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.]

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Taxpayer-funded Bruce Carson school spent $1.3 million on salaries, travel, office in 2011

OTTAWA — A federally-funded research partnership that actively promoted oil and gas companies reported spending more than $1.3 million on salaries, office expenses and travel in 2011, coinciding with the departure of its executive director who is now in the middle of an ethics and lobbying controversy.

Bruce Carson, a former adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, headed the Alberta-based Canada School of Energy and Environment that promoted research collaborations between three universities in the province until he was prompted to leave because of unrelated allegations of inappropriate lobbying of the government on behalf of a company promoting water treatment technology and services.

The shape of debate to come

ARCHITECTS behind two of the world’s newest legislative assemblies say it is time to consider debating the design of spaces for political discourse.

The territory of Nunavut’s consensus government and circular legislature and the National Assembly for Wales’ similar arrangement of members represent two of the most modern attempts at debating chambers.

Lead architects from both projects said the traditional British Westminster approach of two opposing sides of a chamber now had room for change and variation.

UBS Execs Allegedly Deceived U.S. Cities, Steered Contracts To Friends

NEW YORK, July 30 (Reuters) - Three former UBS executives helped deceive U.S. cities and towns by operating a scheme to rig bids to invest municipal bond proceeds, a federal prosecutor said on Monday at the start of the bankers' criminal trial in New York.

Peter Ghavami, Gary Heinz and Michael Welty were charged in 2010 by the U.S. Department of Justice as part of its broad investigation of the $3.7 trillion U.S. municipal bond market. The probe has focused on rooting out schemes to fix prices and rig bids on bond transactions, and has ensnared some of the world's largest banks.

Reporters Know What the 'Voter ID' Push Is Really About. Why Don't They Just Say So?

Does any journalist who is not an overt shill for the right actually believe that Republicans are pushing voter ID laws because they’re concerned about voter fraud?

No, of course not.

And for good reason. Voter fraud simply isn’t a problem in this country. Studies have definitively debunked the voter fraud myth time and again.

Will Women Get Pushed Off the Fiscal Cliff?

Remember that time when Congress almost defaulted on our debt? It may seem like a distant nightmare, but we’re still living with repercussions from the debt ceiling showdown. In order to get Congress to lift the ceiling a year ago, President Obama struck a deal that will cut $2.4 trillion in spending over ten years and formed a Congressional committee that was supposed to recommend ways to cut another $1.5 trillion from the deficit. If the committee failed to come up with the cuts, sequestration would kick into gear, with $1 trillion in cuts evenly split between defense and non-defense spending come January 2. The latter never came to fruition, so we’re now on a collision course with the former.

Poland's Solidarnosc Wants No Part of Romney's Anti-Labor Politics

Mitt Romney jetted into Poland Monday, as part of a push to win Polish-American votes in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and other battleground states. And how does an American presidential candidate “do” Poland? By posing for photos with Lech Walesa, the former Polish president who—like Ronald Reagan—was once a union leader.

But don’t think that the grip-and-grin session with Walesa signaled that Romney, who has run a militantly anti-union campaign (even airing television commercials that promote so-called “right-to-work” laws and assaults on public employees), is moving toward a more mainstream stance as regards the rights of labor. Walesa long ago abandoned the union movement for politics, and like Reagan he’s tended toward the right side of the political spectrum.

The Startling Accuracy of Referring to Politicians as 'Psychopaths'

In this presidential election season where, as usual, the fur is flying and name-calling is in full swing, one invective seems to be gaining currency -- psychopath. A web search for "Romney" or "Obama" and "psychopath" (or, more generally, "politician" and "psychopath") yields millions of hits. While it's tempting to dismiss this phenomenon as mere venting by angry voters, the rantings of conspiracy theorists, or even bloggers trying to drive traffic, it is worth at least asking the question: could they be right? If these pundits mean that the targeted office-seekers are evil or "crazy," probably not. But if they are pointing out that politicians and psychopaths share certain characteristics, they could be on to something.

