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.]

Friday, October 19, 2012

City accountability officers plead for funding

City accountability watchdogs are overburdened and under funded, to the point of being unable to fully perform their duties.

So said the watchdogs themselves at a budget committee meeting Thursday, where their office expenditures were the subject of a line-by-line review by committee members.

The integrity commissioner, ombudsman, and lobbyist registrar all reported that their workloads are increasing and they’re struggling to keep up.

Britain goes to trial for colonial crimes Kenyans look for financial compensation and a state apology for torture committed 60 years ago

As of this month, the British Empire is on trial. Or so goes the story in London.

On Oct. 5, a British high court ruled that three elderly Kenyans who were tortured and abused by colonial authorities in Kenya in the 1950s can proceed with their case against the British government. They are asking for financial compensation and a state apology. Pushing aside the claims of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) that too much time has elapsed for a fair trial, and that modern-day Britain is not to blame for the wrongs of its colonial forebears, the high court has, for the first time, allowed colonial victims to sue the British state.

North Korea warns of ‘merciless military strike’ over activists’ leaflets plan

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA—North Korea’s military threatened Friday to strike a South Korean border area where anti-Pyongyang activists plan to launch leaflets from balloons next week. South Korea immediately vowed to retaliate if attacked.

North Korea has made similar threats without following through. Its latest vow came a day after South Korean President Lee Myung-bak warned against provocation as he made a surprise visit to a front-line island shelled by North Korea in 2010.

Feedback loops, austerity and Tim Hudak's Ontario

Many of us, no doubt, have begun to hear about "positive feedbacks" or "feedback loops" over the last few weeks. This has been in regard to the increasingly alarming ecological situation that we all globally face with the far more rapid than anticipated melting of the arctic permafrost and the release of methane into the atmosphere that this is causing.

The "positive feedback" consists of the fact that, as methane gets released, it acts as a greenhouse gas and drives up global temperatures. This increase in temperatures causes greater polar melting which, in turn, releases more methane. After a certain point the cycle becomes self-perpetuating and irreversible and its effects become more consequential as the cycle unfolds. In this case, of course, in truly catastrophic ways.

No extra cash for greying issue

Atlantic Canada faces higher costs due to demographics

OTTAWA — The federal government is looking at tweaking the equalization formula but will not give Atlantic Canada extra money for its aging population, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Thursday.

Flaherty confirmed his department is doing a technical review of equalization. But he said this is done regularly and will not result in a major shakeup akin to last year’s reform of health transfers.

The omnibus budget bill diversion

At 443 pages, the proposed legislation tabled Thursday by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to implement the federal budget is longer than the actual budget itself.

That might not be such a concern except that this is the second, telephone book-size omnibus bill to give legislative breath to the Flaherty budget, an in-your-face move that is almost certain to get the opposition parties in a stew over process. Which may be exactly its point.

This new Bill C-45 is all but indistinguishable in size and thickness from the federal government's phone book.

Resistance is futile — but necessary

Another week, another Conservative minister in trouble, more opposition outrage, more ritual calls for a resignation.

It isn’t going to happen.

Short of being caught at a Liberal fundraiser in Rosedale, there is, apparently, no behaviour infamous enough to merit even a reprimand when it comes to members of the Harper cabinet. (Except, in the case of the unfortunate Helena Guergis, being caught in the same headline as “busty hookers.” And Maxime Bernier, of course, with his misplaced briefs.)

The Fiscal Cliff X-Factor: The Debt Ceiling

Ezra Klein has an important piece this morning, detailing what he believes the administration’s strategy is for dealing with the fiscal cliff after the election (assuming, of course that President Obama is gearing up for a second term, not a new presidential library).

