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, July 16, 2012

Keystone Kops report about present danger, not future threat

The scalding report from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board last week was gleefully received in British Columbia by opponents of Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline.

Enbridge's bungling of a breach in its 6B oil pipeline in Michigan provided persuasive evidence to bolster the case that the Canadian energy giant shouldn't be trusted with the preservation of B.C.'s northern wilderness and our relatively pristine coast.

This is the summer of Harper’s content

Stephen Harper is having a wonderful summer. He’s the cat in the catbird seat. He’s at the top of his game. He enjoys complete control over his party, his caucus and his cabinet. Surrounded by weak or compliant ministers (with a few exceptions), his authority is absolute.

The summer has had something of everything for the prime minister. He got to play on the world stage as leaders grappled with the noisome problems of Greece, Spain and the entire Eurozone. He seized the opportunity to tell European leaders how they could improve themselves by emulating his government’s wise economic management that has made Canada the strongest performer in the whole free world. The reactions of Angela Merkel and Co. to this helpful advice were not recorded, but gratitude must surely have been one of them.

Attawapiskat: Poverty And Politics Still Plaguing Ontario Reserve

OTTAWA - As the First Nations chiefs meet in Toronto this week to vote on their next national leader, the cloud that covered their last assembly seems to have dissipated.

The housing crisis in Attawapiskat, Ontario, dominated every motion and speech when the chiefs met together last December in Ottawa.

Now, the Attawapiskat families that used to be living in tents are housed in new mobile homes, and the band has regained control over its finances.

But Grand Chief Stan Louttit from the regional council says housing is still a big problem on the reserve, since 90 people are living in what was originally supposed to be temporary accommodation but is now an overcrowded and noisy complex unfit for children.

He says he and many other chiefs are tired of waiting for Ottawa to fix their problems, and would rather use revenue from the development of natural resources to take control of their own affairs.

That idea will be front and centre at the chiefs' meeting in Toronto this week.

Original Article
Source: huffington post
Author: CP

Tories warn outdated labour laws could boost Pan Am costs

The Progressive Conservatives are warning that the cost of the 2015 Pan American Games could skyrocket due to Ontario’s outdated labour laws.

Opposition Leader Tim Hudak says $155 million is budgeted to renovate Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton, but he believes it could be up to 40 per cent higher.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s ‘free’ mortgage loan for San Francisco mansion

SAN FRANCISCO — Billionaire Mark Zuckerberg is giving new meaning to the term “the one percent.”

The Facebook founder refinanced a $5.95 million mortgage on his Palo Alto, Calif., home with a 30-year adjustable-rate loan starting at 1.05 percent, according to public records for the property.

While almost all lending rates have reached historical lows this year, the borrowing costs available to high-net-worth individuals are even lower if the person is willing to bear the risk of monthly interest rate adjustments, said Greg McBride, senior financial analyst with Bankrate Inc., a North Palm Beach, Florida-based firm that tracks interest rates. Large increases are unlikely anytime soon with the Federal Reserve signaling it will keep interest rates near zero for at least two years.

Gar Alperovitz’s Green Party Keynote: We Are Laying Groundwork for the "Next Great Revolution"

At the Green Party’s 2012 National Convention in Baltimore over the weekend, Massachusetts physician Jill Stein and anti-poverty campaigner Cheri Honkala were nominated the party’s presidential and vice-presidential contenders. We air the convention’s keynote address delivered by Gar Alperovitz, a professor of political economy at the University of Maryland and co-founder of the Democracy Collaborative. Alperovitz is the author of, "America Beyond Capitalism: Reclaiming Our Wealth, Our Liberty, and Our Democracy." In his remarks, Alperovitz stressed the importance of third-party politics to challenge a corporate-run society. "Systems in history are defined above all by who controls the wealth," Alperovitz says. "The top 400 people own more wealth now than the bottom 185 million Americans taken together. That is a medieval structure."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

"Fuel on the Fire": Author Greg Muttit on Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq, Arab Spring

