reporters last week:

Cabinet shuffle buzz, gaffe: moving MacKay would create a ripple effect of senior Cabinet ministers

Cabinet shuffle speculation was fired up again last week after Postmedia News reported speculation on the winners and losers in a minor Cabinet shuffle this summer. Political insiders elaborated further on the political buzz when they told The Hill Times that embattled CIDA Minister Bev Oda will likely be moved from her post because of her lavish spending habits and after it was reported she had stayed at the upscale Savoy hotel in London England last year while attending a summer conference at taxpayers’ expense, was forced repay more than $1,000, and apologized to the House of Commons. One Conservative insider said it’s very likely she will be booted from Cabinet because there is a lot of “inside pressure to dump her” and her staff are looking for other jobs in anticipation of the move.

The Treasury Board’s inefficient mission for efficiency

In the boardrooms of the federal government’s Treasury Board Secretariat, a “high-priority” plan was afoot.

Managers at the agency, which oversees government spending, dispatched emails marked urgent, with three, four, sometimes six people copied per message. Officials stamped documents “Confidential.”

Plans were “pre-screened,” then screened again. There were committees, meetings and “scenario notes.” Memos and templates for memos. PowerPoint presentations resembled battle plans.

The mission: To make government more efficient.