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, August 06, 2012

Virginia Tech Survivor Colin Goddard: To Prevent Next Tragedy, Gun Control Must Follow Mourning

Police in Wisconsin have identified the suspected gunman in the Sikh temple shooting as Army veteran Wade Michael Page. According to the Associated Press, Page enlisted in April 1992 and was given a less-than-honorable discharge in October 1998. The Wisconsin shooting came just more than two weeks after 12 people were killed and 58 wounded at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. We discuss the state of U.S. gun control with Colin Goddard, a survivor of the the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre and now a campaigner with Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence; and with John Nichols of The Nation magazine, who is based in Wisconsin. "We cannot continue to keep having the same conversation over and over again after these shootings, where we just express our sympathy and look around at each other like, 'How could this happen?' and leave it at that," Goddard says. "It is beyond time to address this issue and Americans are beginning to realize that.”

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

Information Sharing Evaluation Committee, Secret CSIS Initiative, Weighs Torture Issues In Fulfilment Of Tory Directive

OTTAWA - A secret high-level committee at Canada's spy agency is tasked with deciding whether information received from abroad is tainted by torture, declassified records show.

Internal Canadian Security Intelligence Service memos reveal the key role that the recently formed Information Sharing Evaluation Committee plays in determining if the spy agency makes use of the suspect material.

Unions In Canada Get Innovative To Stay Afloat In Times Of Hostility Towards Them

TORONTO - It took a global war to galvanize Canada's workers to begin organizing themselves into unions in the 1940's.

Nearly 70 years later, experts say attacks of another sort have left those unions fighting for their very survival.

The continuing rise of multinational corporations, growing public apathy toward the labour movement and unprecedented interference from the federal government have forced leaders in the country's labour movement to consider new strategies in order to stay afloat during turbulent times.

The fight for transgender equality in B.C. lags behind gains made by others

If your only interaction with the transgender community was through media coverage, you might well think the biggest problem its members faced in recent months was not being allowed – at least at first – to compete in a beauty pageant.

But despite the well-publicized plight and eventual triumph of Vancouver Pride parade grand marshal Jenna Talackova, advocates say the transgender community’s push for equality remains decades behind even the gay rights movement, particularly in British Columbia.

The media won't have Christy Clark to kick around for very much longer

The latest poll from Angus Reid Public Opinion suggests that Premier Christy Clark's political career will come to an end next May, if not sooner.

The numbers are dreadful for the B.C. Liberals, even beyond the NDP's lead of 17 percent among the 804 voters surveyed.

• Clark's disapproval rating is 62 percent.

• Only 15 percent of decided female voters support the B.C. Liberals, compared to 53 percent who support the NDP and 21 percent who say they'll vote Conservative.

• NDP Leader Adrian Dix was deemed best suited to deal with crime, health care, the economy, the environment, education, and federal-provincial relations.

• In the past three months, the perception of Clark worsened among 47 percent of respondents, whereas only 11 percent said their impression of her improved. Dix, on the other hand, improved among 23 percent of voters and worsened only among 17 percent.

The Economist assesses the Quebec election

Politicians aren’t supposed to want summer elections. Voters are distracted and campaign workers are on vacation. Moreover, this year the Olympics are dominating the news.

But for Jean Charest, the unpopular Liberal premier of Quebec, an under-the-radar campaign represents his best chance of winning a fourth term. It was thus no surprise when, on Aug. 1, he called an election to be held on Sept. 4, long before the mandatory requirement of December 2013.

The rest of Canada will be watching closely. Although the Canadian economy has weathered the global recession well — it grew by 2.8 per cent between 2008 and 2011, compared with only 1.1 per cent in the United States — it owes its resilience mostly to the energy and commodity boom in the country’s four western provinces, where unemployment is only 5.5 per cent.

The party will write the narrative for Ms. Gu – and for Nexen

This week, the mysterious death of British businessman Neil Heywood in the southwestern Chinese city of Chongqing last year will be the subject of the show trial of Gu Kailai, the wife of Bo Xilai, the former secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Chongqing Municipal Committee.

Some months have passed since the matter came to light when former Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun sought refuge at a U.S. consulate. Mr. Wang told the Americans that his life was in danger because he had reported the cover-up of Mr. Heywood’s murder to the party’s higher authorities. The consulate was soon surrounded by Chinese police vehicles, and after a couple of days the police chief was inveigled to emerge. He has not been seen or heard from since.

Military families denied services, face too much bureaucracy, reports say

Canadian Forces families are being denied services and benefits by the military or are forced to deal with an overly bureaucratic system that is sometimes not relevant to their needs, according to Defence Department records.

For years, various generals, as well as Defence Minister Peter MacKay, have publicly identified Canadian Forces families as the backbone to a well functioning military. But the system set up to provide services and benefits to those families is facing a series of problems, military leaders were told in November and December.

Pulpits and the pipeline: more churches speaking out on Northern Gateway project

Churches across Canada say they have a religious duty to speak out on the proposed Northern Gateway oilsands pipeline.

Next week, delegates at the United Church of Canada general council meeting in Ottawa are to debate a resolution that calls on the church to reject construction of the $6-billion Enbridge (TSX:ENB)project that would take diluted bitumen from Alberta to the British Columbia coast.

U.S. drought will hit food prices like a derecho

Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to, well, sweat like a cheese plate, watch corn crops wither to dust and learn that those miracle technologies behind crop yield enhancement can do only so much.