A new U.S. government report has found that much of the U.S. taxpayer money used for Iraq’s reconstruction has likely been squandered. In what has been called their final audit report, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Funds pinpointed a number of accounting weaknesses that put "billions of American taxpayer dollars at risk of waste and misappropriation" in the largest reconstruction project of its kind in U.S. history. The report concluded the precise amount lost to fraud and waste can never be known. While much of Iraq is still struggling to recover from the 2003 invasion and occupation, the country’s oil sector is quickly expanding with the help of foreign investors including Exxon Mobil and BP. We’re joined by Greg Muttitt, whose new book, "Fuel on the Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq," takes a close look at how energy interests played a crucial role in the U.S. invasion. "They created a disaster because there were constantly U.S. interests behind it," Muttitt says.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Enbridge, TransCanada pipeline safety is a pipedream

Someone needs to save Canada’s two largest pipeline operators from themselves.

Enbridge Inc. and TransCanada Corp., both based in Canada’s greatest city, as Stephen Harper recently labelled his adopted Calgary hometown, have been doing giant work giving this country a black eye.

And they may have driven a stake through their plans for two pipeline megaprojects – combined cost, $13-billion-plus. One of them is to span the length of the U.S. to deliver Athabasca crude to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast (TransCanada’s Keystone XL). The other is to navigate the mountain ranges of B.C. and Alberta to convey Athabasca crude to Asian markets (Enbridge’s Northern Gateway) as an alternative to a U.S. market that now takes practically all of Canada’s oil exports.

Budget cuts, overdevelopment, threaten Canada’s cherished parks system

It’s the season when Canadians break out the canoes, hiking boots and backpacks and head off into the trackless northern wilderness to commune with our plaid-jacket inner selves. There’s something in the nation’s psyche that leaps to the churn of paddle on water, or the eerie call of the loon on a remote lake.

Well, that’s the theory, anyway. In practice many of us trek no further than our local national or provincial parks, with their well-marked trails, carefully tended campsites and sandy, child-friendly beaches. But even that is something to cherish, and conserve. From Algonquin Park to the Gatineau, Mont Tremblant, Banff and Jasper, the Nahanni and Gros Morne, our parks are renowned the world over for their rugged beauty and wildlife.

Dumb as dirt: Bethune, Mao, Anders and the new McCarthyism

Last week the Canadian government opened a new $2.5 million visitor's centre at Bethune Memorial House in Gravenhurst, Ontario where physician Dr. Norman Bethune was born. A Parks Canada National Historic Site, it commemorates the life and achievements of this outstanding Canadian surgeon who pioneered techniques in thoracic surgery and provided care to wounded combatants in World War I, the Spanish Civil War, and during the second Sino-Japanese War, where he perished in the course of his service. However, that's not the view of Conservative Member of Parliament for Calgary West, Rob Anders, who criticized the move in print, radio, and television interviews:

"The idea that taxpayer money is being used to glorify somebody who was a propagandist for Mao - there's a lot of taxpayers out there who would say that was an inappropriate use of resources." -- Victoria Times Colonist

Elections Canada has new evidence in Etobicoke Centre

Elections Canada has made a last-minute motion to file new evidence to the Supreme Court of Canada in Conservative MP Ted Opitz's appeal of an April court decision that overturned the federal election result in Etobicoke Centre.

Elections Canada says it has located some of the voters whose ballots were thrown out because of registration certificates that were missing or were unsigned.

Citizen Marsh calculates the odds of a Northern Gateway oil spill

Democracy works when citizens act.

Democracy is not simply government creating a frictionless environment for the transaction of corporate business or dispensing with the inconvenience of being accountable to critics.

It’s really about citizens embracing the messiness of debate, dissent, disagreement and the opportunity to object to policy and practice. This capacity is what makes the dishevelled and cumbersome and often frustrating process we call democratic government worth having.

"Everyone Only Wants Temps"

It's still dark when I show up at the Labor Ready storefront in downtown Oakland, California, just a few blocks from the plaza where the Occupy crowd threw up its tents against the one percent. From the sidewalk, the place looks vaguely illicit, with minimal signage and floor-to-ceiling shades that remain drawn 24/7. Later, I will come to think of this as the company "look"—unwelcoming and easy to miss—often tucked alongside a check-cashing business or payday lender.

