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.]

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Rick Perry Spends Millions To Fix Mansion As State Cuts Billions Elsewhere

Texas Governor Rick Perry is moving back into the Governor's Mansion. For the $25 million it cost the state to renovate it, he better enjoy it.

The state originally allocated just $10 million for the mansion's renovation, according to USA Today. However, the cost of the renovation rose significantly following a 2008 arson attack, which severely damaged much of the building.

GOP to the uninsured: Drop dead

The House is voting (again) Wednesday to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Meanwhile, six Republican governors (so far) say they won’t go along with the law’s planned Medicaid expansion for 4 million uninsured people in their states, even though the feds would pick up nearly all the tab.

See the pattern here?

The Republican message to uninsured Americans in the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling couldn’t be clearer: You’re on your own.

Shell Canada Quest: Oilsands Carbon Capture Storage Project Conditionally Approved

EDMONTON - Regulators have conditionally approved the first proposal to pump greenhouse gas emissions from Alberta's oilsands deep into the ground.

The $1.35 billion Shell Canada Quest carbon capture project calls for permanently storing more than one million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year from its Scotford upgrader.

Canada’s economy: eight reasons to curb your enthusiasm

With a boastfulness that seemed unbecoming of a PM under siege from outside critics, Stephen Harper told hundreds of party faithful at his annual Calgary barbecue Saturday that, “To succeed, what the rest of the world must become in the future is what Canada is today.”

I’m guessing that was another Tory swipe at outsiders who’ve been faulting us pretty much across the board of late.

In recent weeks, United Nations agencies have called us out for a level of poverty in Canada that is unbecoming of an affluent country; for the continuing disgrace of abysmal aboriginal peoples’ living conditions; for Ottawa’s sanguine regard of Canada as a haven for war criminals on the lam; and for a new Quebec law, hastily endorsed by the federal Tories, that restricts protests amid the tuition dispute in that province.

Pull plug on Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline, says NDP's Thomas Mulclair

A damning report on Enbridge Inc.’s inept handling of the 2010 crude oil spill in Michigan should kill the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair said Tuesday in Victoria.

“Northern Gateway should be stopped and the plug should be pulled on it,” said Mulcair, after meeting with local community groups and business leaders.

“Today’s conclusive report by the Americans, I think, should be the final nail in that coffin.”

The government is right to pay out severance

The rule of law is like a 1960s-era Jaguar. It looks sleek and shiny in the showroom. Everyone wants it. But after you buy it and take it for a drive, it breaks down, so you get it fixed, and it breaks down again, and pretty soon it’s costing you a fortune and it’s such a pain that you wonder if maybe you should sell it or just send the damned thing to a junkyard.

I’m sure Tony Clement understands that feeling.

As president of the Treasury Board, Clement is responsible for paying the public service. And that job has him handling a very hot file these days.

Unique glacier research facility in Yukon hit by federal cuts

One of Canada's oldest and most celebrated scientific research stations is racing against the clock to avoid having to close its doors.

The Kluane Lake Research Station, located in the Yukon adjacent to the largest non-polar icefield in the world, is one of a handful of scientific outposts to have its funding cut by the federal budget.

The Kluane Lake facility, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year amid a $2-million renovation, was told in the spring that federal funding for its operations would be immediately discontinued.

Canada in Kandahar, some allies weren't impressed

While most Canadians may have mentally turned the page on the Afghan war, happy to forget our military's long and frustrating struggle in Kandahar province, some of our allies have not.

Increasingly, foreign military and diplomatic assessments of the war are appearing in print, and what is surfacing is not a comforting picture as far as Canada is concerned.

At the very least, one finds little support in these assessments for Ottawa's boast that the Kandahar campaign won Canada much-needed new military prestige throughout NATO, especially with key allies such as Britain and the U.S.

Canada’s trade gap widens in May

Canada’s trade deficit widened to $793-million in May, as imports climbed 0.4 per cent to $39.7-billion on energy products such as crude petroleum ahead of anticipated production shutdowns and maintenance.