There's Only One Tank the Army Can't Stop

The M1 Abrams tank has survived the Cold War, Iraq, and Afghanistan. No wonder—it weighs as much as nine elephants and is fitted with a cannon capable of turning a building to rubble from two and a half miles away.

But now the hulking, clanking machine finds itself a target in an unusual battle between the Defense Department and lawmakers who are the beneficiaries of large donations by its manufacturer.

Mitt Romney Says Israel Settlements 'Should Be Discussed In Private'

The sensitive issue of Israeli settlement construction in the Palestinian West Bank is something that should be "discussed in private," Mitt Romney said in an interview with CNN Monday.

"I believe that the issue of settlements is something which should be discussed in private by the American president and our allies," Romney told Wolf Blitzer on "The Situation Room." "When we show diplomatic distance between ourselves and our ally, I think we encourage people who oppose that relationship to seek other means to achieve their ends."

Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program Change Could Lead To Exodus, Critics Warns

REGINA - Some members of Saskatchewan's immigrant community are predicting another exodus due to the changes in the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program.

The program was created back in 2009 as a means to speed up the immigration process for several categories of people, including skilled workers and family members of immigrants.

Northern Gateway Pipeline Battle Puts Harper In Tough Position

The disagreement between Christy Clark and Alison Redford over the Northern Gateway pipeline puts Stephen Harper in a delicate position with no easy way out.

Harper wants the pipeline to go ahead. Exploiting Canada's natural resources is a key plank in his economic vision for the country and his government has harshly criticized environmental groups that have tried to put up obstacles to Northern Gateway.

B.C. premier’s stance unlikely to affect Northern Gateway Pipeline

B.C. Premier Christy Clark raised the stakes in the pipeline poker game last week. But given that she has such a weak hand, it’s not likely to be a game changer.

Clark and her Liberals are way down in the polls in B.C, running far behind NDP leader Adrian Dix. She needed to do something dramatic if the trend was to be reversed before next year’s election.

What better way than to hold hostage the controversial Northern Gateway Pipeline and make a few demands?

The ‘petro dictators’ are among us

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark’s belated but necessary assertion of B.C.’s bottom lines on the preposterously irresponsible $5.6 billion Enbridge Inc. pipeline-and-tanker scheme has caused a great deal of windy indignation to erupt from Ottawa. Clark is hijacking the prospects for a national energy strategy, we’re told. Even worse, what’s at stake is the delicate balance of Confederation itself.

The thing to notice is that what the federal Conservatives share with the Opposition New Democrats and Liberals is a comical inability to open their mouths on these subjects without insulting the intelligence of nine out of 10 Canadians. That’s the proportion of us who showed up in a February Harris Decima survey to affirm the obvious, which is that encouraging Beijing’s police-state racketeers to take over Canadian oilsands corporations — this is the core of the “national energy strategy” on offer, by the way — is unpardonably stupid and reckless.

Proposed pipelines all risk, little reward for B.C.: report

Alberta stands to rake in more than half a trillion dollars in taxes over 25 years should three major pipeline projects – all facing stiff opposition – proceed, a new report says.

British Columbia will receive just a trickle in comparison, even though the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline and Trans Mountain network will snake through the province and oil tankers will ship out of its ports.

Lawyer says Kenney’s office tried to intimidate him over Conrad Black comments

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s office pursued a formal complaint against a Toronto lawyer who suggested publicly that the Conservative politician played a role in the decision to let former media baron Conrad Black return to Canada.

This spring, a staffer in Mr. Kenney’s office filed a grievance against Guidy Mamann with the Law Society of Upper Canada, proposing he be investigated for violating its code of conduct.

