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.]

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What’s the fracking problem with natural gas?

At least 38 earthquakes in Northeastern B.C. over the past few years were caused by hydraulic fracturing (commonly called fracking), according to a report by the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission. Studies have found quakes are common in many places where that natural gas extraction process is employed.

It’s not unexpected that shooting massive amounts of water, sand, and chemicals at high pressure into the earth to shatter shale and release natural gas might shake things up. But earthquakes aren’t the worst problem with fracking.

Avro Arrow redesign pitched as alternative to F-35 stealth fighter jets

OTTAWA — A Canadian company is seeking to go back in time to help fly Canada’s air force into the future.

Documents obtained by the Global News program “The West Block” indicate an update to the storied CF-105 Avro Arrow was put forward as an alternative to the purchase of F-35 stealth fighter jets.

And among the project’s champions is one of Canada’s top soldiers, retired Maj.Gen. Lewis MacKenzie.

China Contractor Again Faces Labor Issue on iPhones

SHANGHAI — As Apple prepares to unveil the latest iPhone this week, the company’s manufacturing partner in China, Foxconn Technology, is coming under renewed criticism over labor practices after reports that vocational students were being compelled to work at plants making iPhones and their components.

 Foxconn has acknowledged using student “interns” on manufacturing lines, but says they are free to leave at any time. But two worker advocacy groups said Monday that they had spoken with students who said they had been forced by their teachers to assemble iPhones at a Foxconn factory in Zhengzhou, in north-central China.

9/11: What Didn't Change

It changed everything.

That's the mantra that emerged from the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001. In certain areas of our collective lives, it was an accurate description. Security concerns increased. The United States went to war in two far-away lands. It engaged in brutal practices that amounted to torture and opened secret prisons and the ever-controversial Guantanamo facility. Ugly barriers went up around public facilities. Navigating airports became a new kind of nightmare.

Anti-Strike Bill For Ontario Teachers Passes

TORONTO - A controversial anti-strike bill that cuts benefits and reins in wages for thousands of Ontario teachers will soon become law.

The minority Liberals and Progressive Conservatives teamed up to pass the legislation, which has angered unions and a national civil liberties group.

The Deafness Before the Storm

IT was perhaps the most famous presidential briefing in history.

 On Aug. 6, 2001, President George W. Bush received a classified review of the threats posed by Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network, Al Qaeda. That morning’s “presidential daily brief” — the top-secret document prepared by America’s intelligence agencies — featured the now-infamous heading: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” A few weeks later, on 9/11, Al Qaeda accomplished that goal.

On April 10, 2004, the Bush White House declassified that daily brief — and only that daily brief — in response to pressure from the 9/11 Commission, which was investigating the events leading to the attack. Administration officials dismissed the document’s significance, saying that, despite the jaw-dropping headline, it was only an assessment of Al Qaeda’s history, not a warning of the impending attack. While some critics considered that claim absurd, a close reading of the brief showed that the argument had some validity.

Canada Trade Deficit Hits Record High

Canada’s trade deficit with the rest of the world rose to an all-time record high in July, Statistics Canada data shows.

Canada bought $2.3 billion more from foreign countries than it sold to them in July, as exports fell 3.4 per cent from the previous month. Imports also fell, but by a smaller 2.2. per cent, meaning the overall trade deficit grew wider.

The trend went against analysts’ predictions, who expected a slight narrowing of the deficit.

What does Canada achieve with its largely symbolic snub of Iran?

Days later, the government’s abrupt decision to cut off all diplomatic ties with Iran remains a mystery. I do not mean it is unjustified, or unwise: just that we are not being told the full story.

That, at any rate, is what one must infer from the story we have been told. Perhaps the government had good reasons to act as it did, alone and without warning; perhaps it even has good reasons not to tell us what they were. But the reasons it has offered to date do not add up.

Ont. should end easy welfare for refugee claimants: Feds

OTTAWA - The feds are working on a same-day notification system so provincial governments know right away when someone has been removed from Canada and can quickly cut off welfare and other benefits, QMI Agency has learned.

A government source confirms the system is set for launch in the fall.

Currently, the feds send faxes to provincial authorities to inform them of someone's deportation - a process Immigration Minister Jason Kenney admits could be faster.

DND to pay $100 million to private firm to replace laid-off workers

Just months after issuing notices to public servants that their jobs were being eliminated to save money the Defence Department is looking at paying a private firm $100 million to provide those same services, according to DND documents obtained by the Citizen.

The contract would cover management services, maintenance and repair and janitorial services for army installations in western Canada, including 10 training areas and 17 armouries.

But the proposed contract, to run from 2013 to 2018, has union leaders angry and accusing the Conservative government and DND of using the public service layoffs as a guise for privatizing more federal jobs.

Don’t underestimate the PQ; Don’t appease the PQ: Dion

The biggest mistake Prime Minister Stephen Harper can make in dealing with Quebec’s new Parti Québécois government is to think appeasing it will work, says the architect of the Chrétien government’s national unity strategy.