On the heels of April’s $623-million trade deficit, May represents the second monthly deficit this year, following consistent monthly surpluses earlier in 2012 – a sign of slowdown and weakening demand in the world’s major economies, according to figures released Wednesday by Statistics Canada. Exports to the European Union fell 1.5 per cent compared with April, and nudged up slightly by 0.2 per cent to the United States.

The Last Taboo — There are 7 billion humans on earth, so why can't we talk about population?

IT'S MIDNIGHT on the streets of Calcutta. Old women cook over open fires on the sidewalks. Men wait in line at municipal hand pumps to lather skin, hair, and lungis (skirts), bathing without undressing. Girls sit in the open beds of bicycle-powered trucks, braiding their hair. The monsoon's not yet over, and grandfathers under umbrellas squat on their heels, arguing over card games, while mothers hold bare-bottomed toddlers over open latrines. On every other block, shops the size of broom closets are still open, kerosene lights blazing, their proprietors seated cross-legged on tiny shelves built above their wares of plastic buckets or machetes or radios. Many people sleep through the lively darkness, draped over sacks of rice or on work carts full of paper or rags or hay. Groups of men and women, far from their home villages, sprawl haphazardly across the sidewalks, snoring.

Fact-Check: How the NYPD Overstated Its Counterterrorism Record

The NYPD is regularly held up as one of the most sophisticated and significant counterterrorism operations in the country. As evidence of the NYPD's excellence, the department, its allies, and the media have repeatedly said the department has thwarted or helped thwart 14 terrorist plots against New York City since September 11.

In a glowing profile of Commissioner Ray Kelly published in Newsweek last month, for example, journalist Christopher Dickey wrote of the commissioner's tenure since taking office in 2002: The record "is hard to argue with: at least 14 full-blown terrorist attacks have been prevented or failed on Kelly's watch."

Cyclone Helicopter Deal: Peter MacKay, Defence Minister, Says 'Worst' Deal In Canada's History

HALIFAX - Defence Minister Peter MacKay says the much-delayed deal to buy a fleet of new helicopters for the air force represents the "worst procurement" in Canada's history.

Last month, Sikorsky International Operations missed another deadline to begin delivering the first batch of 28 CH-148 Cyclones.

Mossbank, Saskatchewan Out Of Water Due To Rupture In Main Water Line

MOSSBANK, Sask. - A town in south-central Saskatchewan has gone from a drinking water advisory, to having no water at all.

Warnings went out to residents that a boil water advisory would be in effect Monday afternoon for Mossbank, about 145 kilometres southwest of Regina.

That's because crews planned to make some repairs to the town's pumphouse, but then a main water line ruptured.

Town administrator Cynthia Kimball says it's not known how long the town will be without water.

Residents were given one hour Monday night to fill their tanks and are being reminded that all water used for washing or consumption needs to be boiled, once water is restored to the area.

Farmers who got water from the town's bulk tanks are now being re-routed to Assiniboia.

Original Article
Source: huffington post
Author: CP

Canada-U.S. Border: Nations Set To Begin Sharing More Info On Travellers

OTTAWA - Canada and the United States plan to join forces in order to better deal with "irregular flows" of refugees that turn up in North America or migrate within the continent, newly declassified documents show.

By 2014, the two countries will also begin routinely sharing biometric information about travellers, such as fingerprints.

And Canada is laying the groundwork for legislative and regulatory changes that will require all travellers — including Canadian and U.S. citizens — to present a secure document such as a passport or enhanced driver's licence when entering Canada.

Fantino wasn't on anyone's short list except PM's: aid rep

Canadian aid practitioners say they were surprised by the prime minister's choice last week of Julian Fantino to replace Bev Oda as the new international co-operation minister.