And not having learned it, they will repeat it, of course, the following year, having forgotten over the winter just how hot and dry the northern hemisphere can become.

That’s the problem with fixing global warming, as the economist Paul Krugman writes despairingly. People have short memories. “Let the days grow a bit cooler and the rains fall,” he says, “and inevitably people’s attention turns to other matters.”

Can You Be Nice in Today's Cutthroat House of Commons?

It's something every major political party promised in some form around last year's federal election. Call it what you will: reducing the rancour, halting the heckling, cutting the catcalls -- but as politicians revel in the summer barbeque circuit, we ask: Whatever happened to basic politeness?

Some say it simply never existed in the first place. Look at Britain, the forebear of our modern parliamentary system. Its House of Commons often resembles a barn of comically agitated, lowing farm animals before a thunderstorm.

Black’s back, so let’s revel in the controversy

What is it about Conrad Black that elicits such passion? It can’t just be that he’s arrogant and his business methods are despicable. If arrogance merited excommunication, we’d do without some of our most successful generals, politicians and artists. If sharp practices were grounds for ostracism, we’d be shunning lawyers and stockbrokers en masse.

No, the deep emotions Black generates betray something about Canadians as a people. We’re a judgmental lot. Our boy scout self-image demands that our heroes be pristine and preferably rare. We despise those raised to foreign pedestals, yet crave approbation from foreigners who despise us (the Brits) or ignore us (Americans).

Secret CSIS committee weighs torture issues in fulfilment of Tory directive

OTTAWA - A secret high-level committee at Canada's spy agency is tasked with deciding whether information received from abroad is tainted by torture, declassified records show.

Internal Canadian Security Intelligence Service memos reveal the key role that the recently formed Information Sharing Evaluation Committee plays in determining if the spy agency makes use of the suspect material.

Oh my gosh! The Theocons are in a tizzy

Well there I was, worried about the ever-declining state of my golf game, when I was told that I should check the views of some of our scribes on the far right. They were all in a tizzy over what I had written in a recent Globe and Mail column about the intersection of religion and politics.

I thought well heck, why bother. It’s perfectly predictable what these guys say – and I’ve got my wedge game to work on.

But my goodness, I did look and found such distortion and excess that it merited a response.

PM doesn’t want to meet with premiers, doesn’t want ‘a big grandstand’

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose political style is to try to keep expectations low and over-perform, didn’t meet with Canada’s first ministers recently in Halifax and won’t meet with them in November on the economy because he doesn’t want it to  “turn into a big grandstand,” say political observers.

A former senior Conservative staffer, who did not want to be identified, said that Mr. Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) is working hard to keep expectations low, which is why he did not take part in the recent premiers meeting of the Council of the Federation meeting in Halifax and will not be taking part in the upcoming finance ministers’ meeting with the provinces also in Halifax.

Energy minister Oliver dodges debate on national energy strategy

The high-profile and high-stakes standoff between British Columbia Premier Christy Clark and Alberta Premier Alison Redford over Alberta’s proposed $5.5-billion Northern Gateway pipeline which would run from Alberta’s oilsands across B.C. to the Pacific Coast, could be a “sign of a bigger conflicts to come,” warns one expert.

George Hoberg, environmental and natural resource policy professor at the University of British Columbia, said that the current conflict between his home province and the Alberta and federal governments is a “sign of bigger conflicts to come,” unless the provincial, territorial and federal governments have a serious discussion about climate policy, oil sands development, and energy diversification.

Could have charged Carson under Lobbying Act if it were broadened, says lobbyist

Former PMO adviser Bruce Carson, who was recently charged with fraud against the government under the Criminal Code by the RCMP, was not, however, charged with influence peddling under the Lobbying Act, and at least one lobbyist says it illustrates why “lobbying” needs to be redefined.

“He wasn’t engaged in lobbying, as such … [but] I think, on the surface, people assume that’s what he was up to. If you have to explain it you’re losing,” said one consultant lobbyist who did not want to be named. “People want to go to bed at night thinking they’ve got the evil lobbyists under control. It all depends on how you define lobbyist. If it’s people who communicate with decision-makers to affect outcomes, you don’t have them under control. You’ve got a very narrow group of them under control. To me, it’s past the point, I think they’ve gotten into a ridiculous approach. They’re not meeting their objective.”

Conservatives rake in $8.7-million since January, but continue to innovate fundraising

The majority-governing Conservatives out-fundraised both New Democrats and the Liberals again, according to Elections Canada’s  recently-released second-quarter fundraising results last week, but all the political parties are looking at ways to strengthen their fundraising as the per-vote-subsidy dwindles away, say insiders.

“They’ll be looking for ways to become more innovative in soliciting money from supporters. They’d be foolish not to,” said Conservative commentator Tim Powers of the Tories.

Harper government to introduce law to allow private property on reserves

The Conservative government will introduce legislation that would allow first nations members living on reserve to own their property, a radical change that aims to spur economic development in native communities that choose to embrace the new law.

It’s all part of an ambitious Conservative agenda to bring fundamental changes to relations between Ottawa and the first nations – on property rights, on matrimonial rights, on financial transparency and on education.

Defending Jason Kenney doesn’t end with one “counterpunch”

In official Ottawa, no political office works more assiduously or aggressively to burnish its minister’s image than the staff around Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

Much of this works to the mutual advantage of Kenney and those who cover him.

The minister is not tethered to the operatives in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office, Kenney and his officials are more available to journalists in the capital than other government departments and he is an activist minister who makes news and staunchly defends his policies.