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 18, 2012

Mitt Romney Wants His Risky Pick To Play It Safe

GLEN ALLEN, Va. — Mitt Romney wants running mate Paul Ryan to play it safe.

Ryan, the nation's most controversial budget architect, is often described as the intellectual leader of the House Republican caucus. But Romney's presidential campaign headquarters in Boston seems, for now, to prefer that the 42-year-old father of three talks about camping and milking cows instead of the fiscal proposals that made him a conservative hero.

What Paul Ryan can learn from Stephen Harper

Many Canadian commenters are drawing comparisons between Republican heartthrob Paul Ryan and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Some parallels do exist. Both are men of strong convictions; both gained prominence at relatively young ages.

More important than the similarities, however, are the differences: differences that have made one man a head of government — and that are complicating the other man’s run for the vice-presidency.

Kitimat oil refinery could blacken province’s reputation, foes say

If the proposed oil refinery in Kitimat is built, it could end up forcing the province to jettison its long-term environmental goals, opponents say.

“Building the refinery would have very large implications for B.C.’s green commitment,” said Jennifer Grant, director of the oilsands program at Alberta’s Pembina Institute.

“B.C. could potentially have to give up its green targets because [constructing the facility is] an intensive project with huge carbon footprints.”

United Church approves boycott of some Israeli products

OTTAWA — Canada’s largest Protestant church has approved a controversial boycott of products made or linked to Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian territory.

The United Church of Canada’s decision is intended to signal to the Israeli government that it considers Israel’s continued occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem illegal, and to contribute to a long-term Middle East peace.

NDP to hold own committee-style hearings on F-35s Tuesday on Parliament Hill

The NDP is holding its own committee-style hearing into the government’s trouble-plagued F-35 stealth fighter jet project this week, inviting expert witnesses to Parliament Hill to provide evidence about the $25-billion acquisition that Conservative MPs would not allow to be heard at a committee inquiry before the Commons adjourned for the summer.

At the same time, a new Public Works Department secretariat Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) government established to take over management of the procurement has become shrouded in secrecy.

Mandatory voting: turning Canadians’ democratic ‘choice’ into ‘duty’

OTTAWA—One phrase keeps popping up in the complaints about fraudulent calls in the 2011 election, when hapless voters were reportedly told their polling locations had changed.

It’s this: “due to higher-than-expected turnout.” Presumably, the callers wanted to plant the suggestion that voting was a nuisance to be avoided — what with the changed location and all those crowds at the ballot boxes. “It’s a stampede, Martha, like we saw when the new iPhones came out. Let’s just wait it out.”

Watchdog urges stronger rules, but won’t probe MP Calandra’s private basement fundraisers

Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson has decided not to investigate the fundraising activities of Conservative MP Paul Calandra and says Parliament needs to bring in stronger rules on the “murky” mix of lobbying and political donations.

The Globe and Mail reported last month that Mr. Calandra’s Conservative riding association of Oak Ridges-Markham held two private fundraisers in suburban basements with the MP that raised thousands from individuals connected to a hotly contested bid for a new Toronto radio licence.

Tory affidavit casts doubt on robocalls survey data

OTTAWA — The Conservatives are challenging the validity of polling data that the Council of Canadians presented to back up claims that misleading telephone calls affected the outcome of last year’s election in seven ridings.

A marketing research expert retained by the party’s law firm has given a detailed analysis questioning the methodology and conclusions of a poll by Ekos Research that found “robocalls” and live calls suppressed the non-Conservative vote by about 1.5 per cent in these ridings.

Canadians join citizens' climate lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C.

“No other generation has held the fate of the planet in its hands.” –Jeffrey Sachs

When Citizens Climate Lobby first went to Washington, DC in 2009 there were only three people. In July 2012, 175 citizen climate lobbyists showed up for the conference and to ask their representatives to put a rising fee on carbon and give the dividend back to Americans.

Citizens Climate Lobby is a non-partisan, non-profit volunteer organization, with more than 20 local chapters in six provinces and over 60 chapters in 26 states. Microfinance hero Marshall Saunders founded it in 2007. From July 24 to 28, in just four days of lobbying, 175 volunteers from across the United States, with seven of us from Canada, made more than 300 visits to Congressional offices.

