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.]

Monday, October 08, 2012

Enbridge ordered back to Kalamazoo River for more clean-up

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered Enbridge back to the site of the largest onshore oil spill in U.S. history to clean up remaining pools of bitumen in the Kalamazoo River.

Despite an unprecedented $800-million two year clean-up of one million gallons of oil (200,000 gallons more than Enbridge reported spilled), the EPA is still finding submerged bitumen contaminating a 38 mile stretch of the Kalamazoo River.

The beleaguered proponent of the controversial Northern Gateway project has ten days to respond or to submit work plans to clean up the remaining bitumen contamination.

MPs concerned about ensuring ‘communities of interest’ in redrawing riding boundaries

MPs say the top concern they have with the provincial riding boundary commissions currently under way is “ensuring that communities of interest” are preserved under the 30 new ridings to be created before the 2015 fall federal election. The House will be increased from 308 to 338 seats.

The British Columbia Federal Electoral Boundary Commission has proposed a new riding in the middle of the city of Vancouver, which has a domino effect on surrounding ridings.

Environment minister knew about shutdown of NWT water monitoring stations, documents show

Prime Minister Stephen Harper sharply rebuked Environment Canada bureaucrats last year for overstepping their authority, but internal documents suggest they were just doing their jobs.

Mr. Harper’s annual Arctic tour in August 2011 was embarrassed when a First Nations group issued a news release saying the federal government had suspended water-quality sampling at 21 sites in the North.

Bombardier’s Learjet employees set to walk off job

Bombardier Inc.’s Learjet division is trying to cope not only with a weak market for smaller business jets but also a strike at its Wichita, Kan., facility.

Learjet employees voted in favour of strike action over the weekend and are set to walk off the job today.

The move follows rejection of Montreal-based Bombardier’s offer of a five-year contract that offers no raises in the first year and a 1-per-cent increase in subsequent years.

American Colleges Are Failing Low-Income Students

For many students, the U.S. system of higher education works very well. Even with rising tuition, most four-year and community colleges still offer a good -- even great -- deal for bright young people with the fundamental skills necessary to graduate.

For others, however, our college system offers more debt than education. More than 13 percent of students who began repaying their loans in 2009 defaulted within three years, according to a recent Department of Education report.

Take off the blue helmet: It may be time for Canada to leave UN and stop trying to please everyone

Predictable elements are uneasy that Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s tough speech at the UN represents a shift away from Canada’s usual tiptoeing around sensitive issues.

Baird scolded the UN for its inability to resolve crises (e.g., Syria), and its reluctance to take decisive action when rogue regimes run amok or defy international opinion. That sort of thing.

In taking a tough stand, Baird undoubtedly reflected Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s attitude — and Baird was filling in for Harper who, instead of addressing the General Assembly along with other heads of state, was accepting a “Statesman of the Year” award.

Border agency hiring ‘mall cops’ to guard high-risk prisoners

OTTAWA — Canada’s border agency is hiring private security guard companies that normally patrol shopping malls to guard “high-risk” prisoners, including one so violent his own lawyer says he shouldn’t walk the streets alone.

Canada Border Services Agency says it’s cheaper than using their own armed officers as security guards and that they are doing it across the country.

Harper rebuked officials for doing their job, documents suggest

Prime Minister Stephen Harper sharply rebuked Environment Canada bureaucrats last year for overstepping their authority, but internal documents suggest they were just doing their jobs.

Harper's annual Arctic tour in August 2011 was embarrassed when a First Nations group issued a news release saying the federal government had suspended water-quality sampling at 21 sites in the North.

Speaking in Haines Junction, Yukon, the prime minister quickly doused the controversy by saying the move was "not authorized" and that Environment Minister Peter Kent had ordered water sampling to resume once he found out about it.

XL Foods, Tories and a politicized inspection agency offer a textbook case of brand destruction

Today is Thanksgiving, and we give thanks the XL Foods plant in southeastern Alberta doesn't process turkeys!