The office opens at 5:30 a.m., but job seekers start appearing an hour early, hoping to snag a top spot on the sign-in sheet. By the time I arrive, 20 people, all but one of them men, are already inside—the space is essentially a waiting room with a long counter—standing or slouching in white plastic chairs. Behind the counter sits an African American woman with short hair and a bearing that suggests a low tolerance for bullshit. "I can't remember the last time I got eight hours sleep," a bleary-eyed man behind me announces to no one in particular.

End of the line: Potential immigrants who have lost their place in the queue tell their stories

OTTAWA — About 280,000 would-be immigrants, stuck on a waiting list of people who applied to come to Canada more than four years ago, were told as a result of the recently passed federal budget to start the process from scratch.

The move hasn't garnered the sort of blaring headlines that accompanied the shrinking of public service jobs, alterations to environmental oversight or boosting the age of eligibility for Old Age Security. But like those actions, it is about more than just budget numbers.

The 280,000 had sought to come to Canada under a federal program for skilled workers, and while they may have met the criteria when they first applied, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney believes many of their qualifications are no longer relevant.

Canadian Special Forces To Get New Boats

Canada’s special forces will be receiving new rigid hull inflatable boats

The government recently awarded a contract for $1.87 million to Kanter Marine Inc. of St. Thomas, Ontario. Kanter will produce eight boats for the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command. There will be an option for another two.

Doctors interrupt Conservative cabinet ministers to protest cuts to refugee health benefits

OTTAWA—Dr. Mark Tyndall rarely wears his white lab coat while working at the hospital, but he knew it would make an impression when he barged onto the race track.

“It’s symbolic. It’s the only time I wear it,” Tyndall, head of infectious diseases at the Ottawa Hospital, said with a chuckle Friday morning shortly after interrupting a Conservative government photo op to protest recent cuts to health benefits for refugees.

Liberals should focus on the message, not the messiah

With more and more column inches spent discussing their party’s leadership race, Liberals need to remember what really matters: the party’s message going into the next election.

It’s tempting to get caught up in the drama of a leadership race: who’s in, who’s out, and who’s supporting who. But voters should look beyond the day-to-day theatrics and focus on the messaging that each candidate brings to the race. Whatever message that happens to be, it may not be the same message that the party will carry into a general election. But it’s important that the next Liberal leader is capable of delivering a simple message that will appeal to ordinary Canadians. This should be the first litmus test for those who ask for the reins to the party: can they encapsulate their candidacy in one or two sentences? Can they deliver a winning message?

Peckford writes alternate version of Canada’s Constitution

You know what’s tough? Fixing history. Or rewriting it or revising it, whatever term you prefer. The problem with history is that it’s a story, often with a cast of interesting and compelling characters. And once a story takes hold, it’s almost impossible to shake it from the public consciousness.

That’s Brian Peckford’s problem now. The former Newfoundland premier is determined to set the record straight on how the agreement came about in November 1981 to patriate the Constitution. He has written a political memoir that aims to change the story of how the deal went down.

Banks will win, customers lose under Flaherty’s new spat-resolution rules

Jim Flaherty is spinning his plan to overhaul the banking industry’s dispute-settlement regime as “tough” and “pro-consumer.”

The Finance Minister could also declare that the Earth is flat, but that wouldn’t make it true.

The proposed new rules look suspiciously like a gift to the country’s big banks, which have chafed under the current regime. Mr. Flaherty dropped the news on a sultry Friday afternoon in July.

How Jason Kenney misrepresents equality to justify refugee health cuts

It has been over a week since the cuts to the 55-year-old Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) took effect, leaving refugees and refugee claimants without essential health care services and medication. These changes have affected children as well as seniors and adults, and have put the lives of vulnerable people in this country at risk.

In a bizarre petition thanking himself, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Jason Kenney, has promoted these cuts as a matter of fairness and equality. He claims that the former program was unfair because it provided refugees and refugee claimants with benefits that some Canadian citizens were unfortunately not receiving.

How the rules got fiddled to make sure a P3 got pushed through in B.C.

In 2008, British Columbia's controversial public private partnership (P3) program was in trouble.

