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.]

Saturday, July 07, 2012

William Johnson Plays CEO For A Day, Earns $44 Million In 'Corporate Highjacking'

One guy just got paid $44 million to be CEO for a day.

In an apparent corporate coup, Duke Energy, an electric power holding company that recently merged with Progress Energy, appears to have reneged on the spirit of its merger agreement with Progress, the Los Angeles Times reports. The merger agreement stipulated that the new company would have Progress' William Johnson as chief executive and Duke's James Rogers as executive chairman, according to The New York Times.

Jobless Youths Left Behind As Older Workers Fill More Openings

Young people are getting left behind.

High unemployment is hurting many young people as they languish without developing job skills. The United States added just 80,000 jobs in June, the Labor Department reported on Friday: This amount is less than half of what would be needed for the economy to recover in a timely fashion, according to economists.

This Week in Poverty: The Soul Sisters

I’ve long been told by a lot of smart people that the nuns who taught them growing up are among the best teachers they ever had. As a Jewish man who attended secular and Quaker schools, I never had the privilege of experiencing that. But I have now.

Like millions of other Americans, I’ve followed the Nuns on the Bus over the last couple of weeks as they went on an inspiring 2,700 mile drive across the country to educate people on the House Republican-passed Ryan budget and the damaging effects it would have on poor, vulnerable and struggling people throughout America.

I was in Washington, DC, where the tour ended—right at the United Methodist Building where The Nation ’s DC bureau is located, in fact. There were about 400 people there—mostly boisterous fans, religious and non-religious alike—and a nice turnout by the press too.

Ontario urges feds not to allow generic OxyContin onto market

Ontario is “strongly urging” the federal government not to let generic brands of the popular painkiller OxyContin into Canada once Purdue Pharmaceuticals’ patent runs out this fall.

The expiration of Purdue’s OxyContin patent on Nov. 25 opens the door for other companies to manufacture cheaper generic versions of the controlled-release oxycodone. Purdue will continue to make a new, tamper-resistant patented drug – OxyNEO – introduced to replace OxyContin earlier this year.

Nobel laureate joins Toronto rabbi group in condemning refugee health cuts

Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel has joined leading members of his Jewish faith in denouncing cuts to the funding of refugee health care introduced by the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, which has spent years courting the voters in that community.

The challenge to the rollback of health benefits is the latest attack against the measures that were part of a sweeping slate of reforms to Canada’s immigration system. Eight of Canada’s leading health associations have condemned the reductions. Doctors threaten to keep account of the harm done. And the Canadian Medical Association Journal is publishing an article on Monday that will say that the new rules are potentially damaging to the psychiatric health of vulnerable people.

Ottawa about one-third of the way through $6B liability for public-sector severance payouts

OTTAWA — More than half of federal public servants have agreed to end a severance program that paid $500-million annually to employees who quit voluntarily or retired, according to federal government figures.

Though the government has been trying to end the program for years, it’s unclear exactly how much Canadian taxpayers will save if it finally succeeds.

The government has budgeted $6-billion to pay civil servants their accumulated severance as a condition of dropping the program from collective agreements. It is rare in the private sector to pay an employee severance if the worker leaves the job voluntarily.

Access to Information Act turns 30 amid calls for reform

Defence Minister Peter MacKay's helicopter ride that led to embarrassing headlines and head-scratching explanations. Former international co-operation minister Bev Oda's infamous $16 orange juice. Citizenship and Immigration Canada's faked citizenship ceremony.

These are a few of the many stories uncovered in documents obtained through the Access to Information Act, a law that received royal assent 30 years ago on July 7, and came into force almost a year later, on Canada Day 1983.

Q and A with Miloon Kothari, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing

Miloon Kothari is the former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing. In 2007, Mr. Kothari led a mission to Canada to evaluate its human rights record related to housing.

Q. Now that you have been away from your former role as the UN's Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, what are some of your reflections on how the international human rights system supports the right to adequate housing?

There continues to be tremendous support from numerous UN human rights bodies for the right to adequate housing. Particularly important is the monitoring and investigative roles played by these bodies. The recent peer review process from the UN Human Rights Council from the Universal Periodic Review has provided a space where all member states of the UN can be questioned on their record on implementing the right to adequate housing.

Union presidents attack Ontario government for deal with Catholic teachers

Following Thursday’s announcement that the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) had reached a two year agreement with the provincial government, the presidents of other unions held a joint press conference on Friday morning criticizing the deal.

“We continued discussions, even when other unions left the table, because we believed that negotiating was the best way to secure a fair and reasonable agreement for our members – and we believe we have achieved that goal,” said Kevin O’Dwyer, OECTA president, in a written statement on Thursday.

Canada’s first national smog strategy is in the air

Ottawa and the provinces are poised to conclude Canada’s first national air-pollution strategy, which includes a new standard that is expected to reduce smog significantly in the coming decade.

The new regime, which federal and provincial environment ministers are slated to approve in the fall, is the result of a five-year discussion among governments, environmental advocates, health groups and industry.

