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 15, 2012

Romney-Ryan Medicare: Privatized System Would Raise Premiums For Recipients: Study

WASHINGTON — Nearly six in 10 Medicare recipients would pay higher premiums under a hypothetical privatized system along the lines of what Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has proposed, according to a study released Monday.

The report by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation also found striking regional differences that could lead to big premium hikes in some states and counties. That finding instantly made it ammunition in the presidential campaign.

Lobbyists ready for a comeback under Romney

President Barack Obama’s gone further than any president to keep lobbyists out of the White House — even signing executive orders to do it.

But the mood on K Street is brightening.

Industry insiders believe that Mitt Romney will unshackle the revolving door and give lobbyists a shot at the government jobs their Democratic counterparts have been denied for the past four years, a dozen Republican lobbyists said in conversations with POLITICO.

Dalton McGuinty Accused Of Ontario Gas Plants 'Cover Up'

TORONTO - Premier Dalton McGuinty and senior Liberal cabinet ministers "lied" to the legislature when they repeatedly said all documents on cancelled power stations in Oakville and Mississauga had been released last month, PC Leader Tim Hudak charged Monday.

"We’ve had now several occasions where they have actually lied to MPPs," Hudak told reporters at a news conference.

"We commonly don’t use that kind of language in the legislature, but I don’t know what else to call it."

Canada Economy: Bank Of Canada Business Outlook Says Firms Turn Sour On Economy

OTTAWA - Canadian firms appear to be preparing for hard and uncertain economic times, the Bank of Canada says in a business outlook survey released Monday.

The bank's quarterly survey of top executives at 100 firms across the country shows a corporate sector that is far more concerned about the future than it was only three months ago, and planning accordingly.

Ashley Smith Inquest: Lawyer Alleges 'State Cover-Up' In Probe Into Teen's Prison Cell Death

TORONTO - Federal correctional authorities are trying to stop public disclosure of videos and documents during a fight over the scope of an Ontario inquest into the prison death of a deeply troubled teen.

The motion to seal the materials — which a lawyer for the family of Ashley Smith called a "pure and simple state coverup" — threatens to further delay the already long-delayed probe.

'Temporary' foreign workers likely here to stay, says expert

The hundreds of "temporary" foreign workers coming from China starting this autumn to work in northeastern B.C. coal mines will end up staying for years, if not decades, predicts the president of a B.C.-based employment agency.

And some of them may end up getting ripped off and even going home in caskets if the B.C. government doesn't ensure proper regulation, said Kael Campbell, president of the Red Seal Group, a Victoria firm that helps match companies with skilled trades-people across Canada.

Counting on first nations to fill a looming labour shortfall

With their decades in operation and hundreds of employees, mines can be the economic lifeblood of a region. Premier Christy Clark’s 2011 jobs plan calls for eight new mines and nine expanded operations by 2015.

Even if only some of the projects go ahead, the mining sector expects a labour crunch. The existing work force is getting old and not enough young people are coming into the sector to fill the gap.

Environmentalists fear Ottawa's plan will weaken at-risk species act

The law created to protect Canada’s species at risk has failed to live up to its promise, and environmentalists fear the federal Conservative government’s recently announced plans to revise it are aimed at weakening it, not giving it more teeth.

Environment Minister Peter Kent said last month that the Species At Risk Act (SARA) is due for an overhaul and he would spend this fall considering how to make it more efficient. Specifically, said the minister, recovery plans for species under threat must consider the whole ecosystem in which they live, not just the species itself.

Bullying is a crime -- treat it that way

OTTAWA -- Fifteen-year-old Amanda Todd's face peeks out over the top of the hand-printed note cards.

Most of her face is obscured but you can still see in her face the pain and suffering she endured as she tells her story in a video she posted on YouTube one month ago.

The B.C. teenager has become the latest poster child for bullying victims and teenage suicide. She took her own life last week after enduring years of torment by her peers.

North American leaders gather in Ottawa away from reporters’ prying eyes

Over the weekend, some of North America’s most powerful people met in Ottawa.

