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, August 01, 2012

One third of adults 'plan to rely on state pension'

A warning has been issued today about the number of Irish adults hoping to live solely on the state pension when they retire.

A study by Amárach research questioned 1,000 people and found a third of them plan to use the state pension as their only source of income in later years.

Nearly 40% will use a combination of state and private pensions, while a fifth do not know how they will fund their retirement., which commissioned the research, warned of the potential for "huge strain" on the exchequer in the future.

The number of active members in occupational pension schemes is 771,878 - a drop of 38,083 members over 2010 levels, according to recent figures published by the Pensions Board.

Original Article

Extreme weather fails to trigger discussion on climate change

As one sweltering day melted into another this month, it occurred to me that perhaps climate change is a hoax.

How else to explain the way the media all but ignore the subject of climate change in the midst of extreme weather? Is it weird to think there could be a connection?

So I felt relieved last week when CBC TV’s The National announced a report on this summer’s “wicked weather.” Finally, I felt sure I’d hear something raising the climate change question.

Against Big Oil, Norway Channels Its Inner Viking

What do the Vikings have to do with oil policy? Perhaps more than you think. The Tyee sent me to Norway this June to learn about their remarkable oil industry. Many experts I met with repeatedly stressed that their highly successful petroleum policies could not be replicated elsewhere without also adopting their fiercely assertive Norwegian attitude to authority that dates back to the Iron Age.

Can Canada, perhaps the politest nation on Earth, learn something from this? Countries cannot be divorced from their culture and Norway is no exception. To better understand how this tiny nation stood up to the world’s most powerful industrial sector, we must travel back through Norwegian cultural history -- to the age of the Vikings.

Tzeporah Berman, rejected as "ineligible writer", questions government's targeting of environmentalists

Prominent environmentalist and writer Tzeporah Berman expressed shock at her rejection as an "ineligible writer" for Canada Council funding at the Denman Island Readers and Writers Festival.

"I would hope that it's not at all for political reasons, because I have been very outspoken on the Enbridge pipelines and the expansion of the pipelines," Berman said in an interview with the CBC's On the Island host Gregor Craigie.

WikiLeaks Colombia: Gossip and Counterinsurgency

In March 2011, I became the first member of the Spanish-language media in the Americas to conduct and publish a full interview with Julian Assange. Readers of my weekly magazine, Semana, had a natural interest in the enigmatic blond Australian who was creating such an enormous international commotion by distributing secret US cables around the world. And Assange, much to my surprise, had an advanced awareness of Colombia.

“Colombia is a very interesting country for us,” he told me, citing the insurgency by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the military and paramilitary counterinsurgency, and the border conflict with Venezuela, among other issues. Even more important for him was the US role in Colombia: its counternarcotics operations, its massive economic aid program, and its corporate investments and business interests.

What's Going on With Pussy Riot, Explained

What is Pussy Riot?

Pussy Riot is a Russian, anti-Putin, riot grrrl art collective. The group formed in September 2011, directly after Vladimir Putin announced his run for president (again). The 10 performers are known for dressing up in balaclavas (knitted ski masks with eye and mouth holes cut out) and staging punk-infused protest art shows in Moscow's public spaces.

On February 21, five members of Pussy Riot performed a "punk prayer" at the altar of Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow. The original cathedral was destroyed by Stalin in 1931 and rebuilt as a godless celebration of the state (later becoming the world's largest swimming pool), but it returned to its function as an Orthodox church in 1994. Pussy Riot stood under the cathedral's elaborate frescoes, punched at the air and cursed, pleading with the Virgin Mary to kick Putin out of power. Watch the video here.

The FDA Is Spying on Its Own Scientists

After I spoke at a pesticide industry confab a few months ago, an executive with the agrichemical/GMO seed giant Syngenta approached to politely challenge my assessment of the US regulatory agencies. I had charged that these federal watchdog groups kowtow to Big Food and Big Ag, regularly approving dodgy products or practices with little regard for how they may affect public health or the environment.

Au contraire, the Syngenta guy assured me. He insisted that the US regulatory system was full of rigorous scientists who vetted the industry's products carefully and would never let something through that might harm the public. We began a tense conversation about Syngenta's highly toxic and widely used atrazine herbicide, green-lighted by the Environmental Protection Agency despite growing evidence of harm to people and wildlife. We decided after a few minutes to agree to disagree.