Exhaustive Study Finds Global Elite Hiding Up to $32 Trillion in Offshore Accounts

A new report reveals how wealthy individuals and their families have between $21 and $32 trillion of hidden financial assets around the world in what are known as offshore accounts or tax havens. The actual sums could be higher because the study only deals with financial wealth deposited in bank and investment accounts, and not other assets such as property and yachts. The inquiry was commissioned by the Tax Justice Network and is being touted as the most comprehensive report ever on the "offshore economy." It also finds that private banks are deeply involved in running offshore havens, with UBS, Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs handling the most assets. We’re joined by the report’s author, James Henry, a lawyer and former chief economist at McKinsey and Company.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

Religion’s fair game if it motivates politics

Much has been made of the government’s muzzling of the science community, its low regard for statistics, its hard line against environmentalists.

Because Stephen Harper otherwise appears to be a clear-headed rationalist, there is some wonder about the motivation for these impulses, including the question of whether they are triggered by his evangelical beliefs. The Prime Minister is a member of the Alliance Church, more specifically the Christian and Missionary Alliance. The church believes the free market is divinely inspired and views science and environmentalism with what might be called scorn.

People's Tribunal on mining impacts: Why we found Goldcorp guilty

Wednesday, August 1 is a 'Continental Day of Action Against Canadian Mega Resource Extraction.' In Vancouver, a protest action will take place in front of Goldcorp's corporate headquarters, starting at 4:30p.m. at 666 Burrard Street. Goldcorp's record in Central America and Mexico was recently put before a People's Tribunal in Guatemala. Here, two of the judges explain why Goldcorp was found guilty. 

 “The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being…” – World Health Organization

For two days in mid-July, a panel of 12 judges from different countries with expertise in health, the environment and human rights, came together to hear testimonies and complaints from people affected by Goldcorp’s mining operations in Carrizalillo, Mexico; Valle de Siria, Honduras; and in San Miguel Ixtahuacán and Sipacapa, San Marcos, Guatemala.

Conflict of Interest Act's five-year review past deadline, opposition MPs frustrated with 'toothless' bill

The deadline for Parliament’s five-year review of the Conflict of Interest Act for public office holders came and went this July without any sign of progress, concerning and frustrating MPs and government observers.

“There’s a lot of frustration about an act that was supposed to give really clear tools to ensure that Parliamentarians and designated public office holders play by the rules, and yet it’s become fairly toothless,” said NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus (Timmins-James Bay, Ont.).

Unpaid overtime a growing legal liability

Mobile technology has helped employers squeeze more productivity out of their employees, but all those hours of work while technically off the clock leaves them open to lawsuits over unpaid overtime, experts warn.

Overtime pay is governed by different standards across Canada. In Ontario, for example, it must be paid for any work in excess of 44 hours per week. There are exceptions for managerial roles and those in professions like medicine, the law and accounting, but for the most part, employees are legally entitled to excess pay for excess work.

Canadian economy slows, sets stage for disappointing second quarter

Economic growth in Canada slowed in May, increasing the likelihood that second-quarter gross domestic product will disappoint.

May’s GDP grew a weaker-than-expected 0.1 per cent, following a 0.3 per cent expansion in April, according to Statistics Canada data released on Tuesday.

Historic postal station site may be for sale

Protesters at Postal Station K are channelling the site’s rebellious past.

About 100 people gathered Monday evening to protest the possible sale of the historic post office, fearing another condo tower will rise in its place.

“We don’t need more condominiums,” said George Butterway, 76, who spends time every day in the building’s parkette.

India blackout spreads, 700 million without power

NEW DELHI—More than 700 million people in India have been left without power in the world’s worst modern blackout, prompting fears that protests and even riots could follow if the country’s electricity supply continues to fail to meet growing demands, the Guardian reported.

The blackout has trapped miners, stranded train travellers and plunged hospitals into darkness when grids collapsed for the second time in two days.

ORNGE’s Italian chopper firm wants $1.8 million back

Italian helicopter firm AgustaWestland wants to “claw back” $1.8 million because ORNGE founder Dr. Chris Mazza and his team failed to drum up new business.

“We were dissatisfied with the end result,” said Agusta spokesman Dan Hill from Washington. “They didn’t deliver the product.”

The product referred to by Hill was part of the controversial marketing services agreement between ORNGE and Agusta now under investigation by a Queen’s Park committee and the Ontario Provincial Police.