Stéphane Dion says the current context is different than it was in 1995 when he was intergovernmental affairs minister, and premier-elect Pauline Marois does not have as much popularity and room to manoeuvre as former Quebec PQ Premier Lucien Bouchard.

Rob Anders Newsletter Compares 1812 Conflict To 'Warfare Against Islamic Terror'

Besides napping, Tory MP Rob Anders is well-known for taking controversial positions. But on the War of 1812?

In a recent newsletter, the MP compares the 1812 conflict to "the last 10 years of warfare against Islamic terrorism."

While it may be odd to compare such very different wars, what is perhaps more surprising is the choice of the phrase "Islamic terrorism."

Ottawa taking auditor to court

The House of Commons is taking Canada’s auditor general to court to stop him from revealing documents around his high-profile F-35 committee appearance.

An application filed by the House of Commons in Federal Court last Friday shows House lawyers tried but failed to convince auditor general Michael Ferguson to reject an access to information request for his own correspondence.

What's next for B.C.'s carbon tax?

The Minister leading up B.C.'s Carbon Tax Review, Kevin Falcon, may be gone -- his departure came just as the deadline for submissions was closing -- but the carbon tax lives on. For now. Back in 2008 when the carbon tax was announced, it was scheduled to rise from an initial level of $10 per tonne (2.3 cents at the pump for those who don't speak fluent carbon) to $30 a tonne as of July 2012.

But the government has been silent on next steps for the carbon tax, reflecting dissent and division within the B.C. Liberal caucus (witness the departure of Falcon and 18 others who will not seek re-election). They proudly pointed to the carbon tax when trying to impress people about their green street cred, but behind the scenes have been too busy pushing a natural gas expansion agenda that will make B.C.'s legislated GHG targets road kill.

Support to Jeffrey Mine: Asbestosis, myopia and unreason

Quebec's Liberal government announced last June a $58-million loan to Mine Jeffrey Inc. for the revival of its chrysotile asbestos extraction project. This loan was conditional on the financial involvement of up to $25 million in the project of Balcorp Ltd., a Montreal-based international trade company with associated offices in India. The population of Asbestos received the announcement with great enthusiasm: twice, in 2008 and in 2009, the mine had temporarily ceased its operations, leading to the layoff of about 300 workers.

However, no one seems to really attack these long periods of recurrent unemployment head-on. As soon as the mine restarts, people tend to forget the underlying problem and they no longer speak about it. But yet, this is one of the biggest drawbacks of the mining industry: its phases of recession due to its reliance on foreign markets. Less affected by the high variability of the prices in the metals sector, the asbestos industry has had to cope instead with a permanent decline since the 1970s, a consequence of the continual decrease of the demand for this material, which causes a constant fall of production.

Jumping the queue in a class-divided society

As summer drew to a close, I took my kids for our annual pilgrimage to Toronto's CNE Midway. It was a gorgeous sunny Saturday: the smell of corn dogs in the air, the crowd diverse and gritty.

Then came a shocker. The midway company now has special entrances at each ride for people who pay an extra $20 per person per day (above the cost of the rides). They can then bypass the lineups for their favourite attractions.

Thousands Rally in Chicago Teachers’ Strike, Pushing Back Against Corporatized Education Reform

School is out in Chicago for a second day, as public school teachers continue their first strike in 25 years. Almost 30,000 teachers and their support staff have walked out over reforms sought by the city’s powerful mayor, Rahm Emanuel, who is President Obama’s former chief of staff. On Monday, tens of thousands teachers, parents and students marched in the streets of President Obama’s adopted hometown. We go to Chicago to speak with Democracy Now! correspondent Jaisal Noor.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Chris Hedges: Dems Owe Chicago Public Teachers Support for "Most Important Labor Action in Decades"

As the Chicago public school teachers’ strike enters its second day, we’re joined by the journalist and author Chris Hedges. "The teachers’ strike in Chicago is arguably one of the most important labor actions in probably decades," Hedges says. "If it does not prevail, you can be certain that the template for the attack on the union will be carried out across the country against other teachers’ unions and against the last redoubt of union activity, which is in the public sector, of course — firemen and police." Hedges continues, "It’s always the ruling class that determines the parameters of rebellion and resistance. And the Chicago strike illustrates the bankruptcy of both traditional labor and the Democratic Party. And that’s why the Occupy movement was so important." Hedges is the author, with illustrator Joe Sacco, of the new book, "Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Did intelligence fears prompt Canada to cut Iran ties?

As a general principle, serious nations don’t embrace surprise and bafflement as elements of their foreign policy. Canada’s overnight liquidation of all relations with Iran on Friday would suggest an astonishing exception.

It’s not just the speed of that decision but the cluster of official explanations that set off so much head-scratching at home and abroad.

Do you need to be a psychopath to be U.S president?

People with forceful personalities often become successful — including in the U.S. presidency. But are their traits linked to a truly psychopathic personality?

