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.]

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Harper commits $188M for new Arctic research centre

The federal government is spending $188 million to build and operate a new Arctic research centre that will be vital to protecting Canada's sovereignty, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said today in Nunavut.

He also announced the companies picked to design the new Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS), which will be located in Cambridge Bay. They are two Montreal-based architect firms: Fournier Gersovitz Moss Drolet et associés architects and NFOE et associés architectes.

Walmart, Target And Other Big Retailers Lobbied Successfully For Exemption From SEC Conflict Mineral Rule

Major retailers like Target and Walmart may be able to keep the connection between their products and a war-torn African country under wraps.

Thanks to their lobbying efforts, big retailers will likely be exempt from a rule, finalized by the Securities and Exchange Commission Wednesday, which requires public companies to disclose whether their products contain “conflict minerals” from the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Feds Must Come Clean on Budget Impacts, Parliamentary Budget Officer says

Kevin Page Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Officer, wants the Harper government to fully outline its projections on how billions in program cuts will impact Canadians in the coming years, a request that has so far fallen on deaf ears.

Page told CAW convention delegates on August 21 that in the wake of the Conservative government decision to freeze national program spending for five years, there was no information provided to Members of Parliament on projected impacts and possible remedies. This undercuts accountability measures expected of the government from opposition party members and from the Canadian public at large.

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks Founder, Faces No Criminal Charges In U.S., Sources Say

WASHINGTON, Aug 22 (Reuters) - Despite claims by Julian Assange that Washington is plotting to extradite and execute him, U.S. and European government sources say the United States has issued no criminal charges against the WikiLeaks founder and has launched no attempt to extradite him.

Moreover, Obama administration officials remain divided over the wisdom of prosecuting Assange, the sources said, and the likelihood of U.S. criminal charges against him is probably receding rather than growing.

CU-Boulder Chancellor: Faculty Must Allow Students With Concealed-Carry Permits To Have Firearms In Class

A top administrator at the University of Colorado says if a professor doesn't like his students legally bringing guns to class, he'll have to holster his emotions.

Jerry Peterson, a professor and chair of the CU-Boulder Faculty Assembly, told colleagues he'd cancel his class if a student brought a gun there.

"My own personal policy in my classes is if I am aware that there is a firearm in the class -- registered or unregistered, concealed or unconcealed -- the class session is immediately canceled," Peterson said. "I want my students to feel unconstrained in their discussions."

Todd Akin’s views are, literally, medieval

Republican congressman Todd Akin’s astonishing observations with respect to pregnancy resulting from rape continue to ricochet around the media in the United States. The nuances of his comments have gotten lost in the ensuing controversy over what constitutes illegitimate rape. His words are, in fact, worth considering again.

“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that it’s [pregnancy resulting from rape] really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Principles set aside in federal government’s dealings with Saudia Arabia

Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have strengthened military, business and diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia, one of the most misogynistic and repressive countries in the world. The country is ruled by a monarchy that’s been in power for more than seven decades. The House of Saud has outlawed labour unions and stifled independent media. With the Qur’an ostensibly acting as Saudi Arabia’s constitution, over a million Christians (mostly foreign workers) in the country are banned from owning bibles or attending church.

Outside its borders, the Saudi royal family uses its immense wealth to promote and fund many of the most reactionary, anti-women social forces in the world. They aggressively opposed the “Arab Spring” democracy movement through their significant control of Arab media, funding of establishment political movements and by deploying 1500 troops to support the 200-year monarchy in neighbouring Bahrain. The Saudi monarchy may be the worst regime in the world. (The U.S., of course, is responsible for far more violence but it is relatively free domestically. North Korea is as repressive, but its foreign policy is benign compared to Saudi Arabia’s.)

The currency of racism in Canada

When does a $100 bill resemble a burger? When the Bank of Canada decides to “neutralize” the image of a woman that seemed to focus group participants to be Asian. Apparently, the new bill, like a Canadian burger, has no recognizable ties to ethnicity. They’re just “regular,” neutral, ethnicity-free entities — in essence, the default category for everything not found in the lone “ethnic food” aisle in my grocery store.

The original image on the bill, an “Asian-looking” woman peering through a microscope, was unsettling to many in the focus groups. One participant from Fredericton suggested: “The person on it appears to be of Asian descent which doesn’t rep(resent) Canada. It is fairly ugly.” Others took issue with the depiction of only one ethnicity. A few suggested that the yellow-brown colouring of the banknote “racialized” the bill and enhanced the perception that the woman was Asian.

Tory minister introduces Harper as PM of 'Cannibal'

NORMAN WELLS, N.W.T. - Whoops. It's a slip of the tongue Environment Minister Peter Kent likely regrets.

Speaking as the announcement of a new national park in the Northwest Territories on Wednesday, Kent introduced Stephen Harper as the "prime minister of Cannibal" before quickly correcting himself.

It's the second time this week the prime minister has been introduced as a human flesh-eater.

