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.]

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Obama Administration Stalls Blind Rights Treaty For Another Year

WASHINGTON -- Delegates from the United States and the European Union have managed to delay a key human rights treaty for the blind until at least 2013. Talks to secure a deal ended on Wednesday in Geneva, Switzerland, without agreement on draft language.

The U.S. and European blockade is supported by large publishing companies; developing nations and advocates for people living with disabilities object.

Romney's 'No Apologies' Diplomacy in Action as U.K. Trip Turns to Public Spat

In March 2010, Mitt Romney published one of those profile-raising books that American politicians often put out before a presidential run: No Apology: The Case for American Greatness. The implication, made more explicit in the text, was that President Obama was traveling the world shamefully apologizing for America, and that if only someone would lead America with more pride and backbone, then the dream of American greatness would once again be realized. Romney's "no apology" line continued a "no more apologies" campaign that Fox News host Sean Hannity led through much of 2009, decrying Obama's foreign trips as "apology tours" (Hannity said of Obama's "apology tour" stop in Cairo, "it might do him good to remember that apologizing didn't get the allied forces anywhere in World War II").

Super-PACs Can't Give $1 Million to a Congressman. But This One Did.

Like other super-PACs, RGA Right Direction PAC is authorized to spend unlimited money supporting or opposing federal candidates, so long as it doesn't donate directly to them. So what is it doing giving $1 million to Rep. Mike Pence, Indiana's Republican candidate for governor?

If Pence were running to keep his 6th District congressional seat, his campaign couldn't accept a dime from Right Direction. Yet because he's running for an office in a state that allows unlimited PAC contributions to candidates, the super-PAC can wire cash directly to his war chest.

Canada Greenhouse Gas Emissions: We're Nearly Half Way To Meeting 2020 Target

OTTAWA - The federal government is set to announce that it is almost half way to meeting its emissions-reductions target — a significant leap in progress over the past year.

The Canadian Press has learned that when Environment Canada releases its next update on greenhouse gas emissions trends in August, the report will show that Canada is almost 50 per cent of the way towards meeting its 2020 goal.

That's a big jump from the 25 per cent announced a year ago.

Standard + Poor's Investigation: DOJ, SEC Probe Ratings Agency

NEW YORK -- Regulators are investigating Standard & Poor's over some of its ratings, according to a regulatory filing by the S&P's parent company.

The McGraw-Hill Companies Inc., which owns the S&P ratings agency, says the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating whether the S&P broke federal laws when rating certain investments.

T&T Union Fight: Weston Family's Latest Front In Stand Against Labour Groups

Labour strife is mounting in several high-profile companies owned by the billionaire Weston family in what could be a concerted effort to keep unions from extending their footholds into new corners of the empire, observers say.

Despite a long history of unions in Weston-owned Loblaw Cos. Ltd. supermarkets, recent organizing efforts at two of the non-union companies within the prominent Toronto family’s portfolio have encountered stiff employer opposition.

China in the oil patch, should we 'fear the dragon'?

During his visit to China in February, Prime Minister Stephen Harper had two things on his mind: pandas and oil.

For Canada, the trip was a success. Harper had his picture taken with two of China's cutest inhabitants, and told China's leaders often and loudly that Canada's oil and gas companies are open for business and for investment.

His hosts indicated they are almost as keen to buy Canadian oil and gas as he is to sell it, and that Chinese companies will be delighted to take up his invitation to invest in Canadian natural resources.

Canadian mining giants destroy nature and Indigenous communities in Mexico

Oaxaca, Mexico - For over two decades in many parts of Mexico, large corporations -- mostly foreign owned but usually with wealthy Mexican partners -- have developed huge projects in rural areas. Called mega-projects, the mines and resource extraction efforts take advantage of economic reforms and trade treaties like the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Emphasizing foreign investment, even at the cost of environmental destruction and the displacement of people, has been the development policy of Mexican administrations since the 1970s. When the National Action Party (PAN) defeated the old governing Party of the Institutionalized Revolution (PRI) in 2000, this economic development model did not change. In fact, the PAN simply took over the administration of this development policy and even accelerated it, while in the Mexican Chamber of Deputies the two parties cooperated to advance its goals.

Myth and reality in the struggle for Syria

Deciding whether or not to oppose Syria’s rulers has been the recent dominant preoccupation of many anti-imperialist and left-leaning movements. This hesitant attitude towards the Syrian struggle for freedom is nurtured by many anti-regime actions that were recently taken by many Western and Middle-Eastern countries, whose main interest lies in isolating Syria from Iran. However, I believe a better question to ask with respect to Syria is whether the leftist movement should support, or not support, the struggle of the Syrian people.