In short, according to Klein, the White House believes it has major leverage heading into this showdown with Republicans. Since inaction means automatic spending cuts that slash the defense and non-defense budgets equally, but exempt Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security (Republicans don’t like this) and also the full expiration of the Bush tax cuts (Republicans really don’t like this), Obama will use that leverage to get a big bipartisan deal that not only executes his tax and spending preferences but much more. Writes Klein:

    The administration hopes this deal will include more than just deficit reduction. They also see it as a vehicle for infrastructure investment and tax reform. They think there’s some chance that parts of the American Jobs Act, like the hiring tax credits, could sneak through the door, too. There’s even talk of using it to address climate change, though everyone agrees that’s unlikely. Whatever ends up in the final deal, there’s little doubt that it will be a big deal, and it’s likely to come together fairly quickly in the first year. The White House—and the expiring tax and spending provisions—won’t give Republicans any other choice.

TransCanada's Keystone Pipeline Shut Down Temporarily Due To 'Possible Safety Issues'

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal agency says TransCanada Corp. has temporarily shut down its existing Keystone pipeline after tests showed "possible safety issues."

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration says TransCanada reported shutting down the approximately 2,100-mile pipeline, which moves about 500,000 barrels of crude a day from Alberta, Canada, to facilities in Illinois and Oklahoma.

Jeannie Layson, spokeswoman for PHMSA, says the possible safety issues were found on part of the pipeline that extends between Missouri and Illinois. Layson says in an email that an agency inspector has been sent to review the test results, observe repairs and follow any necessary safety activities.

She says TransCanada hasn't reported any leaks on the system.

TransCanada spokesman Grady Semmens says the pipeline was shut down Wednesday and is expected to restart Saturday.

Original Article
Source: huffington post
Author: AP

Fracking Pollution Sickens Pennsylvania Families, Environmental Group Says

The McIntyres of Butler County, Pa., no longer drink the water piped into their home. They no longer brush their teeth with it, shower or do laundry with it.

"We use water for nothing other than flushing the commode," said Janet McIntyre, after describing her family's wide-ranging health problems -- from projectile vomiting to skin rashes -- that she attributed to the water.

Mortgage Settlement: Half Of Money Siphoned Off By Cash-Hungry States

After a bruising year-long battle with banks that resulted in a $25 billion mortgage settlement, the state attorneys general who led the negotiations could be excused for thinking the hard part was over.

But in the months after that deal was reached, many found themselves confronted by a new challenge: fighting with lawmakers who want to siphon off money earmarked for homeowner aid for other uses.

Snow Job on Jobs

Mitt Romney talks a lot about jobs. But does he have a plan to create any?

 You can defend President Obama’s jobs record — recovery from a severe financial crisis is always difficult, and especially so when the opposition party does its best to block every policy initiative you propose. And things have definitely improved over the past year. Still, unemployment remains high after all these years, and a candidate with a real plan to make things better could make a strong case for his election.

Joe Walsh On Abortion: No Exception For 'Life Of The Mother' Thanks To 'Advances In Science And Technology'

Republican Rep. Joe Walsh, running against Democratic challenger Tammy Duckworth in Illinois, told reporters Thursday night that there should be no abortion exception for the "life of the mother" because "with modern technology and science, you can't find one instance" in which a woman would actually die, according to a radio station. Walsh, of course, is flat wrong.

"There is no such exception as life of the mother, and as far as health of the mother, same thing," Walsh continued. The comments were first reported by the Illinois radio station WGN.

Romney Enlists General Behind Iraq Debacle as Key Military Adviser

If you're a presidential candidate looking to establish your national security cred with a war-weary American public, who might be the worst frontman you could choose for your cause? How about the guy who oversaw the campaign that lost Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora, then bungled planning for war in Iraq? In a news release Wednesday night, Mitt Romney announced the 300-plus members of his "Military Advisory Council," and that man led the list of endorsements:

    "I'm proud to be supporting Mitt Romney in this critical election about our nation’s future," said General Tommy Franks, USA (Ret.), Past Commander, U.S. Central Command. "Governor Romney is committed to restoring America's leadership role in the world. Instead of playing politics with our military, he will strengthen our defense posture by reversing the President's devastating defense cuts. The fact of the matter is that we cannot afford another four years of feckless foreign policy. We need level-headed leadership which will protect our interests and defend our values with clarity and without apology."