Harper leaves room for mining near North's new national park

Canadians have a new national park to hike, paddle and play in, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced today, but some are saying his government favoured mining interests over the environment when drawing its boundaries.

Harper announced the official establishment of the Naats'ihch'oh National Park Reserve while in Norman Wells in the Northwest Territories as part of his tour of the North.

Privilege and conflict at the CNCC

The Central North Correctional Centre (CNCC) is a prison where it is practically impossible to discern who is in charge. The CNCC is also a prison characterized by the arbitrary abuse of authority by various levels of staff throughout the institution. And though the abuses may often be subtle, they do seem to be pervasive.

The struggle I’ve engaged in to try and get access to quality reading material is a perfect example of this dynamic. But that drama is still playing out and therefore is a story best left for another day. Today, while my memory is still fresh, I am writing about my brief stint on the “education range” before I was sent back to unit five. I was kicked off of unit six for making a formal complaint about the behaviour of the guards. It seems we are not supposed to do that.

First Nations Property Ownership Act just White Paper lite

If you hang around native people long enough, you'll probably hear references to white paper, and it might have you scratching your head. The trick is to capitalise the words. They're talking about the 1969 White Paper officially titled, "Statement of the Government on Indian Policy." It was put out by then Minister of Indian Affairs, Jean Chrétien.

Okay, so why the grim faces when anyone mentions the White Paper?

The Commons: Jack Layton and the politics of faith

A few minutes before 11, the Parachute Club’s Rise Up began playing over the speakers that had been set up in front of the steps that lead to Centre Block and the Peace Tower. A poster of Jack Layton—leaning forward, looking out intently, shirt and tie, but with the top button of his shirt undone—had been set up on an easel. A small crowd had gathered, some wearing orange shirts or carrying orange signs or clutching orange flowers. Two smaller photos of Mr. Layton adorned the steps, each adorned with a bottle of Orange Crush.

Quebec Election 2012: Student Protesters Resurface Amid Campaign

MONTREAL - Student protests made a reappearance in the Quebec election Wednesday after having dropped off the radar in the campaign's first weeks.

Thousands of students marched in Montreal — just as they have on the 22nd of every month, for the last six months.

Europe's Highway to Hell

European policymakers are still enjoying their famously long, languorous summer holiday. The vacations will end in the coming days, with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel scheduled for a series of meetings with leaders from France, Greece and Italy this month. Meanwhile, at a more rapid pace, Europe is in the midst of a massive run on bank deposits in Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Ireland. While the last out-of-office auto-responses zip across the continent in multiple languages, the bank runs continue to accelerate.

How did we get here? What can we expect next? And, most important, what is the way out?

GOP Convention Will Formally Endorse the Todd Akin Platform

Todd Akin announced Wednesday that he would not be attending next week’s Republican National Convention. Apparently, RNC chairman Reince Priebus could not find a suitable speaking slot for the Missouri Republican US Senate nominee after Mitt Romney asked Akin to quit the race.

But Akin will remain a powerful “presence” at the convention, which on Monday will endorse a platform that fully embraces the congressman’s stances on abortion rights and a broad array of social issues.

The platform, which has been firmed up this week, renews the party’s call for amending the US Constitution with a “Human Life Amendment” that seeks to outlaw abortion. It also includes a “salute” to states that have sought, even in the absence of an amendment, to complicate access to medical procedures that the Supreme Court has determined are safe, legal and legitimate—including requirements that women undergo invasive ultrasound procedures and accept anti-abortion “counseling.”

Israel's Iran Threats: Blackmail by Suicide?

Israel, along with its American partisans, is trying to get what it wants by threatening to commit suicide.

Israel, nearly everyone agrees, would have to crazy to attack Iran. And Israel, nearly everyone also agrees, isn’t crazy. There’s a kind of Catch-22 involved here, which is why the chance that Israel will bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities is as close to absolute zero as things can get in politics. The Catch-22: only a crazy prime minister would order Israel to bomb Iran, and Netanyahu isn’t crazy. So Netanyahu must have something else in mind.

Middle Class Exit 'Lost Decade' With Little Hope: Pew Report

Things aren't looking great for America's middle class, and they know it.

A significant share of the middle class say it will be a long time before they recover from the severe shocks of the past 10 years, dubbed "The Lost Decade" in a Pew Research Center report released Wednesday.

"There's not a lot of good news for the middle class," Rich Morin, senior editor at the Pew Research Center and a co-author of the report, told The Huffington Post. "The middle class has shrunk in size, it's declined in income and in wealth, and has lost a little bit of that characteristic faith in the future that defines Americans broadly, but particularly the middle class."

Toni Preckwinkle Reagan Slam: Cook County Board President Retracts 'Hell' Remark

The chief executive of the second-most populous county in the nation quickly backpedaled Tuesday after making a comment about former President Ronald Reagan she later called "inflammatory."