That's the thesis of an Emory University study titled “Fearless dominance and the U.S. presidency: Implications of psychopathic personality traits for successful and unsuccessful political leadership.”

The study authors did standardized personality analyses of 42 presidents, up to George W. Bush — although obviously, many of the personality analyses were of the posthumous variety. Researchers then looked for traits that fall under the rubric of psychopathy.

Stock letter asks school to warn when sensitive subjects arise

A number of conservative Christian and Muslim parents — unusual political allies — suddenly are asking schools across the GTA to notify them when their child’s class will discuss topics ranging from homosexuality and birth control to wizardry, evolution and “environmental worship,” so they can withhold their child from classes that contradict their religious beliefs.

They are giving schools the same five-page “Traditional Values Letter” used by a Greek Orthodox father who has sued the Hamilton school board for refusing to warn him when his children’s teachers plan to talk about family, marriage or human sexuality. Hamilton dentist Dr. Steve Tourloukis said Monday he only wants those issues taught to his Grade 1 daughter and Grade 4 son “from a Christian perspective.”

UN agency has new intelligence Iran worked on nuclear arms, diplomats say

VIENNA—The UN atomic agency has received new and significant intelligence over the past month that Iran has moved further toward the ability to build a nuclear weapon, diplomats tell The Associated Press.

They say the intelligence shows that Iran has advanced its work on calculating the destructive power of an atomic warhead through a series of computer models that it ran sometime within the past three years.

The diplomats say the information comes from Israel, the United States and at least two other Western countries and concludes that the work was done sometime within the past three years. The time-frame is significant because if the International Atomic Energy Agency decides that the intelligence is credible, it would strengthen its concerns that Iran has continued weapons work into the recent past — and may be continuing to do so.

China sends patrol ships to contested islands after Japan buys them

BEIJING—A territorial flare-up between China and Japan intensified Tuesday as two Beijing-sent patrol ships arrived near disputed East China Sea islands in a show of anger over Tokyo’s purchase of the largely barren outcroppings from their private owners.

The China Marine Surveillance has drawn up a plan to safeguard China’s sovereignty of the islands and the ships were sent to assert those claims, said the Chinese government’s official news agency, Xinhua. The marine agency is a paramilitary force whose ships are often lightly armed.

The rocky islands, known as Senkaku to Japanese and Diaoyu to Chinese, have been the focus of recurring spats between the countries and also are claimed by Taiwan. The China-Japan dispute has been heating up in recent months, in part because the nationalist governor of Tokyo proposed buying the islands and developing them.

Tuition fees rising faster than incomes and inflation, report warns

OTTAWA—A new report suggests tuition fees are becoming less affordable for many Canadians, forcing an increasing number of students to take on heavy debt loads.

The report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives shows that since 1990, average tuition and compulsory fees for undergraduates have risen by 6.2 per cent annually — three times the rate of inflation.

It now costs, on average, $6,186 a year to study at a Canadian university, and that doesn’t include the cost of books or food or lodging.

Competition hearing shines light on $40-billion GTA real estate industry

Realtors with giants ReMax and Royal LePage raked in almost half of all the commissions paid on $40 billion in property transactions across the GTA last year.

In fact, the vast majority of home sales — more than 70 per cent — involved just five major real estate brokerages, which have seen commissions soar since 2007 as home prices here skyrocketed 25.7 per cent in that time, a Competition Tribunal was told Monday.

Ottawa ordered to hand over long-gun registry data collected in Quebec

Quebec gun-control advocates celebrated a significant legal victory Monday in their effort to maintain the province’s part of the federal long-gun registry — while pointing out that the Superior Court decision represents only one step in preventing the destruction of what they argue is an important tool in crime prevention.

“It is part of a victory,” said Louise De Sousa, mother of Anastasia De Sousa, an 18-year-old student who was killed in the 2006 shooting at Dawson College. De Sousa was at the Montreal courthouse when Quebec Superior Court Justice Marc-André Blanchard rendered his decision, and she was smiling afterward.

“(The registry) is a tool we need, and I think the judge saw that,” De Sousa said.

Judge sides with Quebec in long-gun registry battle

The federal government’s plan to destroy all data from its long-gun registry is unconstitutional, a judge has ruled, giving Ottawa 30 days to hand to Quebec records collected from the province’s gun owners.

In a decision released Monday morning, Mr. Justice Marc-André Blanchard of the Quebec Superior Court said the data had been collected jointly by federal and provincial officials and could not be erased unilaterally.

Gun-registry ruling gives Marois leverage in struggle with Ottawa

A provincial court has ordered Ottawa to save the Quebec data in the federal long-gun registry, an early boost to premier-designate Pauline Marois’s plans to engage the Harper government in a series of political battles.

The Quebec Superior Court decision to salvage the information from Quebec gun owners has fuelled an informal alliance of provincial politicians of all stripes who, with the federal New Democratic Party, denounced the Harper government for intransigence in federal-provincial relations.