While names like Kellie Leitch, Chris Alexander, and Rona Ambrose were being thrown around in the press and in the heads of Canadian aid workers, Mr. Fantino "wasn't, I think, on anyone's short list except the prime minister's," said Rosemary McCarney, president and CEO of Plan Canada, with a chuckle.

"Not for any reason of knowledge or anything else," she was quick to add. "[It] just wasn't the profile that you expected into this role."

Can Valcourt handle three portfolios?

Supporters say the new associate defence minister, Bernard Valcourt, is a gutsy and multitasking go-getter who can handle his new Cabinet portfolio on top of his previous two. But others say it shows just how negligible the jobs are and the government's lack of seriousness in dealing with procurement problems.

Observers and a former colleague of Bernard Valcourt have several words to describe the new associate minister of national defence: dynamic, gutsy, activist, a quick study, and a capable minister.

With little to go by from his latest year-long stint in Parliament, many of their memories date back to the Cabinet positions Mr. Valcourt held while Brian Mulroney was prime minister in the 1980s and early '90s.

Tories tweak Bethune brand to build bridges with China

The man Tony Clement will celebrate on Wednesday was a restless surgeon, a rowdy womanizer, a stubborn renegade and a passionate communist.

Norman Bethune, who died while tending Mao Zedong’s troops in 1939, is an unlikely Conservative hero. But Bethune’s ideological impurity is offset by his value to Ottawa’s strategy in China – where the colourful Canadian expatriate is a national hero, memorialized by Mao himself for his “spirit of absolute selflessness.”

Feds and Mint spent $56,000 on penny-killing photo op

OTTAWA — A penny for your thoughts on the penny? More like 5.6 million of them.

The federal government and Royal Canadian Mint spent about $56,000 to have Finance Minister Jim Flaherty stamp the final Canadian penny produced for circulation during a news conference in May at the Mint in Winnipeg, new documents and data show.

The Conservative government announced in the March federal budget it was ending production of the penny because it actually cost 1.6 cents to mint each of the one-cent coins, due to rising metal, labour and other manufacturing costs.

You had it coming, Prime Minister

The NDP attack video on Stephen Harper released yesterday is misleading and mean-spirited. It quotes him out of context. It comes with an ominous voiceover. It shows the prime minister in an unflattering pose – sweating like a dog.

In other words, it’s just the type of ad Stephen Harper has been using against opponents for years – and getting away with.

At long last someone is giving Mr. Harper some of his own medicine. He’ll hate it. But he had it coming.

Disrespecting democracy: Hazelton community hearing on Enbridge pipeline moved to avoid protests

There have been protests accompanying community hearings of the Joint Review Panel on the Enbridge Northern Gateway project—most recently in Prince George on Monday, July 9th, 300 people gathered in opposition outside the panel hearings. However, there are increasing signs that the panel is trying to avoid exposure to these public demonstrations.

On July 6, 2012, the panel posted a letter on its website announcing its decision to relocate the Hazelton, BC community hearing scheduled for the end of the month to Smithers, BC. The hearing was moved to Smithers “to ensure a safe and secure community hearing venue.”

Bolivian government, Indigenous communities resolve to nationalize Canadian mining company

Last week, a Bolivian farmer was killed during confrontations with police, in the context of protests against a subsidiary of the Canadian mining company South American Silver Corp. On Tuesday, the Bolivian government led by Evo Morales announced the nationalization of the Canadian company's mining project. 

South American Silver, headquartered in Vancouver, described the Mallku Khota project as "one of the world's largest undeveloped silver, indium and gallium deposits." For a detailed analysis of South American Silver's Bolivian operation, see this article published last month in The Bullet. The text that follows is a translation of the official Bolivian statement.

Lakes research shutdown doesn't make sense

We can't live without clean water. Canada is blessed with an abundance of lakes and rivers and has a global responsibility to manage them well. But if we really want to protect freshwater supplies and the ecosystems they support, we must understand how human activity and natural disturbances affect them.

