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.]

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Blasphemy Is Good for You

As I write, mobs all over the world are rioting about an amateurish video portraying Muhammad as a horny buffoon. Death toll so far: at least thirty, including Christopher Stevens, US ambassador to Libya, and three embassy staffers. Not to be outdone, Pakistan’s railways minister announced he would pay $100,000 to anyone who murdered the videomaker, and added, “I call upon these countries and say: Yes, freedom of expression is there, but you should make laws regarding people insulting our Prophet. And if you don’t, then the future will be extremely dangerous.” More riots, embassy closings and a possible assassination attempt or two followed the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo’s retaliatory publication of cartoons of Muhammad naked. To bring it all full circle, an Iranian foundation has raised to $3.3 million the reward it’s offering for the murder of Salman Rushdie. (Just out and highly recommended: Joseph Anton, Rushdie’s humane and heroic memoir of his years in hiding.)

Canada-China investment deal allows for confidential lawsuits against Canada

The Harper government is very keen on Chinese investment. On this there is little doubt, now that the Canada-China investment deal has been released.

The deal will tie the hands of Canadian governments, especially in the resource sector, once Chinese firms buy Canadian assets. It allows Chinese companies to sue Canada outside of Canadian courts. Remarkably, the lawsuits can proceed behind closed doors. This shift to secrecy reverses a long-standing policy of the Canadian government.

Under the deal, Chinese firms can sue in special tribunals to protect themselves from Canadian government decisions. Canadian companies can do the same against China. The technical name for this is “investor-state arbitration.” In Canada, it has been in operation since NAFTA.

Disgraced former RCMP deputy commissioner demands justice

She was a distinguished, proud and grateful 30-year veteran of the RCMP before it all, unjustly, came crashing down five years ago.

"I can only put it to the equivalent of travelling through the nine circles of hell," former RCMP deputy commissioner Barbara George said in an exclusive interview on the Global News program The West Block with Tom Clark.

The downward spiral began in 2007, when members of a House of Commons committee said she lied during testimony in a high-profile inquiry. Then a Liberal MP took to national airwaves to repeat the allegation that she committed perjury, and, finally, with her reputation in shambles, she was forced to resign from the force.

Minister Ambrose upholds current government record on gender equality

Minister Rona Ambrose supporting M312 with her vote was a bit of a surprise to many across the country, and caused a variety of reactions ranging from outrage to applause. However, this vote was only one action in a long line that illustrates the Harper government's steady institutional disempowerment of women in Canada.

To start, Minister Ambrose is the Minister responsible for Public Works and Government Services as well as the Status of Women. This large portfolio and the folding in of the Ministry for Status of Women sends a clear message that Status of Women is not a high priority of the government. Since PM Harper formed government, the ministry has seen budget cuts of nearly 40 per cent and had 12 out of 16 regional offices closed. The word “equality” was also removed from it's mandate.

Free community food garden removed by City of Toronto workers

Without any advanced notice and under orders from City of Toronto Parks Director Richard Ubbens, workers removed all live plants and food from the five month old People’s Peas Garden in Queen’s Park on Friday.

When Occupy Gardens began planting on May 1, the event was reported on by multiple media and took place under the watchful eye of police.

“So they knew it was here and left it undisturbed for almost five months,” said Jacob Kearey-Moreland, in an interview on Saturday in Queen’s Park north.

The poor ain’t what they used to be

As the world’s most powerful leaders met at the United Nations General Assembly this week, another annual ritual was bringing hundreds of scholars, officials, aid workers and journalists to gatherings on the UN’s fringes to discuss the fate of the world’s least powerful people.

There’s a sense, this year, that everything has changed. The poor are still with us, but they aren’t who they used to be. And “ending poverty” doesn’t mean what it used to mean. It’s time to change the game.

The idea of ending world poverty from above – that is, doing something about the dire circumstances that leave about a billion people trying to survive on family incomes of less than $1 a day – is about as old as the UN, and it emerged from a similar sense of postcolonial guilt and beneficence.