Enbridge Oil Spill: U.S. Officials Block Company From Reopening Pipeline After Wisconsin Incident

MADISON, Wis. - U.S. officials are demanding Calgary-based oil giant Enbridge submit a re-start plan before it can re-open a pipeline which spilled thousands of gallons of crude in Wisconsin last week.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration announced Tuesday it has blocked Enbridge's Houston-based subsidiary from reopening the 687 kilometre line.

Ontario, Quebec environmental groups ready to fight pipeline that will carry oilsands

EDMONTON - Environmental groups are geared up to oppose a pipeline that would ship Alberta bitumen to Eastern Canada, opening another front in the public-opinion wars provincial and industry officials are already fighting in B.C. and the United States.

Days after Canada’s National Energy Board approved the first of two Enbridge requests that will bring Alberta crude to refineries in Central Canada, environmental organizations went on the offensive.

Feds to crack down on fraud, human trafficking among international students

OTTAWA — The federal government wants to toughen the rules surrounding student visas in the hopes of cracking down on fraud and human smuggling — even though it's not clear just how big a problem this is.

Quietly published in the Canada Gazette late last month is a proposal to weed out international students who arrive on a student visa as a means of gaining access to Canada's labour market and don't actually enrol in school. There are also concerns that some are ending up at sub-par institutions that ultimately hurt Canada's credibility on the international stage.

Premiers should fight back against Ottawa’s low-wage schemes

It has become clear that the federal government, supported by a number of employer organizations, has a plan for transforming Canada’s labour market in ways that will profoundly hurt Canadians.

It’s a four-prong strategy which includes the dramatic expansion of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), the erosion of Employment Insurance, raising the country’s retirement age, as well as a systematic effort to undermine the ability of unions to stand up for the rights of working people and improve their standard of living.

Canadians should celebrate free health care, dance about it the way the Brits do

Canadians should be singing, dancing and boasting about free health care the way the Brits did at the Olympics opening ceremonies. Where are our leaping nurses? Why doesn’t Sick Kids wheel a bedridden tween dance troupe onstage to be soothed by concerned white-coated staff? Why isn’t OHIP’s name up in lights as the NHS’s (National Health Service) was that night, to the mystification of American commentators?

We take Canada’s glory for granted. Watch the Americans writhe over ObamaCare, a tangled scheme that doesn’t come close to finding the efficiencies of a national system, which is what the provinces try for. Ottawa unilaterally imposes a 2014 funding formula, when it should be sitting down with the premiers and having a chat.

Negotiation? Not Harper’s strength.

New delivery models, not talk, are key to health-care reform

Meetings with more than three or four people around the table, and nobody firmly in charge, tend not to accomplish a whole lot.

So even before they got sidetracked by a dispute between two provinces over a pipeline that’s unlikely to get built any time soon, it required a leap of faith to expect 13 premiers to walk into a room in Halifax last week and emerge with a serious plan to tackle the country’s biggest and most confounding public-policy challenge.

Still, the feebleness of what they did come up with on health-care reform – and the derisive snorts it elicited from those who have long toiled in that field – is difficult to get past. The most useful function of the report attributed to Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall and Prince Edward Island’s Robert Ghiz, and signed off on by all their counterparts, is to help put to rest the notion that health care will be made sustainable through some showy form of national consensus.

The provinces and health care: coming to terms with a new reality

Canada’s provincial and territorial premiers met last week in Halifax for their annual Council of the Federation summer meeting.

In the past, these meetings have been big on barbecue and light on substance, but this year, things were different. This was the first formal opportunity for the premiers to respond to the federal government’s December 2011 unilateral announcement on the future of health care and social programs funding.

Last December, Finance Minister Flaherty announced he would continue the Martin Accord’s six per cent annual escalator for health care to 2017, three years beyond its planned expiry date of 2014, after which transfers will grow at the rate of nominal GDP, but never falling below three per cent annually.

Parliamentarians need to reassert authority over government

“Strengthening Parliamentary Scrutiny of Estimates and Supply” may not sound like the title of a summer blockbuster, but the Government Operations Committee of the House of Commons has such a report that clearly states that Parliament should reassert its supremacy in exercising accountability over government.

The Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates (OGGO) has a majority of Conservative members, is chaired by a member of the NDP with Liberal and Conservative Vice-Chairs. It is a tribute to both the MPs’ commitment and the gravity of the issue that such a diverse group of parliamentarians could produce a report with real substance.