With P3s, private companies put up financing for public services and infrastructure and in exchange get to manage the projects with guaranteed profits for decades. The cost of private finance was always higher than if government borrowed the money itself, but in 2008 things got worse. The global financial crisis dramatically drove up the cost of borrowing by corporations compared to borrowing by government.

Democracy: Thinking outside the box

I’ve been vexed by elections going back to high-school student council. The wrong candidate usually won: the quarterback beat the class intellectual, convincing me that “the people” are stupid and democracy doesn’t work.

Voters whose candidates lose often react that way. But what if the problem is elections, not democracy — because elections aren’t all there is to democracy. That may be hard to absorb, since we tend to equate them. But perhaps democracy isn’t just a political system; it’s a core part of being human.

GTA residents warming to density

One almost feels sorry for Doug Holyday; but not as sorry as one does for the city of which he is deputy mayor.

Not only is the poor man hopelessly out of touch with 21st-century Toronto, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. (Is it coincidence that three of city council’s most visible dinosaurs — Holyday and the Ford Brothers — all come from Etobicoke?)

Tim Geithner's Libor Recommendations Came Straight From Banks, Documents Show

WASHINGTON -- Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has so far escaped responsibility for the spreading Libor fixing scandal by releasing documents showing that when he became aware of the problem in 2008, as head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, he made recommendations to address it.

"The New York Fed analysis culminated in a set of recommendations to reform LIBOR, which was finalized in late May. On June 1, 2008, Mr. Geithner emailed Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England, a report, entitled 'Recommendations for Enhancing the Credibility of LIBOR,'" a Fed statement released Friday reads. "As is clear from the work culminating in the report to Mr. King of the Bank of England, the New York Fed helped to identify problems related to LIBOR and press the relevant authorities in the UK to reform this London-based rate."

Algonquins of Barriere Lake in standoff with the Sûreté du Québec to prevent logging

The Algonquins of Barriere Lake are protesting unauthorized logging on their territory since Resolute Forest Products (formerly known as Abitibi Bowater) began logging last Tuesday without proper community consultation or informed consent to the Mitchikanibikok Inik First Nation.

The logging area in question is near Poigan Bay, Quebec, within territory that includes Algonquin sacred sites and important moose hunting grounds.

British Columbia’s ridings to be ‘changed dramatically’ for 2015 election; Tories have most to gain, says Lyle

British Columbia’s ridings will be “changed dramatically” for the fall 2015 federal election and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s majority-governing Conservatives will have the most to gain from the six new seats and realigned electoral boundaries, says a pollster. 

“The existing ridings are going to be changed dramatically,” said Innovative Research Group pollster Greg Lyle. “To fully understand it, you really need to have a poll by poll overlay which I don’t have but there’s an obvious pattern. The Tories win, right? Not perfectly, but mostly. … The new ridings are going in areas of their strength.”

Unscrupulous campaign players could be ‘gaming’ election system, says Duffy

Sophisticated new get-out-the-vote technologies could be helping unscrupulous candidates “game the system” in an election, and Elections Canada likely can’t do much about it, say political observers.

“In any election situation now, you have so much money and technology bearing down on voting behaviour and voter mobilization and voter persuasion, that there’s a real question of whether our system of ensuring fair, open and transparent elections is really up to scratch,” said John Duffy, a former adviser to former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin and author of the bestselling, Fights of Our Lives: Elections, Leadership and the Making of Canada.

Scrappy Tory MP Del Mastro should take a more polished, lawyerly response to Elections Canada investigation, says Tory pundit

Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro, who is under investigation by Elections Canada over allegations of a donation reimbursement scheme in his 2008 campaign expenses and who agreed on July 6 to meet with Elections Canada later this month, should put down his boxing gloves and assume a more lawyerly approach to the allegations against him, says a high-profile Conservative pundit.

“People admire and respect Dean because he’s tenacious and a fighter. Probably here, he’s being more of a boxer than he should be,” said Tim Powers, vice-president of Summa Strategies. “He may want to take a polished sort of lawyerly approach to all this.”

Relationship between feds and First Nations at a ‘tipping point’

AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo, who was elected after eight rounds of voting in 2009, is running to win a second term this week, but he’s facing competition from seven candidates, including for a first time, four women. The AFN has never before had a female national chief. 