The North American Forum, an annual meeting of leaders from Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, brought together politicians, ambassadors, CEOs for major firms, and academics for a two-day series of panels to discuss key issues facing North America in the near future.

Death by Ideology

Mitt Romney doesn’t see dead people. But that’s only because he doesn’t want to see them; if he did, he’d have to acknowledge the ugly reality of what will happen if he and Paul Ryan get their way on health care.

 Last week, speaking to The Columbus Dispatch, Mr. Romney declared that nobody in America dies because he or she is uninsured: “We don’t have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don’t have insurance.” This followed on an earlier remark by Mr. Romney — echoing an infamous statement by none other than George W. Bush — in which he insisted that emergency rooms provide essential health care to the uninsured.

Criminal Justice, Civil Liberties Issues Missing From 2012 Campaign

Our broken criminal justice system wasn't discussed in the first two 2012 debates, and it's unlikely it will be addressed in the two that remain. In fact, crime hasn't been a factor in any presidential campaign since 1988, when Vice President George H. W. Bush and political strategist Lee Atwater -- along with assists from Al Gore and CNN anchor Bernard Shaw -- hit Michael Dukakis over the head with them. Since then, the only way either major party nominee has talked about crime has been to promise he'll be tougher on it than his opponent.

Temp Miners from China Dig up Trouble for Clark

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Nearly a year ago, B.C. Premier Christy Clark was clearly having a good day on her trade mission to China. In an exultant press release datelined Beijing, Nov. 11, 2011, the premier announced a substantial infusion of Chinese capital for two new projects in the B.C. coal mining industry, an investment that would, she said, result in thousands of new jobs. The press release opened on a triumphant note:

"Premier Christy Clark today announced financing worth $1.36 billion for two major investments which will eventually create over 6,700 jobs. 'This investment clearly shows how confident China is in British Columbia's world-class mining resources and strong investment climate,' said Premier Christy Clark. 'These two projects support our BC Jobs Plan and according to the companies will create over 6,700 jobs and other economic benefits for British Columbians.'"

Veep Stakes

In 2011, as the Presidential campaign got under way, Paul Ryan posed for Time, curling barbells during a P90X workout, with his baseball cap turned backward and his ear buds in, ready for some heavy metal. The magazine had considered naming him Person of the Year, for his sudden rise to radical prominence in the House of Representatives. That, in turn, was an outcome of his co-authorship of a brassy book titled “Young Guns,” which attacked government spending, and of his marketing of a manifesto, “A Roadmap for America’s Future,” which promised big reductions in the size of government, along with privatization plans for Medicare and Social Security. (Privatizing Social Security has been dropped from—or, at least, is not mentioned in—recent versions of the Roadmap.)

Some GMO Cheerleaders Also Deny Climate Change

"GMO Opponents Are the Climate Skeptics of the Left," declares the headline of a recent piece by Keith Kloor in Slate. The argument goes like this: Just as certain conservative writers flout science by denying the urgency of climate change, there are progressive writers—he named me as a prominent example—who defy an alleged scientific consensus by criticizing the genetically modified crop industry. We're hypocrites, the charge goes, because we thunder against the denial of good science when it comes to climate, but indulge in denialism when it comes to GMOs.

Spain Austerity Protests: Thousands March In Madrid

MADRID -- Several thousand anti-austerity protesters in Spain marched down a major street in the capital banging pots and pans Saturday.

Many protesters also blew whistles as they blocked part of the Castellana boulevard Saturday carrying placards saying "We don't owe, we won't pay."

"None of us pushed the banks to lend huge sums of money to greedy property speculators, yet we are being asked to pay for other's mistakes," 34-year-old civil servant Maria Costa, who was banging an old pot along with her two children, said.

Canada’s Spy Groups Divulge Secret Intelligence to Energy Companies

TORONTO—The Canadian government has been orchestrating briefings that provide energy companies with classified intelligence from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the RCMP and other agencies, raising concerns that federal officials are spying on environmentalists and First Nations in order to provide information to the businesses they criticize.