As U.S. Postal Service Faces Default, Critics See Manufactured Crisis to Speed Up Privatization

For months, Americans have heard dire warnings about the impending collapse of the United States Postal Service due to fiscal insolvency. As Republicans push to privatize the post office, the agency is now bracing for its first-ever default today. Unlike every other governmental agency, the Postal Service is required to fund 75 years of retiree health benefits over just a 10-year span. We discuss the fight over the Postal Service with Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and Chuck Zlatkin of the New York Metro Area Postal Union. "The American people have to wake up here about what’s happening with the Postal Service," Kucinich says. "The whole concept of the Postal Service, embedded in that is the idea of universal service, that if you’re poor, you live in a rural area, you’re going to get served just like someone who lives in a city and who may be wealthy."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

Harper pardons farmers convicted years ago of selling grain in the U.S.

KINDERSLEY, Sask. - Prime Minister Stephen Harper has granted pardons to farmers who were convicted in the 1990s for taking their grain across the border to sell in the U.S.

The farmers were trying to get around a law at the time that said they had to sell their wheat and barley through the Canadian Wheat Board or get export permits from the agency.

New federal legislation effective Wednesday strips the wheat board of its monopoly so that western farmers can sell their grain to whomever they choose.

Congressional Probe Reveals Cover-Up of "Auschwitz-Like" Conditions at U.S.-Funded Afghan Hospital

A congressional investigation has revealed a top U.S. general in Afghanistan sought to stall an investigation into abuse at a U.S.-funded hospital in Kabul that kept patients in "Auschwitz-like" conditions. Army whistleblowers revealed photographs taken in 2010, which show severely neglected, starving patients at Dawood Hospital, considered the crown jewel of the Afghan medical system where the country’s military personnel are treated. The photos show severely emaciated patients, some suffering from gangrene and maggot-infested wounds. The general accused of the cover-up is Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, one of the nation’s highest-ranking commanders in Afghanistan, who served as the commander of the $11.2-billion-a-year Afghan training program. We speak to Michael Hastings, contributing editor at Rolling Stone magazine and a reporter for BuzzFeed, which has been following the story closely.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

Harper can’t ignore opposition to Nexen sale by his political base

The proposed sale of Nexen Inc. to CNOOC, the Chinese state-owned oil company, has been condemned by leftist groups such as the Council of Canadians. Stephen Harper will ignore them. But it is also drawing fire from another quarter that Mr. Harper has to take very seriously: his own political base.

The Sun newspapers, including the Edmonton and Calgary papers,  oppose the sale on the grounds that China would never permit a similar Canadian investment into its economy.

West Toronto's trash pickup goes private next week

Garbage pickup in Toronto's west will be carried out by a private contractor as of next week, fulfilling a key promise of Mayor Rob Ford.

Next week private trash collector Green For Life of Pickering, Ont., will handle all routes between Yonge Street and the Humber River — about 165,000 homes in all.

The firm bid $186.4 million for the contract, averaging $17.4 million per year. That bid was less than those submitted by three other eligible, larger companies.

Police alone can't stop gangs, Toronto Chief Bill Blair says

Two weeks after Toronto was shaken by the largest mass shooting in its history, Police Chief Bill Blair sees the gang violence at its root not as one neighbourhood’s problem but a social issue that demands solutions from Toronto’s business and community leaders.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Globe and Mail Tuesday, Chief Blair said police keep track of people involved in or associated with gangs – roughly 2,100 – and of those about 500 or 600 are considered “really violent.”

Regulator blocks restart of Enbridge Line 14

(Reuters) - The U.S. government blocked Enbridge Inc from restarting a key oil pipeline on Tuesday, saying last week's spill on the line was "absolutely unacceptable."

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood blasted Enbridge over the leak of more than a 1,000 barrels of crude oil in a field in Wisconsin, which shut its 318,000 barrel per day pipeline on Friday.

"I will soon meet with Enbridge's leadership team, and they will need to demonstrate why they should be allowed to continue to operate this Wisconsin pipeline without either a significant overhaul or a complete replacement," LaHood said in a statement.

Time for leaders to sheath swords in pipeline palaver Harper, Clark and Redford need to sit down and craft a win-win-win solution to Northern Gateway conundrum

Stephen Harper, Alison Red-ford and Christy Clark need to arrange a conference call to review several hard realities in relation to the Northern Gateway pipeline.

. First, B.C. is legitimate in demanding greater fiscal benefit from what's widely viewed in the province as an environmentally risky, politically unpopular project.

British Columbians feel bombarded with requests for piping from Alberta's oilsands, especially since plans are afoot to expand Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Pipeline into the Lower Mainland.