Stay-at-Home Dad Wins Right to Front Yard Vegetable Garden

Karl Tricamo has gardened off and on since he was a child. He says he's had about six or seven seasons in which to hone his "green thumb." Earlier this year, his concerns about GMOs and the use of pesticides and herbicides in industrial farming prompted the stay-at-home dad to convert his front lawn into a vegetable garden. His plant list included 55 heirloom varieties -- among them, tomatoes, peppers, squash, eggplant and various ornamental plants.

Before starting his garden he reviewed the city’s ordinances to ensure that he was following all the necessary rules in regards to front yard landscaping.

Harper is building the foundation for constant war

The Conservatives are setting up overseas bases, increasing the military's size, and making Canadian society more militaristic. Now, the head of the military wants to get to work.

Six and half years into Harper’s Conservative government, Canada has become so militaristic that the head of the armed forces can demand a new war and few bat an eye.

On July 7, Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk told the Canadian Press, “We have some men and women who have had two, three and four tours and what they’re telling me is ‘Sir, we’ve got that bumper sticker. Can we go somewhere else now?’”

As global economy worsens, Canadian politicians urged to prepare for the worst

OTTAWA — The economic clouds gathering beyond Canada’s borders are so ominous that at least two bank economists recommend Canadian governments, and particularly Ottawa, start thinking about a contingency plan should the world be plunged into a second crisis — further stimulus spending.

CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld, who cautions that another recession is not in his baseline forecast as yet, believes Canada’s best response to a new crisis should not be for the Bank of Canada to cut interest rates further.

More political fallout from pending Nexen takeover

With the takeover of Canada’s Nexen Inc. still not finalized, already politicians on both sides of the border are using it for leverage.

On Monday, federal New Democrats called on the government to initiate a “thorough” and “transparent” review of CNOOC’s takeover of Nexen Inc., after U.S. regulators raised the possibility of insider trading before the deal was announced.

Air Canada wins in arbitration case against pilots

An arbitrator has sided with Air Canada, choosing its final offer over that put forward by its 3,000 pilots, ending the long-simmering contract dispute.

But it is unlikely to resolve morale and labour troubles at the airline.

“Air Canada pilots are angry at the way they have been treated by the government and their employer,” according to a statement issued by the Air Canada Pilots Association after Douglas Stanley released his decision Monday.

Olympic Goodwill Image Belied by Arrests, Censorship and Corporate Ties Behind London Games

While NBC has been airing wall-to-wall coverage of Olympic Games in London, little attention has been paid to what has taken place behind the scenes and just outside Olympic Park where many organizations are mobilizing to bring attention to many issues. London police arrested 182 people Friday for taking part in the monthly Critical Mass bike ride during the Olympics’ opening ceremony. Meanwhile, public outcry is growing after thousands of fans were told the Games were sold out, but prime seats reserved largely for sports federations and corporate sponsors have remained empty. Although many locals cannot afford to attend the Games, this year’s Olympics is estimated to cost British taxpayers a staggering $17 billion. Residents 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 Dow Chemical and BP, companies with human rights records that critics say are at odds with the Olympic ideals of global peace and goodwill. We go to London to speak with scholar and former U.S. soccer team member Jules Boykoff, who has been in England since April researching a book on dissent and the Olympics. "The Olympics provide a real opportunity for activists. We often say [at protests] that the entire world is watching, the whole world is watching. And, in fact, at the Olympics, it almost is," Boykoff says. "This is a real opportunity for activists to put their ideas in front of people who might not otherwise be able to or willing to listen to them."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

Government deal with charity cut after Enbridge pressure

The Conservative government cancelled an agreement with a charity that supports environmental causes eight months after energy firm Enbridge Inc. lobbied against the deal, The Canadian Press has learned.

The federal Fisheries Department said last September it would no longer use an $8.3-million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, a U.S.-based environmental trust. The foundation donated the money through charity Tides Canada, which was to distribute the funds with federal oversight to support a departmental marine-planning initiative.