The secret-level briefings have taken place twice a year since 2005, and are detailed in documents obtained under the Access to Information Act, and in publicly-available government files.

Koch Brothers Among U.S. Billionaires Pressuring Thousands of Employees to Vote GOP on Election Day

A new exposé raises alarming questions about the ability of corporations to influence the voting decisions of their employees. In an article published by "In These Times" magazine, labor journalist Mike Elk examines the contents of a voter information packet that Koch Industries sent to tens of thousands of employees at its subsidiary, Georgia-Pacific. The packet advised the employees on whom to vote for and warned them of the dire consequences to their families, their jobs and their country, should they choose to vote otherwise. Koch Industries is run by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. Corporations like Koch are legally allowed to pressure their workers to adopt their political views at the ballot box because of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. Elk joins us to discuss his In These Times article, "Koch Sends Pro-Romney Mailing to 45,000 Employees While Stifling Workplace Political Speech."

Source: Democracy Now1
Author: --

Koch Brothers Send Pro-Romney Mailing To 50,000 Employees, Allegedly 'Stifle Political Speech'

David and Charles Koch are "attempting to control their workers' votes" by sending out pro-Romney informational packets and "stifling workplace political speech," In These Times reports.

According to an investigation carried out by the magazine, the Koch brothers allegedly sent out a mailing to 50,000 employees earlier this month offering information as to how to vote in this year's presidential election.

For more on this, read the full report at In These Times.

Parliamentary watchdog moves closer to holding Harper to account

Just as Dr. Frankenstein invented his own worst enemy, so too did Stephen Harper. In 2006, the prime minister established the parliamentary budget office, promising a new era of accountability in Ottawa. If you asked him today, he might say he created a monster.

Last week, the head of the office, Kevin Page, made significant headway in a months-long battle with the government over its refusal to cough up financial details related to the last federal budget. A threat, issued earlier this month, to take departments withholding information to court if they didn’t change tack by last Wednesday appears to have changed a few minds.

Chinese spying in Canada? This is just the start

So is China a military threat, an economic threat and a political one, all wrapped up in one? Or are we just scared about barbarians at the gates?

At the very least, we feel threatened by China. The Russians are spying on us, as proved by the Jeffrey Delisle spy case. And China’s arrival as a superpower means its influence and its intelligence agencies will reach into every corner of the world. Canada’s government is already feeling the squeeze.

Bill to regulate robocalls faces hurdles

This week, NDP MP Craig Scott will introduce a private member’s bill to regulate political calls — something the government promised to have presented by last month.

On March 12, at the height of the media furor over fraudulent and deceptive election calls, the NDP moved a motion calling on the government to table legislation to curb dirty political calls by requiring voter contact firms and their clients to register with Elections Canada.

PBO forces feds to release details on budget cuts, says Parliament wins

Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page, who was threatening a high-profile legal battle against the federal government to force departments to hand over information on how it plans to achieve $5.2-billion in spending cuts, says while it’s “incredibly important”  that his office will finally receive the information, he doesn’t see the move as a victory over the government, but says if there is any winner it’s Parliament. He also says he won’t rule out legal action if some departments continue to hold out.

The hidden price of public-private partnerships

Public-private partnerships are all the rage in Canada for big infrastructure projects – roads, bridges, waste-water plants and the like.

Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is a huge fan. So is Ontario, which has done more public-private partnerships, including 40 hospitals, than any other government in Canada.

Virtually every province and the federal government now have special agencies dedicated to funding and promoting so-called P3s.

Texas Landowners Join Environmentalists for Historic Blockade of Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline

A standoff is underway in Texas over construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would run oil from the Canadian tar sands fields to U.S. refineries on the Gulf Coast. In a protest now entering its fourth week, dozens of environmental activists working with local Texas landowners have blocked the pipeline’s path with tree sits and other nonviolent protests. We speak to Susan Scott, who owns land where the pipeline will run; actress Daryl Hannah, who was arrested there last week and has long been active in protests against the pipeline; and Tar Sands Blockade coalition spokesperson Ron Seifert.