Kenney trying to 'demonize' refugees, Liberals say

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney should support a study of the federal government's refugee health program cuts and put an end to his disparaging talk about refugees, Liberals said today.

Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux, the party's citizenship and immigration critic, blasted Kenney and his government's recent changes to the interim federal health program (IFHP), that cut access to medication and other expenses for certain refugees.

More prisoners joining gangs behind bars

The number of federal inmates who belong to gangs behind bars has climbed 32 per cent in the last five years, according to figures obtained by CBC News Network's Power & Politics.

That compares to an increase of less than five per cent of non-gang affiliated prisoners — and some experts are warning prisons have become a breeding ground for gang members who pose a greater threat to public safety after their release.

The number of offenders incarcerated or under community supervision identified with street, aboriginal, motorcycle, Asian and traditional organized criminal gangs has climbed to 2,358 as of April 2012 — up from 1,791 in 2007.

Cha-ching! Bev Oda retires with plump pension

OTTAWA - As Bev Oda rides off into the political sunset, the former international development minister known for her lavish tastes will start collecting her hefty MP's pension.

"Oda starts collecting her parliamentary pension on August 1 at the rate of $52,183 a year," Canadian Taxpayers Federation federal director Gregory Thomas said.

Wheat Board monopoly's death a seismic shift for Prairie agriculture

Born: July 5, 1935.

Died: July 31, 2012.

For most of the last 77 years, it’s been against the law for western farmers to sell wheat or barley they’ve planted, grown and reaped to the highest bidder.

Tonight at midnight, that Canadian Wheat Board marketing monopoly dies.

Strong Tory fundraising numbers belie their apparent slide in the polls

Even as polls show its support among voters waning, the Conservative Party continues to outpunch the opposition parties in fundraising.

The Tories raised more than the opposition Liberal and New Democrats combined in the second quarter of 2012, pulling in $3.7 million in donations from 29,000 contributors.

The figures show a growing schism between financial support and voting intention expressed in opinion polls.

Of every dollar donated to the federal parties between 49 cents went to the Conservatives, 24 cents went to the Liberals, 23 cents to the NDP and just 4 to the Green Party.

Stomp the Mega Quarry: Ontario farmers fight back

What happens when you combine a group of hard-working agriculturalists with a threat to the land they love? You get a serious force to be reckoned with.

Stomp the Mega Quarry was only the most recent event organized to raise funds and promote awareness of the fight against a U.S.-owned hedge fund that wants to dig a 200-foot deep hole in some of Ontario's most bountiful farmland. As if this weren't serious enough, the limestone, worth an estimated $14 billion, the Boston-based Baupost Group wants to gouge out of the earth, is an aquifer that filters the drinking water of over two million people.

Lowe’s takes heat in bid for RONA

U.S. home improvement giant Lowe’s is hoping to build itself a bigger piece of the Canadian market with an unsolicited $1.76 billion takeover bid for Quebec-based RONA Inc.

The bid, announced (and rejected) by RONA Tuesday morning, got a big thumbs-down from credit ratings agencies and stock markets, drew heated criticism from Quebec’s finance minister, and a boost in holdings by RONA’s biggest shareholders. But experts say it’s far from dead, despite the opposition.

“The board believes that, in the best interests of RONA and its stakeholders, the corporation should remain focused on executing its business plan with a view to capturing significant opportunities that it sees for its business,” RONA said in a written statement.

Deb Matthews says ex-Ornge CEO Chris Mazza’s defence ‘pure nonsense’

Calling ORNGE founder Chris Mazza’s testimony “pure nonsense,” Health Minister Deb Matthews deflected opposition attempts to discredit her at a provincial probe examining the air ambulance scandal.

Tempers flared and insults were hurled, but Matthews stood her ground and insisted that despite what ORNGE former CEO Mazza testified on July 18, the opposite was often true.

Not only did Mazza stand her up twice, he stonewalled Auditor General Jim McCarter as he investigated, he refused to disclose his $1.4-million salary publicly and he “manipulated patient transfer numbers he reports to the ministry,” Matthews testified.

G20 lawsuit: Hamilton-area plaintiffs file $1.4 million claim against Toronto police

Seven people from the Hamilton area have filed a $1.4 million claim against the Toronto Police Services Board alleging illegal G20 arrests.

The lawsuit, according to a news release, claims that G20 protesters were illegally arrested and profiled for clothing and appearance.

Although not expressly mentioned in the claim, some of the plaintiffs believe they were profiled partly because females had “hairy legs,” according to lawyer Davin Charney.