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, September 27, 2012

Land rush leaves Liberia’s farmers in the dust

As he walks through the denuded remains of his farm, Kandakai Blasuah points to the marshland where he used to fish. It’s now dry, filled with sand.

The bush where he gathered medicinal herbs is also gone. His farm, too, has vanished. All that’s left are a few rows of corn, and a new road to serve the vast palm plantation that has enveloped his village for the past two years.

The backbone of Africa: Entrepreneurs who refuse to quit

By the age of 33, Wilfred Sam-King had earned and lost a fortune three times over. Each time he built a business from nothing, he saw it looted or torched in a coup or a rebel invasion.

When rebels laid siege to Freetown in 1999, they searched everywhere for Sierra Leone’s famed businessman, aiming to take his money. One day they captured him – but he had disguised himself in shabby clothes, pretending to be his own cook. He made soup for the rebels for three days before escaping.

Africa next: An enterprising hand up, not a handout

Claudio Scotto paces the factory floor and throws his hands to the sky. His machinery is idle, the diesel generator has broken down – and now the repairmen are insisting on cash before they stir themselves.

“I had a moment of hope, but it disappeared very quickly,” he mutters. And then he rushes off to negotiate with the truckers who transport the raw material to his factory. They, too, want a raise.

Exposed: U.S. May Have Designated Julian Assange and WikiLeaks an "Enemy of the State"

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange may have been designated an "enemy of the state" by the United States. U.S. Air Force counterintelligence documents show military personnel who contact WikiLeaks or its supporters may be at risk of being charged with "communicating with the enemy" — a military crime that carries a maximum sentence of death. We speak to attorney Michael Ratner, president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights and a legal adviser to Assange and WikiLeaks.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

In U.N. Address, WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange Urges Obama Admin to End "Regime of Secrecy"

Speaking via videolink from the Ecuadorean embassy in London, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange addressed a side meeting of the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday evening. In his remarks, Assange gave thanks to the United Nations for its treaties on political asylum and denounced the U.S. treatment of alleged Army whistleblower Bradley Manning. Assange also accused President Obama of exploiting the Arab Spring and called on the end its persecution of WikiLeaks and its supporters. We air Assange’s address.

Source: Democracy Now
Author: --

Six Ontario doctors each billed taxpayers more than $3-million last year

Half a dozen doctors in Ontario each billed taxpayers more than $3-million last year, ranking them the province’s highest paid public-sector workers. The gap between doctors and the rest of the public sector is expected to widen even further under proposed wage-freeze legislation.

The government announced on Wednesday that it is imposing a two-year pay freeze on just under 500,000 workers in the broader public sector – hospitals, long-term-care homes, universities, colleges and electricity utilities. Ontario’s 25,000 doctors are the only provincial workers excluded from the draft legislation.

Mayor Rob Ford’s administration “compromised” recruitment process for city boards, ombudsman says

Mayor Rob Ford’s administration “compromised” city staff’s ability to recruit candidates for city agencies, boards and commissions, the city’s ombudsman says.

The mayor’s office first delayed, and then rushed, city staff’s vetting process for possible citizen appointees and tried to blunt city-mandated efforts to make the talent pool ethnically diverse, Fiona Crean wrote in her report released Thursday.

Analysis: Canada ruling Conservatives split over CNOOC's bid for Nexen

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's ruling Conservative Party is split over a landmark $15.1 billion bid by China's CNOOC for oil producer Nexen, leaving Prime Minister Stephen Harper with a difficult final call to make.

A green light, still viewed by many as likely, would allow China's biggest ever foreign takeover, extend China's foothold in Canada's crude-rich oil sands - an area with the biggest proven resources of energy outside Venezuela and Saudi Arabia - and help Beijing fulfill its drive for better access to energy resources to fuel the world's second-largest economy.