Paul Ryan and the collectivism vs. individualism debate

A toast to Paul Ryan -- or to Mitt Romney who made him his teammate in the U.S. presidential race -- for putting a grand old argument back on the front burner. "The fight we are in here, make no mistake about it," Ryan has said with spunk, "is a fight of individualism versus collectivism." That was once a great debate but it's drifted almost out of view. First the Berlin Wall came down 23 years ago, then the Soviet Union imploded, the "individualism" side declared total victory and if that wasn't enough, the End of History too. The collectivism side, which had been largely hiding behind communist and socialist parties, grew mousy, except for relics like the socialist "caucus" in the NDP.

Federal government considers detaining Roma refugee claimants, report suggests

The federal government is prepared to consider detaining Roma refugee claimants unless recent amendments to the refugee system are successful in reducing the number who apply for asylum, newly obtained documents suggest.

A tougher approach may be necessary if a plan to speed up the screening process and block illegitimate claims isn’t “aggressive enough” in reducing the number of Roma applicants from Europe, an internal Canada Border Services Agency report says.

Bank of Canada ethnically cleanses new $100 bill

Can Canadians agree on nothing, not even cash?

The news that focus groups outside Toronto objected to the image of an Asian-looking woman scientist on the back of the redesigned $100 billed — the cowardly Bank of Canada hastily replaced her with a “neutral” woman, whatever that may be — is shocking.

How the dream of an independent Palestine became a nightmare

HEBRON, WEST BANK—The wave of celebrations throughout the Muslim world to mark the end of Ramadan may be particularly muted among Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. Instead of feelings of blessings and joy, coming after a month of fasting, there seems to be a growing mood among many Palestinians of despair and squandered opportunity. Is the dream of an independent Palestine over?

There have been no meaningful talks between Israelis and Palestinians in two years; meanwhile, the “facts on the ground” march on. Earlier this month, Israel’s high court upheld a state order to demolish eight Palestinian villages in the South Hebron Hills to make way for an Israeli military “firing zone.” The eviction of 1,500 villagers takes effect in November.

Why Harper might need Mulcair to keep the country together

The Harper government is quietly but actively preparing for the arrival of a separatist government in Quebec after Sept. 4.

Plan A is already in place. The problem is with Plan B. Thus far there isn’t much of one. But it just might involve Thomas Mulcair.

Officially, the Conservatives are remaining strictly neutral in the Quebec election. Unofficially, like almost everyone else outside Quebec, they are hoping for any result other than victory by the Parti Québécois.

Harper’s Methodical Campaign to Silence Democracy

Since taking power federally in 2006, the Conservative government has undertaken a continuous attack on civil society organizations. One of the government's first actions was to cut support for women's organizations that lobbied or did research on the status of women. Environmental organizations have been accused of acting in the interest of foreign powers. Revenue Canada was given extra money to investigate them.

How did we come to the point where organizations advocating equality and changes to public policy appear to be seen by the government as the enemy of Canadians?

Bill C-38's first victim: Groups forced to drop court action against radioactive waste export

OTTAWA – As a direct result of Bill C-38, Sierra Club Canada and the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) are withdrawing their applications for judicial review of permits issued by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to allow Bruce Power to export 1,600 tonnes of radioactive waste (containing plutonium and other radionuclides) through the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway to Sweden.

“Our court case is the first victim of Bill C-38,” said John Bennett, Executive Director of Sierra Club Canada. “Our quest for environmental justice and democracy, however, is far from over.”

Fraser Institute co-founder confirms 'years and years' of U.S. oil billionaires' funding

Amidst revelations that the Fraser Institute accepted at least $500,000 from the Koch family between 2007 and 2010, the institute's co-founder acknowledged that the US oil billionaires have a long history of donating to the think tank.

Two foundations under the Koch family's auspices – the Charles G. Koch and the Claude R. Lambe Foundations – gave the Fraser Institute large grants to conduct “international work,” its former executive director Michael Walker told the Vancouver Observer.

    “Charitable” Fraser Institute accepted $500k in foreign funding from Koch oil billionaires
    U.S. Republican Koch oil billionaires help fund the Fraser Institute. Why the Fraser Institute?