Harper’s anti-drug strategy gets a little less compassionate

When Stephen Harper launched his high-profile National Anti-Drug Strategy in the fall of 2007, he took aim at critics who were already saying his new Conservative government was putting too much emphasis on more drug arrests and longer prison sentences, and not enough on helping addicts. “This approach will be tough on crime and compassionate for victims,” the Prime Minister said in a speech in Winnipeg announcing the policy. “If you’re addicted to drugs, we’ll help you, but if you deal drugs, we’ll punish you.”

Toronto police chief to lay out security plans in wake of shootings

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair is set to lay out his plans to ramp up police presence across the city after a recent spate of deadly shootings.

The announcement comes just days after Chief Blair met with the mayor and premier to discuss what can be done to prevent more gun violence.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford asked for the meeting following a mass shooting at an east-end community party that killed two people and injured at least 20 last week.

Toronto city staff kill Hardship Fund that covers medical expenses for the needy

Toronto staff have quietly ended a $900,000 city fund that helps low-income seniors and disabled people pay medical expenses, even though some councillors insist council voted to save it during last winter’s budget debate.

“I’m not sure how a different interpretation of that decision was made, but it clearly has to come back to council,” said Councillor Janet Davis “This problem has to get fixed.”

Last September, council narrowly voted against saving the Hardship Fund from possible elimination in the 2012 budget.

Chris Mazza, Ornge Ex-CEO, Recalled By Legislative Committee

TORONTO - Former Ornge CEO Chris Mazza is being asked to face more questioning next week by members of a legislative committee looking into Ontario's troubled air ambulance service.

An emotional Mazza faced a day-long grilling by the committee last week, and said he didn't know what went wrong at Ornge, but that the Liberal government never told him he was veering off course.

First Nations Omitted From War Of 1812 Re-Enactment

Actors dressed in period costumes helped bring the War of 1812 theme alive at the Tall Ships Festival in Halifax, but the re-enactment left out Canada's aboriginal allies.

Professional re-enactors hired by Parks Canada marched on the Halifax waterfront as if braced for an American attack, but no one represented the First Nations soldiers who fought for the British colony.

Charity behind anti-communist monument seeks $750,000 in federal help

OTTAWA — After raising only a fraction of the costs of building an Ottawa memorial to victims of communism, the charity behind the controversial project says it expects to receive $750,000 in funding from the federal government.

Tribute to Liberty has raised only $140,000 toward the $1.5 million that it expects to need for the Memorial to Victims of Totalitarian Communism.

Immigrants face steep climb to success

Textbook economics suggests immigration should lift productivity. After all, new immigrants open up trade opportunities; they diversify the engines of economic growth; they offer new and different perspectives on business; and they inherently take risks in hope of greater gains — a key ingredient of innovation.

Yet the results have been quite different. A recent study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found immigration has no impact on overall productivity. In Canada, it appears immigration is, in fact, working to reduce productivity given the chronic underemployment of immigrants in the country. According to some estimates, 20% of the increase in the U.S.-Canada productivity gap over the past decade can be attributed to immigration.

Stakes raised in student strike votes

As CEGEPs and universities prepare for what will likely be a turbulent back-to-school season, students who choose to continue to boycott classes have been put on notice.

“There are no more alternatives after this,” said Jean Beauchesne, president of the Fédération des CEGEPs. “There is no more room to manoeuvre after these makeup sessions. Beyond that, there will be failures.”

Sewage Washing Up On Eastern Montreal Shores

People living in Pointe-aux-Trembles say they're fed up with smelly garbage washing up on the banks of the St. Lawrence River.

Raymond Desgagnés said garbage has been washing up on the shore of his property since he bought it in 1996. He said he's concerned about the safety of his grandchildren.

Communications Security Establishment Canada: Super-Secretive $400M Eavesdropping Agency Gets A Little Quieter

OTTAWA - The curtains at Canada's most secretive federal agency have been drawn a little tighter.

The government has quietly stopped telling Canadians about the annual priorities of the national electronic eavesdropping agency, meaning scant details of its mission that were once made public are now classified.

The Big Jobs Myth: American Workers Aren't Ready for American Jobs

A specter haunts the job market. You've witnessed it on the campaign trail. You've seen it on TV. It is the idea that the skills of U.S. workers don't match the needs of the nation's employers.

This "skills mismatch" is routinely held up to explain why the unemployment rate is still at 8.2% three years after the Great Recession officially ended, and why nearly half of those out of work have been so for more than six months. The Romney campaign affirms that the skills mismatch "lies at the heart of our jobs crisis." In his State of the Union speech, President Obama quoted conversations with businessmen who can't find qualified workers, and then proposed "a national commitment to train two million Americans with skills that will lead directly to a job."