'Too Asian?' anthology takes Maclean's to task

Too Asian?: Racism, Privilege, and Post-Secondary Education
by RJ Gilmour, Davina Bhandar, Jeet Heer, and Michael C.K. Ma, eds.
(Between The Lines,

Recently, the Bank of Canada removed the image of an Asian woman peering into a microscope from its new $100 banknotes after focus groups participants viewed the woman’s “racialized” identity as an issue warranting review. Equally reprehensible was how Canada’s central banking institution chose to resolve this dilemma: by replacing the original image with one of a European woman (i.e. a woman with a “neutral” ethnicity, according to a spokesperson).

'Statesman of the Year' Stephen Harper also picks up first ever Richard Nixon Prize

At a ceremony in New York today the Appeal of Conscience Foundation will present Stephen Harper with its World Statesman of the Year award. Former U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger will deliver the prize.

Canada's Prime Minister is really racking up the hardware. This morning a coalition of international and community groups announced that Harper has won the first ever Richard Nixon Prize. The award is given to a leader for pursuing "principled, forthright and steadfast international policies in the interests of the rich and powerful, regardless of the consequences" to everyone else.

The decision to grant Harper the Richard Nixon Prize was made after a thorough review of his foreign policy.

Leona Aglukkaq defends Health Canada over concerns about side effects of ADHD drugs

OTTAWA—Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq is defending Health Canada in the wake of a Star investigation that found children on attention deficit drugs may be suffering worrisome side effects.

Aglukkaq signalled no plans to change procedures, despite a chorus of concerns that Canadians need to be better informed about reports of side effects suspected to have been caused by their prescription drugs.

Instead, she says parents worried about the potential side effects attention deficit drugs have on their children should be talking more to their doctors and checking Health Canada’s website.

UN Criticizes Canada On Child Rights

OTTAWA - United Nations officials say they're concerned vulnerable Canadian children may be falling through the cracks of a fractious federal system that lacks accountability and a clear strategy.

In hearings in Geneva to examine Canada's adherence to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Ottawa was repeatedly taken to task for incoherence about how federal and provincial programs actually help kids.

The UN's committee on the rights of the child said Canada needs to "raise the bar" in how it protects the rights of children, especially when it comes to aboriginal, disabled and immigrant kids.

Anti-Austerity Protests Break Out In Athens And Madrid

ATHENS/MADRID, Sept 26 (Reuters) - Demonstrators clashed with police on the streets of Athens and Madrid on Wednesday in an upsurge of popular anger at new austerity measures being imposed on two of the euro zone's most vulnerable economies.

In some of the most violent confrontations, Greek police fired tear gas at hooded rioters hurling petrol bombs as thousands joined the country's biggest protest in more than a year.

The unrest erupted after nearly 70,000 people marched to the Greek parliament chanting "EU, IMF Out!" on the day of a general strike against further cuts demanded by foreign lenders.

Canadian bishops block ‘partisan and political’ Church campaign as program takes aim at Harper over cuts

OTTAWA — Canadian Catholic bishops have taken the unprecedented step of blocking an annual education campaign organized by the Church’s foreign aid wing, Development and Peace, after deeming this year’s edition too partisan.

The bishops are reported to have been concerned that the campaign, targeting the Harper government’s controversial changes to Canadian international assistance, would divide parishioners and hurt the Church’s work with the Conservatives on other issues.

Bill C-293 Aims To Put A Stop To 'Ridiculous' Inmate Complaints

Federal inmates who keep complaining about one thing or another are on their way to being shut up for a year.

MPs will vote Wednesday evening to send Conservative MP Roxanne James’ private member’s bill C-293 on vexatious complainants to the Senate for final approval.

James told The Huffington Post Canada there are about 20 to 25 prisoners who together log more than 4,000 complaints a year about the conditions in federal penitentiaries. Some of the top complainants file more than 500 grievances a year.

Pipeline development was ‘top of mind’ in Stephen Harper’s budget bill, say “secret” records

OTTAWA – Pipeline development was a “top of mind” consideration factoring into the Harper government’s regulatory reforms adopted in a 400-page piece of legislation supporting the 2012 budget, reveals an internal briefing note prepared for Environment Minister Peter Kent.