Ted Opitz's Inclusion In Mission To Monitor Ukraine Vote Under Fire

OTTAWA - The Harper government is making no apologies for sending a Conservative MP whose election remains shrouded in controversy due to numerous voting irregularities on a mission charged with ensuring free and fair elections in Ukraine.

Indeed, the government is showcasing Ted Opitz as model election observer.

"People are entitled to be innocent until proven guilty," Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird told the House of Commons on Friday, dismissing the ongoing legal uncertainty that hangs over Opitz's election win last year.

Air travellers to Canada from exempt countries to require electronic visas

OTTAWA — Visitors to Canada from visa exempt countries, including those from Europe, will soon have a new hurdle to clear if they want to fly to Canada, according to provisions laid out in the latest budget implementation bill.

Part of a commitment Canada made when it signed the perimeter security deal with the United States last year, foreign nationals — with the exception of Americans — will now have to fill out an online form on the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website to find out if they have been red flagged for travel.

Environmentalists decry changes to law governing navigable waters

Proposed changes to a federal law governing navigable waters would end its ability to protect tens of thousands of Canada’s waterbodies, environmentalists say.

Amendments to the Navigable Waters Protection Act introduced as part of a sweeping budget implementation bill on Thursday limit its application to 97 lakes, 62 rivers and the three oceans that border Canada. That means construction of dams, bridges and other projects would be permitted on most waterways without prior approval under the act, which currently covers any body of water big enough to float a canoe in.

Let’s have a history museum, not a hall of fame

Reasonable people can debate what exactly history is but some things are beyond dispute. Legends unsupported by rigorous examination of the available evidence are not history. Boy’s-own adventure stories and tales of derring-do are not history. Airbrushed portraits of Great Men, lists of national triumphs, patriotic exhortations, schemes to inculcate national identity or pride — none of that is history. Not serious history, anyway.

And that is why we should be troubled by what, on the surface, looks like good news.

Conservatives unveil a few surprises, opposition cries foul

The Conservative government is promising big savings from reforming pensions for public servants and MPs: $2.6-billion over five years and $700-million a year after that.

That’s separate from the $5.2-billion a year in spending cuts announced earlier this year by a government that is hoping to erase the federal deficit before the next election even as it faces lower-than-expected economic growth.

Ottawa shields new Windsor-Detroit bridge from lawsuits

The Harper government is passing legislation that exempts a new Windsor-Detroit bridge from a slew of environmental laws in order to shield it from any legal action U.S. opponents of the project might launch.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper signed a deal in June with Michigan to build a second bridge through Canada’s most important trade conduit, but the U.S. operator of the existing Ambassador Bridge between Windsor, Ont., and Detroit fiercely opposes the plan.

You paid for it, but weren’t invited

Federal tax dollars paid the $1,700 deposit on the 2005 wedding reception for Mayor Joe Fontana’s son, The Free Press has learned.

And the then-manager of the London facility recalls another cheque issued by the feds appeared several months later to cover the outstanding $18,900 Fontana still owed.

A Public Works Canada cheque stub for $1,700, obtained by The Free Press, bears an invoice number that matches that on the contract signed for the event at the Marconi Club.

E. coli crisis illuminates need for full corporate accountability for private food-processing companies

As the E. coli crisis at XL Foods in southeastern Alberta clearly illustrates, food safety is too important a topic to be shrouded in the secrecy associated with privately held corporations.

This lesson ought not to be forgotten if XL Foods happens to be sold to a publicly traded company in the fire sale its parent company now appears to be organizing.

It is time for Canadians to talk seriously about the need to increase transparency and accountability among privately held companies that receive public subsidies or do work that has an impact on the nation's wellbeing -- and this obviously includes food-processing corporations on both counts.

Canada to deport family of trafficking-ring victim

After escaping the largest human-trafficking ring in Canadian history, Tibor Baranyai could have quietly returned to his native Hungary. Instead, he chose to help police and prosecutors take down the criminal organization that forced him to work as a virtual slave on construction sites.