During a conference led by former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar in downstate Champaign, Ill., Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle stated that Reagan deserves "a special place in hell" for his drug policy and the "war on drugs" that followed in its wake, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Romney Defends Bogus Obama Welfare Ads, Dismissing Fact-Checkers

WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney doesn't care what fact-checkers think.

Even in the face of repeated debunkings by journalists, Romney's presidential campaign has continued to produce new ads falsely claiming that President Barack Obama ended the requirement that people on welfare, formally known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, engage in work.

Todd Akin's Party: More Than 40 Republican Candidates Oppose Abortion In Cases Of Rape, Incest

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) faced scorn and ridicule from members of his own party this week after expressing his belief that rape victims don't need to have access to abortion because "legitimate rape" rarely results in pregnancies. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, called his comments "wrong, offensive, and indefensible" and was just one in a chorus of Republicans calling on Akin to drop his U.S. Senate bid.

While many Republicans may not have used Akin's blunt wording, his sentiments are not unusual in the GOP. Just two days after he made his remarks, the party voted to incorporate strict anti-abortion language into its platform, with no exception for pregnancies that result from rape or incest.

Mitt Romney Energy Plan: More Oil & Natural Gas Production On Federal Lands

LITTLE ROCK, Ark., Aug 23 (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will lay out policies on Thursday aimed at achieving North American energy independence by 2020 by pursuing a sharp increase in production of oil and natural gas on federal lands and off the U.S. coast.

Romney is to unveil his plan at a truck and supply business in Hobbs, New Mexico, as he seeks to draw a sharp contrast between his energy policies and those of President Barack Obama and detail in part how he would rekindle job growth in the United States.

Target Canada Protest: Zellers Workers, Unions Demonstrate Against Mass Layoffs

Target's Canadian headquarters in Mississauga, Ont., became the site of a protest on Wednesday morning, as a delegation of labour leaders and a former Zellers employee questioned a company executive about the decision not to keep on more than 10,000 employees in Zellers locations that are being converted to Target stores.

Target human resources manager Michelle Lettner accepted a stack of petitions signed by 200 demonstrators gathered nearby, and responded to criticisms about the company's approach to staffing in its new Target stores, which will be located in former Zellers outlets.

Supreme Court the next Quebec-Ottawa battleground

MONTREAL—Prime Minister Stephen Harper will soon be filling a Quebec vacancy on the Supreme Court bench. It may be his most critical judicial appointment to date and not only because he will have picked a majority of the nine members of the court by that point.

If there ever was a time when the prime minister needs to recruit a Quebec judicial star with an impeccable reputation for judicial independence, it is now. Canada’s top court may be about to see a lot of Quebec-Ottawa action.

Federal government grants licence for new nuclear reactors for first time in 30 years

OTTAWA — For the first time in 30 years, a preparatory federal licence has been issued for new nuclear reactors.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has formally issued a site-preparation licence allowing pre-construction activities for up to four proposed nuclear reactors on land adjacent to Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) existing four-reactor Darlington nuclear generation station, near Bowmanville, east of Toronto.

Opposition MPs criticize PM Harper for riding non-Canadian ATV in rare Yukon ecosystem

PARLIAMENT HILL—Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s much-vaunted message machine blundered when they plunked him on a Japanese-made ATV to churn up and down unlikely Yukon sand dunes in one of the rarest ecosystems in North America, say opposition MPs.

Mr. Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) plunged into his all-terrain adventure in the midst of a controversy over ATVs that is just starting in the pristine territory and as pressure grows across the country for more regulations to control the rugged and powerful machines in light of injuries and fatalities incurred by adolescents and even children whose parents either take them on rides or let them drive ATVS.

American middle class faces ‘worst decade in modern history,’ report finds

WASHINGTON—The U.S. middle class is facing its “worst decade in modern history,” with its share of the country’s income falling for the first time since World War II, a new report says.

The Pew Research Center study says 85 per cent of middle-class Americans feel it is more difficult now than a decade ago to maintain their standard of living. The report describes them as losing faith in the future.

Their share of the national income has been surpassed by affluent earners as median wages stagnate and wealth concentrates at the top in a relatively weak economy.

Mayor Rob Ford wasn’t busy with official business during Pride flag-raising he skipped

Mayor Rob Ford wasn’t doing official business during the Pride flag-raising he skipped in June, and his internal itinerary shows that he had, in fact, few appointments that week.

Ford has never explained why he missed the June 25 flag-raising, telling reporters only that he had “already committed to something.” Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam said at the City Hall event that his aides had told her he was “extremely busy.”

CAW approves formation of new union with CEP

The Canadian Auto Workers has voted unanimously to join the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers to form Canada’s biggest private-sector union with the aim of changing the country’s economic and social course.

More than 600 delegates at a CAW convention at the downtown Toronto Sheraton Centre accepted a package of proposals Wednesday for the new union that would pour millions of dollars more into organizing and open up membership to non-union workers and other Canadians.

“This union will pose a serious challenge to the unrepresentative, unfair economic and political systems workers now find themselves caught in.” said CAW president Ken Lewenza after the vote.