U.S. Drought 2012: More Than Half Of Continental States Experiencing Extremely Dry Conditions

The United States is parched, with more than half of the lower 48 states experiencing moderate to extreme drought, according to a report released today (July 5).

Just under 56 percent of the contiguous United States is in drought conditions, the most extensive area in the 12-year history of the U.S. Drought Monitor. The previous drought records occurred on Aug. 26, 2003, when 54.79 percent of the lower 48 were in drought and on Sept 10, 2002, when drought extended across 54.63 percent of this area.

Conservatives aren’t in trouble yet

Pundits were disappointed Wednesday when Stephen Harper’s much-anticipated cabinet shuffle magically disappeared.

He played only one card, replacing Bev Oda with Julian Fantino as minister of international co-operation and adding Fantino’s former defence procurement responsibilities to Bernard Valcourt’s portfolio.

There are good reasons to desire a more thorough shakeup. It’s hard to imagine some of the young talent in the Tory ranks couldn’t shine in cabinet; and a number of old-guard ministers are underperforming.

Ontario judge strikes down mandatory minimum sentence for first-offence gun trafficking

In the latest blow to the Harper government’s tough-on-crime agenda, an Ontario judge has struck down mandatory minimum sentencing for first-offence firearms trafficking.

The landmark ruling in an Oshawa courthouse Friday centred on the case of 21-year-old cocaine dealer Christopher Lewis, who faced the mandatory three-year sentence after offering to sell an undercover policeman a .45 caliber handgun — despite having no access to the gun nor any intention to carry through on the sale.

At Calgary parade, Prime Minister Stephen Harper praises Stampede’s values of ‘hard work, enterprise, self reliance’

Wearing a black cowboy hat, Prime Minister Stephen Harper tapped his toes in time with the passing marching bands as he sat next to wife Laureen and daughter Rachel to watch the Calgary Stampede parade Friday morning.

Minutes earlier, the prime minister had made a short speech to a small audience, saying that coming home is for Stampede is always important to his family, but this year is special because of the centennial.

Playing at a theatre near you: Ottawa’s shock-and-awe film on War of 1812

When the Harper government set out to commemorate the bicentennial of the War of 1812, it promised to celebrate a formative event without stirring up anti-American sentiment.

A new government video advertisement designed to educate Canadians about the conflict throws all that nuance out the window.

To borrow a phrase from the mockumentary This is Spinal Tap, Ottawa’s “Fight For Canada” ad turns the dial up to 11.

Game show legend Bob Barker on the Calgary Stampede: Close it down

For prominent animal rights activist and TV game show legend Bob Barker, no rodeo is a good rodeo.

Despite efforts by the Calgary Stampede to make its animal events safer for both critters and cowboys, the man who signed off each episode of “The Price is Right” with a plea for people to neuter their pets would like to see an end to the display of western skills.

New dispute-settlement rules give banks power of choice

New rules that would allow Canada’s banks to pick their own external ombudsmen in disputes with customers are drawing sharp criticism. But the federal government says the changes are needed to help the complaints system be more efficient.

In a series of proposed regulations made public Friday, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said the government is pressing ahead with plans to open up dispute resolution in consumer banking to private firms.

James Bishop suing Toronto police and YMCA over 'violent' arrest

A YouTube video of the arrest of a Toronto man on a basketball court by five Toronto police officers — showing multiple baton and elbow blows — has generated 48,000 views and nearly 500 comments, both pro- and anti-police.

Since the video was posted last July, many simply wonder what the man must have done to deserve such an arrest.

The man — black, with dreadlocks tied back, and dressed for the court in white shorts and T-shirt — is seen corralling the ball after a missed shot when four officers surround him. After some discussion that can’t be heard in the soundless video, they take him down.

World's Economic Centre Of Gravity Shifting Back To Asia At Unbelievable Speed: McKinsey Institute

It took a thousand years for the world’s economic centre of gravity to shift from Asia to Europe.

It will take only a few decades for it to shift back, says a report from the McKinsey Global Institute. (H/t: Zero Hedge)

A thousand years ago, the economic centre of the world was in central Asia, just north of India and west of China, reflecting the high levels of wealth enjoyed in the Middle and Far East at that time, says the report, Urban world: Cities and the rise of the consuming class. At that time, Asia accounted for two-thirds of the world’s wealth.

Taxpayers need protection in event of Northern Gateway spill, says former insurance executive

OTTAWA — Canadian and especially B.C. taxpayers aren't adequately protected in the event Enbridge Inc.'s proposed Northern Gateway oilsands pipeline suffers the same kind of catastrophic failure that resulted in a $765 million U.S. — and counting — spill in Michigan two years ago, says a former senior Canadian insurance executive.

Former Insurance Corp. of B.C. chief executive Robyn Allan also argues the 2010 U.S. disaster proves Enbridge is underestimating the potential of human error turning a relatively minor spill into a major one.