But the 44-year-old’s decision came at a price. He can never go home again – the gang he helped dismantle in Canada is still active in Hungary. He suffers anxiety and insomnia and has heart trouble. The mental stress is so great, he says, that he can’t hold down a job.

The omnibus bill becomes business as usual for Conservatives

OTTAWA—Son of Omnibus may have been assembled in the secret Conservative laboratory of dark arts hidden away in the depths of the capital-area woods.

But it entered the world on a day of bright sunshine in an Ottawa bicycle store aptly named Joe Mamma, a shop filled with the smell of fresh rubber and reporters craning for a look at a grinning finance minister peering over a podium, his visage framed by bicycle chains and helmets.

Jim Flaherty, first delivering a plug for a big bike sale by his host Saturday, followed the Conservative script for such things.

As Sen. McGovern Nears Death, How the Antiwar Candidate Challenged Vietnam and Inspired a Generation

As Sen. George McGovern nears death, we broadcast Steve Vittoria’s award-winning documentary, "One Bright Shining Moment: The Forgotten Summer of George McGovern," narrated by Amy Goodman. A family spokesperson confirms the 90-year-old McGovern is no longer responsive and is "at the end stages of his life." He has been in hospice care in South Dakota since Monday, suffering from a combination of age-related medical conditions that have worsened in recent months. McGovern is best known for running against Richard Nixon in 1972 on a platform of withdrawing U.S. troops from Vietnam, reducing defense spending, and providing amnesty to those who evaded the draft. Although he ultimately lost his election bid by a landslide, McGovern shattered the consensus in Capitol Hill around the Vietnam War as one of the first senators to speak out against the war. As a decorated World War II pilot who flew B-24 bombers over Nazi Germany, McGovern did not fit the stereotype of antiwar leaders in the 1960s and 1970s. He is also known for transforming how the Democratic Party chooses its presidential nominee and for his efforts to end world hunger. We play excerpts of "One Bright Shining Moment" about McGovern’s 1972 grassroots campaign for the presidency, featuring interviews with the candidate himself; supporters and activists like Gore Vidal, Gloria Steinem, Warren Beatty, Howard Zinn; and music from Bob Dylan, Robbie Robertson, Donovan and Elvis Costello.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Feds remove water protection from historic law

OTTAWA-The Harper government is proposing to stop one of Canada’s oldest laws protecting bodies of water across the country.

The changes, introduced as part of a 443-page budget implementation bill tabled Thursday in Parliament, would replace the Navigable Waters Protection Act, first introduced in 1882, with a new Navigation Protection Act covering a list of 97 lakes, 62 rivers and the three oceans on Canada’s coasts.

Paul Krugman: Romney's Unrealistic Plan Relies On His 'Awesome Awesomeness'

If Mitt Romney is elected president, he's just going to rely on his "awesome awesomeness" to revive the economy, according to Paul Krugman.

Romney's economic plan, which includes proposals like creating 12 million jobs and cutting taxes for the rich, supposedly without increasing the deficit, isn't actually an economic plan, the Nobel Prize-winning economist wrote in a New York Times blog post on Thursday.

Raw deal: The Canadian resource economy -- Part 2

In Failing grades: The Canadian resource economy -- Part 1 I embarked on an exploration of Canada's resource economy. My motivation was the publication of The nine habits of highly effective resource economies: Lessons for Canada. Issued by the Canadian International Council (CIC) and written by Madeline Drohan, the Canadian correspondent for The Economist, it is a detailed inquiry into where Canada should go if we wish to make intelligent use of the natural assets with which our country is endowed.

The first important determinant of a wise resource economy strategy involves saving the windfall profits in sovereign wealth funds, not only to avoid the pitfalls of the "resource curse" and the attendant Dutch Disease it brings on its coattails, but also to build a multi-generational nest egg for the future when non-renewable resources run out. Salting away royalties in a stability fund can also insulate against the vicissitudes of commodity price fluctuations. On this measure, the policies of provincial governments and the Harper Conservatives clearly warrant a failing grade. In Part 2, I examine Habit # 2: Don't stand still. Add, extract, and build value.