Because XL Foods, its parent company, the Alberta Progressive Conservative Government, the federal Conservative Government and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have effectively destroyed the reputation of Alberta beef in the span of a single month.

In addition to the as-yet-undetermined problems that caused E. coli contamination inside XL Foods' massive plant in the town of Brooks, they've provided a textbook example of how not to handle a public relations crisis.

Feds mishandle E. coli outbreak in country’s largest beef recall

OTTAWA—Nobody could accuse the current Conservative government of being flashy.  

Instead, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has built a reputation of quiet competence. His reputation as a no-nonsense economist who can ably steer the ship of state has gone relatively unchallenged.

At least until last week.

Federal government quiet on health care, an opportunity for opposition parties, says Simpson in new book and Q&A

There is a federal leadership vacuum in Canada’s health-care system and a fearless opposition party in Ottawa could capitalize on the Conservative government’s absence to take hold of the medicare debate in a big way, says veteran Globe and Mail national affairs columnist Jeffrey Simpson who just released his book Chronic Condition: Why Canada’s Health-Care System Needs to be Dragged into the 21st Century.

“This is the first federal government since before medicare that has not wanted the federal government to be active in medicare,” he explained.

No ‘one size fits all’ approach to health care in Canada: Health Minister

Canada’s federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq has managed to handle the federal health file mostly under the radar for four years now—an impressive feat, considering the political importance of health care in Canada.

The state of Canada’s health-care system continues to be among Canadians’ leading concerns. Some 68 per cent of Canadians say that improving health care in Canada should be a top priority for the federal government, according to a poll released by Ipsos Reid and Postmedia News on the heels of September’s provincial and territorial health ministers’ meeting in Halifax, N.S.

Doctors report confusion, disarray following cuts to refugee health program

Members of Canadian Doctors For Refugee Care say the interim federal health program for asylum seekers is in disarray three months after Immigration Minister Jason Kenney introduced changes to the program, but Mr. Kenney’s office is denying claims that the changes have resulted in bad health outcomes for asylum seekers as Citizenship and Immigration Canada prepares a “designated countries of origin” list to reduce refugee claims from certain countries.

Dr. Philip Berger, a member of CDRC, said that since changes were made to the interim federal health program (IFHP) on June 30, doctors treating asylum seekers covered by the program have encountered a number of administrative problems.

Canada could be headed for ‘great big whacking national unity crisis’: pollster Graves

Canada is blithely heading toward a “great big whacking national unity crisis” over the next two or three years and, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper pushing provincial autonomy on a range of fronts and former Quebec premier Jean Charest now out of politics, more could be riding on the federal Liberal Party’s choice for a new leader than Canadians realize, says Ekos pollster Frank Graves.

Mr. Graves told The Hill Times that following the Quebec election last month and with the staunchly separatist Pauline Marois now premier, even though leading a minority government, an analysis of public opinion going back through the Sept. 4 Quebec vote and back to the province’s 1995 referendum on sovereignty, indicates the lowest level of support than ever for the “status quo” in Quebec and a rising indifference toward the province’s separation in the rest of the country, notably in Alberta and other Western Canadian provinces.

Man regains transplant coverage lost because wife gets EI

A young Ontario father who suffers from kidney disease and needs a transplant has found out the drug benefits he lost because his wife is collecting employment insurance while on maternity leave will be restored.

Ryan Davis, who lives in Wallaceburg, about 140 km southwest of London, said his family was "blindsided" when they initially discovered he would lose the drug and disability benefits he had been collecting. “If I don’t have those drug benefits, the hospital will not move forward with the transplant.”

‘Religious freedom’ sends the wrong message to the wrong people

It’s time to speak out against religious freedom.

Or, to be precise, against its promotion and the way it’s used. To those of us who believe freedoms should be absolute and robust, and are ardently opposed to the persecution of people for their beliefs, this might sound like an odd proposition. What could be more benign than another freedom?

But Canada is within days of opening a federal Office of Religious Freedom (within the Department of Foreign Affairs), and it’s becoming apparent that this isn’t a good idea for our country or the world. In fact, it’s very likely to contribute to the very problems we hope it might help solve.