Mitt Romney's Neocon War Cabinet

It’s safe to say that foreign policy was not the strong suit of this year’s contenders for the GOP presidential nomination. Rick Perry labeled the Turkish government “Islamic terrorists.” Newt Gingrich referred to Palestinians as “invented” people. Herman Cain called Uzbekistan “Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan” and memorably blanked when asked what he thought of NATO’s incursion into Libya. Michele Bachmann pledged to close the US embassy in Iran, which hasn’t existed since 1980. Rick Santorum gave a major foreign policy speech at a Jelly Belly factory in California.

Lockdown in London: Professor, Ex-U.S. Athlete Jules Boykoff on Olympic Censorship & Militarization

Britain has launched its biggest peacetime security operation ever ahead of the opening of the Summer Olympics. Nearly 20,000 armed forces personnel are now providing security — almost double the number of British troops currently serving in Afghanistan. The Olympic Games are estimated to cost British taxpayers a staggering $17 billion. At the same time, Brits near the Olympic Park have been subjected to sweeping censorship laws enacted by their government at the behest of the International Olympic Committee. Meanwhile, activists are outraged that the Olympics’ long list of sponsors include companies, such as Dow Chemicals and BP. They say the corporations’ human rights records are at odds with the Olympic ideals of global peace and goodwill. We go to London to speak with Jules Boykoff, a professor and author who is currently writing a book on dissent and the Olympics. He played for the U.S. Olympic soccer team in international competition from 1989-1991.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Recession Killed 170,000 Small Businesses Between 2008 And 2010: Report

The economic downturn crushed the dreams of thousands of entrepreneurs.

More than 170,000 small businesses in the U.S. closed between 2008 and 2010, according to analysis by the Business Journals of U.S. Census Bureau data.

Mitt Romney: 'Many' Of Aurora Shooting Suspect's Weapons Were Illegal

LONDON -- Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Wednesday said many of the weapons obtained by the shooting suspect in Colorado were obtained illegally and that changing laws won't prevent gun-related tragedies.

But the firearms that authorities allege James Holmes used to kill 12 people in Aurora, Colo., were obtained legally.

‘Europe is sleepwalking toward a disaster of incalculable proportions:’ Economists

BERLIN — The eurozone faces economic disaster unless its financially stronger states and its central bank commit to bearing a larger share of the region’s debt burden, leading global economists including two advisors to the German government said.

“We believe that …Europe is sleepwalking toward a disaster of incalculable proportions… The sense of a never-ending crisis, with one domino falling after another, must be reversed,” the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET), backed by veteran investor George Soros, wrote in its report.

George Osborne reeling as economy enters the disaster zone

George Osborne was coming under intense pressure from business, the City and the opposition on Wednesday to rethink his hardline austerity approach after news of a deepening double-dip recession dealt a severe blow to the government's deficit reduction strategy.

The Bank of England is expected to embark on further emergency measures to stimulate growth this autumn following the release of official figures showing a shock 0.7% contraction in economic activity in the three months to June.

Although the decline was almost certainly exaggerated by the extra bank holiday for the Queen's diamond jubilee, the City was left stunned by the data from the Office for National Statistics.

Stop Calling the Aurora Shooter 'Evil'

In the aftermath of last Friday's horrific mass shooting in Aurora, CO, national politicians rushed to denounce the massacre in the the strongest possible terms. More often than not, "evil" was made mention of; or similarly malevolent imagery invoked. President Barack Obama lamented that, "[s]uch violence, such evil is senseless. It's beyond reason." Mitt Romney called the shooting "a few moments of evil" in Colorado.

Inside Karl Rove’s Secretive Effort to Defeat Obama’s Re-Election With Help of Billionaire Donors

Karl Rove, the man once known as "Bush’s Brain," has helped found two groups that plan to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for television, radio and online attacks ads to defeat President Obama and restore Republican control of Washington this November. The groups — American Crossroads, whose donors are public, and Crossroads GPS, a so-called "social welfare" organization whose donors are anonymous — operate out of the same offices, share many of the same staff, and pay millions to air similar attack ads. We’re joined by Paul Barrett, assistant managing editor at Bloomberg Businessweek about his article published today called "Karl Rove: He’s Back, Big Time."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

As Afghan Security Forces Training Flounders, Pentagon Alters Progress Levels, Hearing Testimony Shows

WASHINGTON -- After more than a decade and nearly $50 billion spent on building the Afghan National Security Forces, the Pentagon is still struggling to adequately train them and has lowered the standards used to assess their progress, security experts told Congress Tuesday.