“It’s an interesting dynamic that’s going on out there, and it’s hard to predict the winner,” said Doug Cuthand, a member of the Cree Little Pine First Nation and a columnist on aboriginal issues for The Saskatoon Star Phoenix. “What I see happening is the ‘Anyone but Atleo,’ movement will start and it’ll coalesce around somebody else.”

PM keeps Tories together, but observers predict trouble once Harper leaves

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s ability to keep the muted factions of his majority-governing party tightly together is part of his “genius” as a political leader, but some political observers say whenever Mr. Harper leaves, there could be trouble for the party.

“No matter where you are in the Conservative Party, whether you’re a Red Tory, or you’re a Reformer or you’re a social conservative, you all sort of see Stephen Harper as a champion,” said Gerry Nicholls, a political consultant who once worked with Mr. Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) from 1997 to 2001 when Mr. Harper headed up the National Citizens Coalition. “Once Stephen Harper steps aside, you no longer have that sort of hero, that great general, that Napoleon of politics at the apex of your party, then there could be trouble because I think the party could actually break apart,” said Mr. Nicholls.

Canadian political parties want to appear macho

OAKVILLE, ONT.—Canadian political parties have a strong desire to appear macho.

That’s the only explanation I can come up with to explain why both the Conservative and New Democratic parties recently released negative attack ads of unbelievably poor quality.

You might say they are running negative ads simply for the sake of running negative ads.

Competition bureau probes Canadian link to bank scandal

Canada's Competition Bureau continues to probe a mushrooming international scandal that has already ensnared a venerable British bank and forced the resignation of its chief executive.

Documents filed in an Ontario court suggest the bureau is investigating a possible Canadian link to the scandal that's rocking the world of global banking: financial skullduggery involving the manipulation of a key international interest rate known as the LIBOR rate.

Rob Ford lands backing of top Bay Street political fundraiser

Ralph Lean, one of Toronto’s best-known political fundraisers who worked against Rob Ford in the last mayoral campaign, has changed his tune and says he will back the mayor in 2014.

Mr. Lean, a fundraising co-chair of George Smitherman’s failed campaign in 2010, says he believes Mr. Ford has gotten the “big things” right.

Native teens from across Canada urged to take up law as a career

She stands in the prisoner’s dock, fielding questions about her drug bust. No, she didn’t know there was marijuana in the bag; honest. She just thought it was chewing gum.

Playing the role of an accused drug dealer Friday at a mock trial at the University of Toronto law school, 17-year-old Lakota Williams beat every charge but one; possession. Not bad for a high school student who came to Toronto last week from Thunder Bay, Ont., for a five-day taste of law school.

Canadians get key posts in huge joint military exercise

Canadian military leaders are taking up key command positions at the world's biggest maritime exercise for the first time in 40 years.

The six-week-long Rim of the Pacific, or RIMPAC, exercise has been taking place every two years since 1974. Twenty-two countries are now engaged around the Hawaiian Islands in all sorts of military simulations, from amphibious landings to diving operations and vessel boardings at sea, as well as some live-fire exercises.

Paradis asked civil servants to meet with companies from his riding

Public Works and Government Services Canada laid out the welcome mat for two companies from Christian Paradis’s Quebec riding at the minister’s behest, a practice that raised concerns with the federal ethics watchdog and spurred change inside the department.

In 2009, when Mr. Paradis was Public Works minister, he directed bureaucrats to set up meetings with two firms from Thetford Mines, Que., that were promoting their products — Thermo Pieux and Pultrall.

Canada’s Afghan legacy: Shoddy school buildings and sagging morale

BAQI TANAH, AFGHANISTAN—The Pakistan border is a short walk through the desert from this village, and the rutted road that winds past it is a main thoroughfare for smugglers, Taliban insurgents and corrupt Afghan border police.

They all compete for the villagers’ loyalties, which shift as easily as the sand beneath their dusty feet, depending on who presents the biggest threat, or holds out the most alluring promises.

Canada hoped to win them over by building a new school just two years ago. Village elder Haji Abdul Raziq, an overbearing greybeard, named the school after himself.