The world-renowned Experimental Lakes Area in Southern Ontario has served as an outdoor laboratory for this purpose since 1968. By manipulating and studying conditions in 58 small lakes and their watersheds, scientists there have made many discoveries about the effects of human and natural activity on freshwater ecosystems and fish. Over the past 45 years they've taught us about the impacts of acid rain, mercury pollution, nanoparticles, nitrogen overload, climate change, fish farming, and many other issues.

Grey skies for the green energy industry

Solar panel manufacturer Siliken opened its Canadian manufacturing facility in Windsor, Ont., last spring. The Spanish company hired 120 staff and expected to add more as it ramped up production of photovoltaic panels over the next year. It was a good news story for Windsor, hit hard by the recession and layoffs in the automotive industry, and it suggested Ontario’s ambitious plan to replace traditional rust-belt manufacturing jobs with those in the emerging “clean tech” sector was bearing fruit.

Are Israeli Settlements Legal? Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah vs. Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin

An Israeli government committee has affirmed the country’s self-proclaimed right to build settlements throughout the occupied West Bank, and recommended the legalization of dozens of settler outposts that have not received government authorization. The International Court of Justice has already ruled that all of Israel’s West Bank settlements are illegal, but Israel has said it would only consider dismantling scattered outposts that it has not officially approved. The settlers have used the outposts to seize even more Palestinian land than has already been taken. We host a debate between Jonathan Tobin, Senior Online Editor of Commentary magazine, and Ali Abunimah, co-founder of The Electronic Intifada.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Corporate Exodus Continues From ALEC as Secretive Right-Wing Group’s Policies Come to Light

Five more corporations have severed ties with the secretive right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC. The group has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months as the public has become aware of its role in advancing the "Stand Your Ground" gun law initially cited to protect Trayvon Martin’s killer in Florida. The organization has pushed voter suppression bills, union-busting policies and other controversial legislation. The future of ALEC is now more precarious than ever before. A grand total of 25 corporations have dropped ALEC membership, as well as four major non-profit organizations and 55 elected officials. We’re joined by Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, which created ALEC Exposed, a website showcasing more than 800 of the group’s model bills.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

As Romney Evades on Tax Returns, New Report Reveals Loopholes, Offshore Havens Behind His Fortune

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is on the hot seat over where he stashes his vast personal fortune, estimated at up to $250 million. We speak with reporter Nick Shaxson, whose new Vanity Fair article, "Where the Money Lives," delves into the murky world of offshore finance and reveals loopholes that allowed Romney to skirt tax laws and store millions in foreign tax havens. The article has sparked the latest round of questions about Romney’s taxes and offshore accounts, amplified by Romney’s refusal so far to release more than one year’s worth of tax returns.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Is local food bad for the economy?

The North American farm is experiencing a cultural renaissance, or so say the stories of urban twentysomethings swapping the comforts of the city for overalls and buckets of manure, of municipal bylaw officials debating the merits of backyard chicken coops, to say nothing of the explosion of farmers’ markets, community gardens, high-end restaurants specializing in local food, and the home-delivery services of fresh produce from nearby farms.

The push for sustainable agriculture and local food trumpeted by everyone from Michelle Obama to the Canadian authors of The100-Mile Diet seems innocuous enough as a way for us to end our dependence on a corn-based diet of junk food and soft drinks, as well as curb rising rates of childhood obesity by teaching us to appreciate how our food gets from the farm to the table.

Scientists vs. Harper

When Science-ish heard about the “Death of Evidence” protest in Ottawa today, her first instinct was to jump on a plane and join the good fight. After all, Science-ish has spent the last year carefully documenting a number of incursions and abuses on science by governments—federal, provincial, and otherwise.

Over the phone, the University of Ottawa conference organizers told Science-ish that they are disturbed by what they believe is the government’s disdain for evidence. They also provided an impressive media backgrounder, obviously prepared by science nerds with a zest for evidence and footnoting. The alleged crimes included the scrapping of the mandatory long-form census, cutting the federal funding for Canada’s Ozone Network, closing the Experimental Lakes Area, as well as the elimination of the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy and the position of National Science Advisor.