Canada woos Irish immigrants in search of jobs

Irish immigrants helped build Canada since its early days. They are now being asked to pitch in again.

A job fair over the weekend in Dublin, at which Canada and Canadian companies were well represented, drew nearly 8,000 job-hungry Irish hoping to escape hard times on the Emerald Isle.

ING CEO says things won’t change after sale

Peter Aceto, the CEO of ING Direct, was the eighth employee to be hired when the bank opened for business in April 1997.

Now he’s in limbo, waiting for Scotiabank’s $3.1 billion acquisition of the Dutch-owned bank to be completed.

Announced in August, the deal should close by the end of December if the Competition Bureau, Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions and Ontario Securities Commission give their approval.

So, what’s ahead for ING’s 1.8 million customers? As part of that group, I’m also wondering what will happen.

Dalton McGuinty’s austerity plan is a hodgepodge of quick fixes

If Premier Dalton McGuinty had listened to Don Drummond, he’d be in better shape than he is today.

Drummond, a highly regarded economist, was hand-picked by the premier to steer him through the shoals of deficit-cutting at a time of weak growth and global uncertainty.

He warned McGuinty to avoid three tactics “that sound useful but are often harmful.”

Lobbying records show heavy pace of contacts with public-office holders

OTTAWA — Even among the most enthusiastic followers of Canadian politics, few would recognize the name of Sean Speer, a young backroom adviser in the Conservative government.

But for lobbyists hoping to bend the government’s ear, Speer, the senior economic policy adviser in the Prime Minister’s Office, was their top target.

No other official was contacted by lobbyists as often this year, according to a Citizen analysis of records filed with Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying.

Kevin Page, Budget Watchdog, Says He'll Go To Court To Get Budget Cut Info From Feds If Necessary

OTTAWA - There's a showdown looming between the Parliamentary Budget Officer and Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government.

Kevin Page has given officials in 56 departments and agencies until Wednesday to provide information about cuts and savings in the federal budget.

Paul Ryan: Obama Trying To 'Muddle & Confuse' Voters

ROSEMONT, Ill. -- Vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan told supporters in President Barack Obama's home state their contributions will help Republicans define the "very clear choice" for voters in the final weeks before Election Day.

Speaking at a fundraiser in suburban Chicago, Ryan said the president is trying to "throw the kitchen sink" at GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and "muddle and confuse" voters. He also accused Obama of distorting Romney's record and said the president's campaign is outspending the GOP ticket on television advertising in some key states.

Ryan told attendees their support will "give us the resources we need to make sure he doesn't get away with it."

Tickets to the event at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare ranged from $2,500 to $75,800 per person. The campaign said about 260 people attended.

Original Article
Source: huffington post
Author: AP

Capitol Assets: Congress’s wealthiest mostly shielded from effects of deep recession

If you could peer deeply into how the 535 members of Congress handle their money, what would you find?

You would see a diversity of investment strategies and results, from those who put their money into riskier, high-growth funds to those who own safe municipal bonds. The legislators range from the super-rich to the deep-in-debt, from inherited wealth to married wealth to no wealth at all. They are entrepreneurs and farmers, oilmen and ranchers, lawyers and real estate developers.

Dennis Banks: Palestinian Suffering Under U.S.-Backed Occupation Recalls Plight of Native Americans

Dennis Banks, the legendary Native American activist and co-founder of the American Indian Movement, was in New York City this weekend to serve as a jurist at the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, an international people’s tribunal created in 2009 to bring attention to the responsibility other states bear for Israel’s violations of international law. Banks says, "What is happening to [Palestinians] is what we went through during the last century. It is, unfortunately, the same people [backing it]: it is the U.S. government which funnels money to Israel, and then it goes to hurt the Palestinian people."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Native American Leader Dennis Banks on the Overlooked Tragedy of Nation’s Indian Boarding Schools