Source: Democracy now!
Author: ---

‘Canada has almost lost its capacity to make good policy’: Nikiforuk

Andrew Nikiforuk delivers a discomforting critique of the fossil fuel-based economy in his latest book, The Energy of Slavery: Oil and the New Servitude (Hardcover, Greystone Books/David Suzuki Foundation, $29.95), which argues that today’s energy consumption habits are based on slavery. He likens today’s consumers to modern-day slaveholders who are indebted by increasingly rare and costly energy to produce their food and power their appliances and vehicles.

The award-winning Calgary-based author, journalist, and The Tyee contributor has written on energy and the environment for more than two decades.

Feds say Bill C-27 will bring accountability to First Nations, but critics call it paternalistic, redundant

The federal government says Bill C-27, the Financial Accountability and Transparency of First Nations Bill which received second reading and is currently up before the House Aboriginal Affairs Committee this week, will bring financial accountability and transparency to First Nations, but some experts say it is redundant, paternalistic, and “an exercise in futility.”

“It’s a completely unnecessary bill. It’s an exercise in futility. It doesn’t serve anyone’s purpose except the Conservative government’s purpose to try to make First Nations look like they have more money than they do, or look like the reason for their poverty is somehow mismanagement,” Ryerson University professor Pamela Palmater told The Hill Times last week.

CFIA has 1,727 meat inspectors, but unions say it’s not enough, can’t keep up

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency provided some clarity on the number of meat inspectors it employs last week, but the unions representing slaughterhouse workers and inspectors across the country say that staffing numbers have failed to keep up with factory speeds.

The CFIA employed 1,727 meat inspectors as of March, 2012. Some 1,223 meat inspectors were assigned to slaughterhouses; 674 were assigned to meat processing, 495 were assigned to “ready to eat” meat processing, and 483 were assigned to “non-ready” meat inspection. The figures exceed the total because hundreds of inspectors are assigned to more than one task and counted twice.

Beef recall an opportunity lost for feds and Ritz to communicate competency: experts

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, who recently led the largest beef recall in Canadian history, continued to face calls from the NDP to step down last week over the tainted beef recall, but Parliamentary experts say that forcing him out of Cabinet isn’t the only way to make sure he is held accountable.

“Ministerial responsibility is almost necessarily linked to the resignation of a minister, and that’s just not the case,” said Prof. David E. Smith, a senior policy fellow at the University of Regina who has written on the subject. “Resignation is something of a red herring.”

Analysts urge feds to use Nexen extension to clarify foreign acquisition rules

The state-owned Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation’s $15.1-billion bid for Nexen may not pose a national security threat on its own, but analysts at two of Ottawa’s leading think tanks say the federal government should use the extended review period to prepare for more foreign takeover bids by state-owned enterprises looking for access to Canada’s natural resources.

Conference Board of Canada chief economist Glen Hodgson said that the federal government’s review of the Nexen takeover was an opportunity to develop policy for future acquisitions, particularly when it comes to state-owned enterprises that can have a “distorting force” on the Canadian economy.

Children to pay price for native education reform shambles

The Harper government is determined to push forward with a new first nations education act despite the opposition of native chiefs.

But the act will almost certainly be boycotted by most first nations leaders across the country, even if it does become law.

All sides bear responsibility for this shambles. Native children will pay the price.

As fiscal cliff nears, CEOs sound alarm and push politicians on a deal

American business has seen what lies beyond the fiscal cliff and recoiled.

Leaders of some of the country’s biggest companies and financial institutions are mobilizing behind an effort to reach a compromise on the U.S. deficit predicament. Some are even saying they would pay higher personal income taxes as part of the bargain.

Turkey bans all Syria aircraft from its air space

BEIRUT/AMMAN—Turkey has banned all Syrian aircraft from its air space as it takes an increasingly firm stance against President Bashar al-Assad, while Syrian rebels said on Sunday they had made more gains in a key province near the Turkish border.

Human Rights Watch said Syrian government forces had dropped Russian-made cluster bombs over civilian areas in the past week as they battled to reverse rebel advances, an act which rights groups say can constitute a war crime.