Dying woman outlives her 90 days of home care so CCAC cuts her services

When Doris Landry was discharged from hospital with a life expectancy of one to two months, she entered the “Home First” program.

Offered by the Central Community Care Access Centre, the program provided a caseworker, personal support workers for eight hours every day, and medical equipment including a special bed, an oxygen machine, a wheelchair and a lift, so Landry could live her final days in the comfort of her niece’s home.

Her niece Charlene Dunlevy took care of her the other 16 hours of the day. “She’s good to me,” Landry says.

Nexen takeover decision a crossroads for Canada and China

OTTAWA — A crossroads in Canada’s relations with China is fast approaching, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government on the verge of a foreign investment decision that will spell out the risks Ottawa is willing to take to tap into Asia’s economic juggernaut.

As political and commercial stakes mount by the day, federal officials are secretly laying the groundwork for a yes-or-no decision on the $15.1-billion play by China’s state-controlled oil giant for a precedent-setting role in Canada’s oil sands development.

Abortion, immigration debates test limits of dialogue in House of Commons

OTTAWA - The right for MPs to say and discuss almost anything they want is one of the central privileges of Parliament, but a couple of divisive debates over the past week tested the thresholds of dialogue in the House of Commons.

In one case, two spokespeople from the Canadian Immigration Forum were barred from speaking at the Commons immigration committee Wednesday because content on their website was deemed offensive — including an interview with Canadian white supremacist Paul Fromm.

No Tankers motion passed by B.C. local governments

Yesterday at the Union of B.C. Municipalities meeting in Victoria, B.C.’s local government leaders passed the strongest ever provincial motion opposing the expansion of oil tanker traffic through B.C.’s coast.

The motion, dubbed “A8” read as follows:

WHEREAS a crude oil spill would have devastating and long lasting effects on British Columbia’s unique and diverse coast, which provides critical marine habitat and marine resources that sustain the social, cultural, environmental and economic health of coastal and First Nations communities;

AND WHEREAS citizens of British Columbia, particularly those living in coastal communities, and First Nations communities and environmental groups have expressed well-founded concerns over the expansion of oil pipelines and oil tankers:

To the contrary, Monsieur Harper

It is a marvellous country that tolerates as many contrasting styles of government as Canada does. In the late 1990s Preston Manning gave a news conference in Ottawa where he argued that, with Mike Harris and Ralph Klein running Ontario and Alberta on the right, Jean Chrétien must somehow be kept from running Ottawa on the left. In the end the only mechanism that could be found to fix the problem, if it was one, was a succession of general elections. It took many years after Manning voiced his complaint, but today Stephen Harper is running the country in a different direction.

U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan reach 2,000

U.S. military deaths in the Afghan war have reached 2,000, a cold reminder of the human cost of an 11-year-old conflict that now garners little public interest at home as the United States prepares to withdraw most of its combat forces by the end of 2014.

The toll has climbed steadily in recent months with a spate of attacks by Afghan army and police — supposed allies — against American and NATO troops. That has raised troubling questions about whether countries in the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan will achieve their aim of helping the government in Kabul and its forces stand on their own after most foreign troops depart in little more than two years.

Canada’s windows on the world are quietly closing

Hey, what’s the big deal over Canada and Britain sharing a few embassies? We share the same Queen. We both secretly think we’re America’s best friend. Britain invaded Iraq but Canada’s current prime minister also wanted to. In this virtual age, aren’t actual embassies with your nation’s flag flying proudly above them a relic of the past?

Well, not quite. Ask the average Iranian struggling with one of the world’s most despotic regimes. Until earlier this month, when it was closed for political reasons, the Canadian Embassy in Tehran stood prominently in the centre of the city as “a source of shame” for the Iranian government — as one prominent Iranian-Canadian journalist described it — as thousands of Iranians lined up defiantly to obtain visas to come to Canada. That no longer can happen.