The federal document, marked “secret” but released through access to information legislation by Environment Canada, highlighted the department’s role in assessing two different proposals for pipelines linking Alberta’s oilsands industry to the west coast of British Columbia.

The United States of ALEC: Bill Moyers on the Secretive Corporate-Legislative Body Writing Our Laws

Democracy Now! premieres "The United States of ALEC," a special report by legendary journalist Bill Moyers on how the secretive American Legislative Exchange Council has helped corporate America propose and even draft legislation for states across the country. ALEC brings together major U.S. corporations and right-wing legislators to craft and vote on "model" bills behind closed doors. It has come under increasing scrutiny for its role in promoting "stand your ground" gun laws, voter suppression bills, union-busting policies and other controversial legislation. Although billing itself as a "nonpartisan public-private partnership," ALEC is actually a national network of state politicians and powerful corporations principally concerned with increasing corporate profits without public scrutiny. Moyers’ special will air this weekend on Moyers & Company, but first airs on Democracy Now! today. "The United States of ALEC" is a collaboration between Okapi Productions, LLC and the Schumann Media Center.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

Fasting for the planet's climate

A new report by the Spanish based humanitarian organization DARA concludes that unless the world takes drastic action climate change combined with carbon pollution will produce a massive death toll over the next two decades.

In the words of the report: "Continuing today's patterns of carbon-intensive energy use is estimated, together with climate change ... to claim 100 million lives between now and the end of the next decade."

The report -- which is based on the latest scientific information and was commissioned by the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a partnership of 20 developing countries -- details the actual deaths caused by climate change and carbon pollution for the year 2010.

The Commons: PM Harper explains why his 2008 platform was written in blue ink

The Scene. The day’s prize for Inventiveness in Partisanship goes to Joyce Bateman, the Conservative MP for Winnipeg-South Centre, who, in standing to ask the Foreign Affairs Minister about the appointment of a new ambassador to China, somehow managed to accuse the NDP of proposing a “job-killing carbon tax.”

Any backbencher, having been duly awarded one of the highest honours a group of voting-age citizens can bestow on another, can stand and publicly proclaim the party line. But only the truly exceptional can do so in reference to something completely unrelated. Bravo Madame. You have established an impressive standard that will be difficult to match. Not that we should underestimate your colleagues. Especially when they might have three years to match or exceed your accomplishment.

Grit MPs Pacetti, Simms back Trudeau for leader; Trudeau’s national campaign poised to start

PARLIAMENT HILL—Liberal MP Justin Trudeau is not even out of the starting gate, but just hours after La Presseand then other media reported Tuesday that he plans to announce his candidacy for the federal Liberal Party leadership next week Mr. Trudeau won public support from two MPs and signs grew that he has a team of organizers poised across the country to begin his campaign.

Liberal MP Massimo Pacetti (Saint-Leonard-Saint Michel, Que.) told The Hill Times he will be supporting Mr. Trudeau (Papineau, Que.). Mr. Pacetti said in another interview outside the Commons that even if the leadership election next April turns into a coronation, he believes that Mr. Trudeau is the right choice for Liberals to battle both the NDP and Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) and the Conservative party in the next federal election.

China-Japan spat threatens to disrupt billions in trade

Business is still slow at the Beijing Fortune building, home to several major Japanese companies operating in China.

The offices of concerns like Hitachi Ltd., All Nippon Airways Co. Ltd. and Japan Airlines Corp., which were closed during the height of street protests in Beijing, are open again. But the slow foot traffic is a reminder of how a handful of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea are drawing the world’s second- and third-largest economies into a standoff threatening major disruptions to two-way trade worth more than $340-billion (U.S.) last year.

Canadian military to spend $1 billion on unmanned armed drones

It appears that Canada is getting involved in the drone arms race.

According to a report in the Ottawa Citizen, the Harper government recently approved a military 'request to aerospace firms' to provide details about the types of drones now available in the marketplace.

The 'request' pointed out the need for the unmanned aircraft to operate in the Arctic. The aircraft should also be able to carry precision-guided munitions, the government said.