At a panel of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on Tuesday, Anthony H. Cordesman, a defense analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies research institution, described the effort to train the ANSF to take over for the U.S. and its allies at the end of 2014 as fundamentally broken.

NYPD Spying: How A 911 Caller Outed NYPD Surveillance Of Muslims In New Jersey

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. -- He saw something. He said something. And he inadvertently uncovered a secret spying operation that the New York Police Department was running outside its jurisdiction.

In June 2009, a building superintendent at an apartment complex near the Rutgers University campus opened the door to unit 1076 to conduct an inspection. Tenants had been notified of the inspection weeks ago and the notice was still stuck to the door.

He turned his key, walked in and immediately knew something was wrong. A colleague called 911.

CBC's The Current Takes On Vic Toews And Tories For Claim Their Tough On Crime Approach Working

The show opened with the following monologue in the program's signature voice:

    It's Wednesday, July 25th. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews says the lowest crime rate in 40 years shows his government's tough-on-crime approach is working. Also working: The tough on jobs approach for high unemployment, the tough on economy approach for record home prices, the tough on environment approach for record temperatures and tough on all of you who didn't vote Tory. This is The Current.

Canada Oil And Gas Industry: Shrinking Profits May Be A Sign Of Things To Come

The talk coming out of Canada’s oil patch in recent months has been increasingly tinged with panic. Industry leaders are growing worried about the oil sands’ future prospects, and the earnings reports coming out this week are a good sign of why that may be.

Oil producer Cenovus on Wednesday reported a 40-per-cent decline in profit in the latest quarter, falling to $396 million from $655 million a year earlier.

Things were even worse for Calgary-based natural gas producer Encana, which recorded a whopping quarterly $1.48 billion loss. It had recorded a profit of $383 million in the same period a year earlier.

Drought imperils eastern Canada crops

Weeks of drought have turned much of Ontario’s prime agricultural land into a dust bowl. And it is corn farmers, especially in the southwest and eastern parts of the province, who have been the hardest hit.

“It is a bad year in eastern Canada and it is getting worse,” said Evan Fraser, a geography professor who studies global food security at the University of Guelph, west of Toronto. The far southwest part of Ontario is “looking grim,” Dr. Fraser said, and in other parts of the province “it’s a bit of a wait-and-see game.”

Political wrangling could bury oil pipeline for good

VICTORIA - For supporters of Alberta’s Enbridge pipeline project, the quest for political support here in B.C. started on a bad footing Monday and got worse as the day went on.

First out of the gate was John Cummins, leader of the B.C. Conservatives and the keenest supporter of the pipeline among the province’s main political parties.

But Cummins, already on the record as insisting that the line pass muster on the environmental front, announced a new condition for supporting Enbridge or any other proposal to pipe oil across B.C. for export to Asian markets.

Alberta Premier Alison Redford to attend London Olympics at cost of $84,000

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Alison Redford is heading to the London Olympics at a cost to taxpayers of $84,000.

Redford says during her five-day trip she will promote the province as a place to invest and do business.

The focus will be on selling Alberta’s energy, tourism and culture sectors on the world stage.

Redford says the Olympics are more than a sporting event and calls it a golden opportunity to meet important decision makers and business leaders.

The premier is to be the keynote speaker at a Canadian energy day hosted by the federal Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

The cost of the London trip also covers two cabinet ministers and three government staff.

Original Article
Source: national post
Author: CP

Don’t jump to conclusions on Nexen approval, Industry Minister warns

Canada’s Industry Minister isn’t dropping any hints about whether he will approve or reject a Chinese state-owned company’s multibillion-dollar bid for Calgary-based Nexen Inc.

And just like Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Christian Paradis is warning Canadians not to jump to any conclusions about which way it will go.

Lobby groups sponsor premiers' meeting in Halifax, send delegates

Lobby groups are sending delegates to the Council of the Federation meeting in Halifax this week in an effort to talk directly to Canada’s provincial and territorial leaders, with some groups paying thousands of dollars to sponsor the conference for access to social events.

The Council of the Federation—the official name for Canada's collective provincial and territorial leaders—is meeting Wednesday through Friday in Nova Scotia's capital.

The Canadian Electricity Association, which represents electricity generators, transmitters and distributors across the country, is a gold sponsor of the premiers' meeting. Jim Burpee, the group’s president, said in an interview that the opportunity to make contact with leaders at the conference is “quite critical.”

Police funding an easy sell after brazen shootings

In the deluge of questions posed to Toronto police at a recent town hall, one stood out for slicing to the core: a worried 10-year-old boy asking what he could do to stay safe at school.

The boy was one of 3,000 residents from the at-risk Rexdale and Jane and Finch neighbourhoods taking part in a virtual town hall held on June 26 by TAVIS, the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy.