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.]

Saturday, August 11, 2012

To Save Our Ecology, We Must Move Beyond Hope

Did Earth rumble after the Rio+20 climate conference? Or was that the roar of a billion citizens letting go the expectation that polite dialogue and political process would restore Earth's ecological balance?

In any case, the global zeitgeist shifted, at least within environmental discourse. Future historians may mark the period from BP's 2010 oil spill disaster, through Fukushima, to the 2012 Rio failure as a state shift in ecological awareness.

Fifty years ago, in 1961, Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, launching a new public discourse about ecology that reached an early zenith in 1972 at the first U.N. ecology conference in Stockholm. Today, we have armies of environment groups, swarms of ecology PhD graduates, environment ministers, conferences, science summits, green products, green travel, banners and blockades. But we are less sustainable than we were in 1961.

Steve Morris, Kansas Senate President, Blames Moderates' Defeat On Conservative Attack Ads

CHICAGO -- The leader of Kansas' moderate Republicans said three weeks of attack ads from conservative groups, including those with ties to the Koch brothers, are to blame for Kansas Senate moderates' losses during Tuesday's primary.

Senate President Steve Morris (R-Hugoton), who lost his own seat to state Rep. Larry Powell in the primary, confirmed that internal polls showed moderate Republicans in the lead until roughly three weeks ago when a series of conservative groups launched radio and television attack ads on moderates, tying them to President Barack Obama and claiming they supported Obamacare. Seventeen out of 22 moderate Republican Senate candidates were defeated Tuesday, a culmination of a bitter GOP war that has engulfed the state since 2011.

Georgetown Steel Mill Polluted Town As Romney Firm Profited

GEORGETOWN, S.C. -- The rusty stains on Shirley Carter's home are a permanent reminder of her fight with the local steel mill, just down U.S. Highway 17 near the boat docks. No matter how many cans of industrial-strength acid she went through, the red tint on her property never seemed to go away.

In 1998, Carter and her neighbors sued Georgetown Steel, then owned by the company Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney co-founded, Bain Capital. They sought millions in cleanup costs and accused the mill's owners of leaving their historic Southern neighborhood looking like it had been hit by a "chemical bomb."

Guns and Mental Illness: Tragedies in Waiting

Consider these scenarios. A popular college student leaves his fraternity house one day, stark naked. He walks three blocks to a stranger’s house, enters, turns on the TV and falls asleep. 
Moments later, the owner of the house finds him, takes aim with his Glock and kills the young man before he ever wakes up.

Or: an 18-year-old high school basketball star calls 911 to report child abuse because he can’t find any Chinese food in the house. When the police contact his mother, she rushes home to find her son sobbing on the front porch while a confused sergeant stares, watching his tears flow like rain.

Were the Sikh Temple Killings Preventable?

This past Monday, when FBI Special Agent Teresa Carlson briefed reporters on the shooting rampage at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin that left six people dead, she said law enforcement had no prior indication that the shooter, Wade Michael Page, had been dangerous. "As far as I know, no law enforcement agency had any reason to believe that he was planning or plotting or capable of such violence," she said.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which maintains an archive of published material from white supremacists and other hate groups, says that Page, who played in white supremacist rock bands and was involved with a skinhead group called the Hammerskins, began showing up in their database as early as 10 years ago. "There are hundreds of people involved in neo-Nazi groups and skinhead bands, maybe thousands, who say and write the kind of violent things that this guy did," notes Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC's Intelligence Project. "The ability to figure out who is going to actually do [violence] is not easy. This stuff is protected [speech] and most people don't commit violence."

Romney Picks the Man With the Plan to End Medicare

Late Friday, NBC News and the Huffington Post reported that Mitt Romney had chosen Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as his vice presidential nominee. The two will hold a joint campaign appearance in Norfolk, Virginia on Saturday morning aboard the USS Wisconsin, before hitting the trail together in advance of the GOP convention in Tampa in late August. The appeal for Romney is obvious: Ryan is telegenic (he's 42) with an impeccable reputation among conservatives as not just a policy wonk but a once-in-a-generation visionary. (For what it's worth, he also catches catfish with his hands.) As New York's Jonathan Chait explained in a profile of Ryan in April, Ryan, more so than Romney himself, has become the face of the Republican party over the last two years.

With Paul Ryan, Romney Makes the VP Pick Obama Wanted

In a way, Paul Ryan is exactly whom President Barack Obama wanted on the Republican ticket with Mitt Romney. By selecting the Republican congressman from Wisconsin, whose name is synonymous with the GOP's cut-taxes-for-the-rich and slash-programs-for-the-middle-class-and-the-poor, Romney has helped Obama in his No. 1 mission: shape the election not as a referendum on the sluggish economy but as a sharp clash between opposing sets of values and programs for the future.

Ever since the Democrats' clock was cleaned by the tea party-ized Republicans in the 2010 midterm elections, Obama has pursued a grand political strategy of setting up his reelection contest as a choice between archly different visions. Long before Romney had vanquished the midgets of the GOP pack, Obama began using the Ryan budget proposal as his chief foil. In April 2011, he gave a speech at George Washington University that was a tongue-lashing of the Ryan's budget plan, which would end Medicare as a guaranteed benefit and throw more tax breaks at the well-to-do than George W. Bush could imagine. Ryan, who attended the speech, was insulted and immediately blasted the president.


When you arrive at night in Fort McMurray, the little Canadian town that might just destroy the world, the tiny airport looks smaller because of the snow and all the Explorers and Rangers and four-wheel drives in the parking lot. An ambitious ramp enters a highway so wide the shoulders must be in different time zones, and trucks the size of dinosaurs roar by belching clouds of steam and snow. The smaller trucks have buggy whips that hoist flags high above them so the giant trucks will notice their insignificant speck existence and avoid running over them. The giants are so large they need little pilot trucks to guide them, one ahead and one behind. Largest of all are the hauler trucks that pull hoppers piled with tons of black sand, the prize of all this furious enterprise. They look like props from Star Wars — you expect a turret to swivel and shoot out death rays. But what they actually do might turn out to be more deadly. Here, they gouge and siphon that black sand from deep in the earth and through an awesome alchemical process turn it into something resembling crude oil. A triumph of science and engineering. And nearby lie the beginnings of a nineteen-hundred-mile international pipeline — the Keystone XL, it's called — that will carry a million barrels of the stuff every day, down through the breadbasket of America to the Gulf Coast of Texas, where it will be refined and shipped to the emerging economic powers of the world.

LETTER TO JOHN DUNCAN: Why Did You Kill Badly Needed Housing in Attawapiskat?

Co-signed by Jean Crowde, MP, Nanaimo-Cowichan

Dear Minister John Duncan,

It has been over a week since the Federal Court determined your department's decision to appoint a Third Party Manager in Attawapiskat last November was "unreasonable" and resulted from a failure to consider "more reasonable, more responsive, or less invasive remedies available." In the days after this very clear ruling, you said you needed to spend more time thinking about the implications. We have decided to reach out to you to suggest concrete ways of mending the broken relationship in Attawapiskat. If you showed leadership, Attawapiskat could be a test case towards finding long-term sustainable solutions for northern First Nations.

Hockey rules in Attawapiskat

Last fall, the Attawapiskat Indian reserve declared a state of emergency. Despite $90 million poured into the reserve over five years by the federal government — into a town with fewer than 500 families — there were dozens of band members living in shanties and shacks, and even some families in tents.

The consensus media responded like Pavlov’s dog. They knew the official narrative: Attawapiskat needed more money. The problems were clearly caused by the heartlessness of the Conservatives who were mean at best, and probably racist, too.

John Duncan let financing for Attawapiskat housing fall through, say natives Published on Friday August 10, 2012 Share on twitter Share on facebook Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS file photo Attawapiskat declared a state of emergency in November 2011 when a severe housing shortage left more than two dozen families facing the winter in flimsy, uninsulated temporary shelters.

OTTAWA—A plan to build much-needed houses in Attawapiskat fell through because of lack of support from Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan, leaders in the troubled northern Ontario aboriginal community revealed Friday.

Acting Chief Christine Kataquapit said an application to Canada’s national housing agency for help financing the construction of 30 houses in Attawapiskat was not approved because Duncan refused to sign off on an agreement between Attawapiskat and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC).

Aboriginal groups say Feds, Alberta breaking promises for oilsands monitoring

EDMONTON - Improved environmental monitoring being developed for Alberta's oilsands is being heavily criticized before it gets fully up and running.

Aboriginal groups in the area have sent an angry letter to Premier Alison Redford accusing the provincial and federal governments of breaking promises to involve them in setting up and running the program.

The letter by the Mikisew (MICK'-ih-soo) and Athabasca Chipewyan (CHIP'-uh-WYE-ahn) First Nations says both governments have deliberately shut them out.

That's despite explicit guarantees that aboriginals would be included in the monitoring.

The letter also demands Redford explain why there's no independent commission to run the monitoring program, as was recommended by the experts who designed it.

The groups point out that federal and provincial scientists are already in the field — without any aboriginal input.

Original Article
Source: calgary herald
Author: The Canadian Press

Why we could be at war with Iran by November

Events are conspiring to produce a war with Iran. I desperately hope this doesn’t happen. But serious forces are at play.

First Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu still holds that a pre-emptive strike is the only way to prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons that might, at some point be used against his country.

Up to now he has been held back. Skeptics in his own military worry that Israel alone does not have the capacity to destroy the underground bunkers in which Iran is thought to be assembling a nuclear arsenal.

The people behind Ethical Oil

I got some heat on Twitter this week after a story I wrote on Ethical Oil’s allegations against Vancouver-based Tides Canada.  Some folks were troubled by my story’s reference to EO having been founded by Alykhan Velshi, a Harper government insider.  I based that line on the following statement on EO’s website under the title “How it started.”

“ began as a blog created by Alykhan Velshi to promote the ideas in Ezra Levant’s bestselling book Ethical Oil: The Case for Canada’s Oil Sands.”

Securing Canadian values — unconventionally

The thesis put forward in my most recent column was that a strong and united Canada can be one of the 21st century’s major powers. Power for power’s sake is most obviously pointless. Lack of a common set of values and the absence of a sense of mission that binds people together have contributed to the downfall of many a great empire – e.g., Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, Greece and Rome.

When a state increases its power, its diplomatic options multiply, giving it the opportunity to pursue more foreign policy goals simultaneously. One of these goals can be the pursuit of values, norms and ideals. A united Canada – for the reasons outlined in my last column – is one that can increase its international clout and hence advance its values abroad more effectively. A united Canada also advances norms here at home, such as the drive to keep different nations peacefully united within the confines of a single country in the context of a just society.

Canada doesn’t deserve a kicking

Picture this, if you can. A cartoon stick figure wearing a maple leaf grins as he gives an exuberant boot to a little frog wearing a fleur-de-lis.


How about this? A Québécois stick figure does the same to a beaver wearing a Mountie hat.

Not so uncomfortable, right? At least not in Quebec. That image is a part of a campaign ad for Québec solidaire, a party hoping to make gains in the province’s Sept. 4 election. Québec solidaire, obviously not given to subtlety, wants to be clear that it favours sovereignty.

Peter Kent condemns anti-israel rally at Queen’s Park

TORONTO — A senior member of the Harper government has condemned a Queen’s Park decision to allow an anti-Israel rally to be held on its lawn next week.

Peter Kent, Minister of Environment and MP for Thornhill, said the Sergeant-at-Arms was wrong to approve a repeat of an event that offended Jewish groups.

Date of DND move to former Nortel campus still up in the air

OTTAWA — The federal government still has no idea when the Defence Department will move into Nortel’s former campus on Carling Avenue, but a private firm on the site says it has extended an agreement to allow it to occupy one of the buildings there until 2016.

Ciena, a high-tech firm, still occupies two buildings on the campus but is in the process of consolidating its operations into one facility there.

The company was supposed to vacate the site in March 2015, but earlier this year it extended that departure date until March 2016.

Mr. Ordinary: Jack Layton was OK. Nothing more, nothing less

The time of waiting has come to an end, and like a child embracing the dawn on Christmas Day I feel my heart bursting with a fulfilled anticipation.

Yes, filming has started on the Jack Layton biopic, and Rick Roberts — who? — and Sook-Yin Lee will play Layton and his wife Olivia Chow in Smilin’ Jack: The Jack Layton Story.

Pardons another slap in the face

As the new marketing era dawned Aug. 1, Canada's prime minister took his revisionist view of history and his ideological vendetta against the Canadian Wheat Board to a new level.

He retroactively pardoned farmers convicted of running the border with their grain trucks in the early 1990s as a protest, and who defied customs officers by stealing their compounded vehicles back. Some were later convicted of contempt of court.

Critics of climate change are losing their PR battle

University of Calgary Prof. Barry Cooper wrote a funny piece for the Calgary Herald on Tuesday, in which he humorously derided British Columbians for their opposition toward a pipeline that would carry Alberta bitumen to the B.C. coast.

British Columbia is full of “sybaritic scatterbrains,” Cooper wrote, “soft consumers and rent collectors, drinking lattes in the rain. Many believe in spirit bears and water sprites and require grief counselling when trees blow down in Stanley Park.”

Why is Senate reform stalled? Ask the PM

Stephen Harper has a problem with his proposed Senate reform bill. The Prime Minister is dealing with the problem by allowing the bill to languish. Someone should tell his support base.

Senate reform is a priority for many dedicated Conservative supporters, especially in the West. Bill C-7, the Senate Reform Act, is the latest attempt by the Tory government to implement its long-standing promise to have senators elected to fixed terms.

John Baird's Canada: No longer content to 'go along just to get along'

Someone had defaced his Brian Mulroney poster, so Rusty Baird was out the door. An ardent Tory at 17, he knew that he’d bug people by putting it up in Mike Lajoie’s civics class, but he wasn’t going to have the prime minister treated this way. So off he went, smiling, to fetch a replacement.

There were giggles as he left, but not from the teacher, a classmate recalls: “Mr. Lajoie turned around to all of us and said, ‘Just you watch: That kid’s going to be a cabinet minister one day.’

School boards will pay price if there’s no deal, Laurel Broten says

In an unusual move that has fuelled tensions between Queen’s Park and school boards, Education Minister Laurel Broten sent a personal email to some 660 school trustees Friday urging them to sign deals with their local unions by Sept. 1 or face paying millions of dollars in extra wages from their boards’ coffers.

The personal pitch also warns trustees that Broten will go ahead with controversial plans regarding in-class testing and the hiring of supply teachers, whether or not boards agree.

Defence Minister calls on provincial governments to save Acadian Lines

The Federal Defence Minister is weighing in on the loss of the Maritimes only regional bus service.

Peter MacKay says the provincial governments need to get involved in keeping Acadian Lines from leaving the Maritimes.

“It appears that regulations at the provincial level are one of the impediments for Acadian Lines or other future bus lines so I am hopeful we'll see some willingness to be flexible and adjust certain regulations to allow continuation of a bus line in Atlantic Canada,” says MacKay

On Tuesday the company announced it will be shutting down operations at  the end of the year leaving passengers without access to their own transportation , no way to get around.

The company  says it can no longer afford to offer  inter-provincial service between Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and P.E.I.
"We've worked hard over the last few years to try to implement a sustainable network, to gain flexibility in the regulatory and operational framework and obtain support to allow us to reduce our financial losses but to no avail," Groupe Orleans Express CEO Denis Andlauer said in a statement late Tuesday.

About 120 people will lose their jobs as a result of the closure.

The service is scheduled to cease operations Nov. 30, 2012.

Original Article
Author: CTV Atlantic

Trail of Pierre Poutine runs into an open Wi-Fi connection

OTTAWA — Elections Canada investigators tracking “Pierre Poutine” hit a dead end when the Internet address behind misleading robocalls in the last election led them to an open Wi-Fi connection in a private residence near Guelph.

Investigators had hoped the Internet Protocol (IP) address would help point them to a suspect responsible for the more than 6,000 calls to non-Conservatives on election day.

Monia Mazigh What happened to the global 'war on terror'?

The first time the phrase "war on terror" was used was when George W. Bush linked the same phrase to the word "crusade". He declared in September 2001: "This crusade -- this war on terrorism -- is going to take a while..." He was talking about the response of the American administration to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He prepared the ground for the shocked American public for a long war against militant Islamists.

During the Bush era, the war on terror had several trademarks: Guantanamo Bay, the status of enemy combatant, torture, extraordinary rendition, black sites in Poland and Morocco, and of course the devastating wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Bush and his team insisted that "harsh interrogation techniques" (a.k.a. torture) can be justified in those exceptional times.

Cases of misplaced shock: Drone killings and bad soccer calls

I don't think there's anything shocking or implausible about Canadian Olympic athletes Christine Sinclair and Melissa Tancredi suggesting the ref in their soccer semifinal was in the tank for the U.S. and would wear an American jersey to bed that night. She called what amounted to a non-existent foul at a crucial point. You have to go back to 2002 to find another instance. There's no good explanation for it, which amounts to a licence to speculate on why she really made the call.

I don't think the Canadians were saying the Norwegian ref is infatuated with Americans; but rather that there's a bias at upper levels in FIFA, the Olympics and the major broadcasters for having a U.S. team in the final -- much as the NHL would doubtless prefer Stanley Cup finalists from major U.S. cities for similar commercial reasons. Officials know that and if they get a chance to bolster that bias, they may, consciously or by a more tortuous route. It's the way of the world; matters like money and audiences enter in. If you ignore those interests, you mightn't get as many choice games to officiate.

Clock ticking for private garbage collector to clean up its act

After a debut week of late trash pickups and angry homeowners, one of the mayor’s top lieutenants is warning that the slow start by Toronto’s new private collection company could jeopardize Rob Ford’s push to outsource garbage across the city.

“If these are just simply growing pains and the contractor meets his performance standards, then this will be quickly forgotten,” said Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, the mayor’s point man on garbage. “If we can’t get customer service standards up to where we’d like them to be, it’s going to be more difficult to make the case for further privatization.”

It’s Kalamazoo vs. Calgary in clash of civilizations

I confess, I have freely chatted to people walking in Nose Hill Park in Calgary. “Nice dog,” I’ll say, even when it isn’t a nice dog at all. “Gorgeous day,” I’ll offer, even when it’s not.

It’s just my harmless Toronto-type blither. I had no idea I was risking being shot to death by an excitable visiting cop from Kalamazoo who thinks “Have you been to the Stampede yet?” is a coded invitation to join the choir invisible. I would have eaten extensive American lead.

CAW: Union gaining ground at Ontario Honda plant

Canadian Auto Workers President Ken Lewenza says his labour group is drawing closer to organizing workers at a Honda assembly plant in Ontario, WardsAuto reports, while efforts to get inside two Toyota manufacturing sites are moving more slowly.

“We’re active in Honda, not so active in Toyota,” Lewenza told WardsAuto in an interview. “We’re getting some enthusiastic and strong support, but we’re not there yet.”

$31 ticket leads to a $70,000 legal bill

A Toronto doctor is appealing a $70,537 legal bill from the City of Toronto after she launched a failed class-action lawsuit over a $31 parking ticket.

The suit, which pointed the finger at the city over malfunctioning pay-and-display machines, was dismissed as being too broad for a class action.

Canada’s Emissions Deception

The federal government released an updated Canada’s Emission Trends 2012 report today. In a remarkable shift in federal rhetoric just this past week, the Harperites now appear to be more sensitive to concerns about the Enbridge pipeline and climate change more generally. But appearances can be deceiving and there is good reason to believe the current charm offensive is just a recasting of business-as-usual in recognition of just how offside the government has been on climate file.