Bevilacqua’s advice for Opitz: don’t wallow and worry and remain focused on the riding as Supreme Court mulls decision

He’s in the fight of his life to keep his Parliamentary seat, but Conservative MP Ted Opitz, whose 2011 election result was recently ruled null and void by an Ontario Supreme Court judge and who is now waiting to see how the Supreme Court rules, should remain focused on his riding, not wallow and worry, and learn from this adversity, says former Liberal MP Maurizio Bevilacqua, who underwent a similar fight after the 1988 election.

“It kind of tests your character. I learned from that adversity and the following election I won by 7,000 votes and the one after that I won by 50,000 votes,” said Mr. Bevilacqua.

Cross-border policing provokes sovereignty worries - U.S. officers have powers to make arrests in Canada

When the Conservative government passed its controversial omnibus budget bill last month, it included new powers for certain U.S. law enforcement agents that critics say could have ramifications for Canadian sovereignty.

The Integrated Cross Border Law Enforcement Operations Act now makes it possible for American officers to cross the border into Canada where, as the act states, they have "the same power to enforce an act of Parliament as a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police."

Growth is dead. Long live stocks

Please join us in a moment of silence, to mourn the passing of growth.

Although growth started life showing wholesome promise, it ended in a sad and confused state of greed, excess and debauchery. While it thrived in its early years with the support of savings and the sensible allocation of capital, it was destroyed in the end by obscene, debt-fuelled profligacy and political meddling.

Where savers and reasonable governments were once growth’s friends, they turned their backs on it later in life, and the void was filled with socialists and bankers. Strange bedfellows these, at least at first glance, but united in their taste for the government nipple and their disdain for good old-fashioned hard work, they destroyed growth, which withered away, spending its final years alone in a van down by the river …

Spain unveils $80-billion in new austerity measures

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced a swathe of new taxes and spending cuts on Wednesday designed to slash €65-billion ($79.8-billion U.S.) from the budget deficit by 2014 as recession-plagued Spain struggles to meet tough targets agreed with Europe.

Mr. Rajoy, of the centre-right People’s Party, proposed a 3-point hike in the main rate of Value Added Tax on goods and services to 21 per cent, and outlined cuts in unemployment benefit and civil service pay and perks in a parliamentary speech interrupted by jeers and boos from the opposition.

EI changes to hit new workers in big cities hardest, study says

People new to the workforce living in cities like Toronto and Vancouver are most likely to have to take a job they don’t want under changes to the country’s employment insurance program, a report released Tuesday says.

A policy brief by the University of Toronto’s Mowat Centresays it’s “misleading” that much of the public debate around EI reform has focused on the negative impact the changes could have in rural and Atlantic Canada, where many industries rely on seasonal workers.

There aren’t enough jobs in rural Canada for many people to be forced to take a job they don’t like under the new rules, the brief says.

NDP launches attack ads on Stephen Harper’s economic record

The NDP has released daring attack ads against Prime Minister Stephen Harper, claiming his Conservative government is responsible for the largest deficits in Canadian history and accusing the Tories of leading the country into another economic downturn.

The ads directly attack what is perceived to be Harper’s strong suit, the economy, a move made famous by Republican strategist Karl Rove. The Harper Conservatives won their first majority government last year by touting their economic management to Canadian voters.

Federal Crown lawyers reach 15.25 per cent tentative pay deal

In a move that breaches the atmosphere of restraint in Ottawa, federal Crown lawyers have reached a tentative settlement that would give them a 15.25 per cent wage increase by May 2014.

The agreement with the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, is expected to go to a ratification vote in August. It would give 2,700 federal Crowns, represented by the Association of Justice Counsel, a 12 per cent increase next year alone. That includes a 10 per cent “pay restructure.”

Federal Crown attorneys prosecute drug and terrorism offences. They also negotiate civil cases.