On “Columbus Day” — known to many as Indigenous Peoples Day — we’re joined by Dennis Banks, a legendary Native American activist from the Ojibwa Tribe. In 1968, he co-founded the American Indian Movement. A year later he took part in the occupation of Alcatraz Island in California. In 1972 he assisted in AIM’s "Trail of Broken Treaties," a caravan of numerous activist groups across the United States to Washington, D.C., to call attention to the plight of Native Americans. That same year AIM took over the Bureau of Indian Affairs building in Washington, D.C. In early 1973, AIM members took over and occupied Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation for 71 days, which some have come to call Wounded Knee II. Earlier this year, he led a cross country walk from Alcatraz to Washington calling for the release of imprisoned Native American activist Leonard Peltier. Banks share his thoughts about “Columbus Day", the U.S. treatment of American Indians, and his own story of growing up in the BIA boarding school system.

Source: Democracy Now
Author: --

On Columbus Day, Indigenous Urge Celebration of Native Culture & Teaching of the Americas’ Genocide

As the nation commemorates the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the so-called "New World" in 1492, indigenous activists at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, are pushing for schools to teach the "real history of the Americas" and to celebrate indigenous culture. "Columbus Day" has long evoked sadness and anger amongst people of color, especially Native Americans, who object to honoring a man who opened the door to European colonization, the exploitation of native peoples and the slave trade. We’re joined by three guests involved with "The Real History of the Americas" day: Esther Belin, a writing instructor at Fort Lewis College and a member of the Navajo Nation; Shirena Trujillo Long, coordinator of El Centro de Muchos Colores at Fort Lewis College and chair of the “The Real History of the Americas” Committee; and student activist Noel Alla-Ta-Ha, a member of the White Mountain Apache tribe and Fort Lewis College senior.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

It's Long Past Time to Admit: The Military Solution in Afghanistan Has Failed

Sunday, October 7, marks the 11th anniversary of the Afghanistan war, now the longest war in U.S. history. This date provides an opportunity to take stock of what a tragic calamity this war is over a decade after its start, and to examine, once again, why military solutions are not effective in solving deep, systemic complexities of a country like Afghanistan.

Most immediately, the conditions look more dire than ever. The failed troop surge that started in 2009 is over. America officials are giving up hope for reconciliation with the Taliban. More Americans and NATO soldiers are dying from rising insider attacks at the hands of Afghan soldiers, leading to talk of a possible early NATO withdrawal. The arbitrary exit date from Afghanistan is still set for the end of 2014, though no one in Washington can explain the plan for a gradual drawdown or really any strategy for ending the war at this point.

Turkey And Syria Fire Across Border As Tensions Mount

AKCAKALE, Turkey — Turkey and Syria fired artillery and mortars across their volatile border for a fifth consecutive day on Sunday, in one of the most serious and prolonged flare-ups of violence along the frontier.

The exchange of fire stoked fears that Syria's civil war will escalate into a regional conflagration drawing in NATO member Turkey, once an ally of President Bashar Assad but now a key supporter of the rebels fighting to topple him.

Food inspection 'disaster' looms

OTTAWA - A government plan to transfer key parts of food inspection to industry so companies can police themselves will put the health of Canadians at risk, according to leading food safety experts who have reviewed the confidential blueprint.

The plan, drafted by Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and approved by the Treasury Board details sweeping changes coming to food inspection in Canada.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is also ending funding to producers to test cattle for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE, or Mad Cow Disease) as part of a surveillance program, the document indicates, a move that is expected to save the agency about $24 million over the next three years.

Budget watchdog prepared to take Harper government to court

OTTAWA—There’s a showdown looming between the Parliamentary Budget Officer and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.

Kevin Page has given officials in 56 departments and agencies until Wednesday to provide information about cuts and savings in the federal budget.

Government’s reaction to tainted beef scandal the real crime

Calling for the resignation of a cabinet minister is the easiest gambit for any opposition.

It is also the laziest, most knee-jerk substitute for substantive debate and until ministers start standing in their place and accepting opposition counsel to end their political career, it is merely part of the daily Ottawa charade.

Shout “resign” too often and too loudly and the already diminished currency of the demand is totally devalued.