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 22, 2012

Stephen Harper sheds no light on why Ottawa spiked Petronas deal, promises clarity soon

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper says his Conservative government still intends to review and clarify Canada's standards for foreign investment.

But he offered little explanation for why Industry Minister Christian Paradis rejected a proposed $6-billion takeover offer of Progress Energy Resources by Malaysian state-owned oil company Petronas.

Nationalize the oil industry? How the left can make big ideas become policy

Thirty-five years ago the policies than now define democratic governance -- or rather anti-democratic -- in Canada were literally unthinkable.

Voluntarily giving up, through reckless tax cuts, hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue needed for running the country (and provinces); the fire sale disposal of some of the countries most valuable, efficient and productive crown corporations; the signing of corporate rights agreements like NAFTA that severely constrain elected governments from legislating on behalf of their citizens; the ruthless slashing of social spending; and the deliberate driving down of salaries and wages by government policy -- all now commonplace and once unthinkable.

The Voter-Fraud Myth

Teresa Sharp is fifty-three years old and has lived in a modest single-family house on Millsdale Street, in a suburb of Cincinnati, for nearly thirty-three years. A lifelong Democrat, she has voted in every Presidential election since she turned eighteen. So she was agitated when an official summons from the Hamilton County Board of Elections arrived in the mail last month. Hamilton County, which includes Cincinnati, is one of the most populous regions of the most fiercely contested state in the 2012 election. No Republican candidate has ever won the Presidency without carrying Ohio, and recent polls show Barack Obama and Mitt Romney almost even in the state. Every vote may matter, including those cast by the seven members of the Sharp family—Teresa, her husband, four grown children, and an elderly aunt—living in the Millsdale Street house.

Getting run over by the omnibus

OTTAWA — Government calls it making way for business. Outraged foes call it the slicing and dicing of environmental protection and any remaining trust with aboriginal peoples.

Over several months of omnibus bills, amendments, regulations and tinkering with longstanding conventions, Ottawa has undertaken a series of adjustments that add up to undeniably profound changes in both environmental and aboriginal policy.

Tribunal will rule whether Ottawa retaliated against native rights’ advocate Cindy Blackstock

OTTAWA—Cindy Blackstock has spent more than five years trying to hold Ottawa accountable for a funding gap on the welfare of aboriginal children on reserves.

Instead of dealing with that funding gap, Ottawa has spent nearly as long searching for dirt on Blackstock. In total, it has spent more than $3 million trying to derail her bid to have the government’s funding policy ruled as discrimination against native children.

Fresh evidence of government spying on Blackstock and a court victory for the aboriginal children’s advocate show Ottawa is losing this fight, despite its chilling surveillance of a woman they seek to discredit.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney seeks power to bar people from Canada

There are a number of good reasons for not letting certain people into Canada: having a criminal record, being deemed a threat to the security of residents or the security of the country, and involvement in human rights violations, among others. Decisions about entry are made by border officials every day.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney thinks he should also have a say.

Kenney announced last week that he will seek new powers to bar certain people from entering Canada if the minister concludes that it is justified by “public policy considerations.” It’s a vague term that has yet to be defined, but he says it would mostly apply to people entering with the intent to promote hatred and spark violence.

Canada and China, BFFs: Are we ready for this?

Canada and China are about to become, if not economic bedfellows, then a serious courting couple, given to public displays of affection. Are we ready for this?

With a population of 1.4 billion and gross domestic product of $7.2-trillion, the latter growing at nine per cent annually, China is on track to surpass the United States as the world’s pre-eminent economic power by 2020. Canadian firms have barely begun to tap the immense Chinese market. The reverse does not apply.

Harper’s seals won’t bark forever

“You can’t expect people to bark like seals forever.”

That’s what Nathan Cullen, the surprising star of the recent NDP federal leadership race, said about the current state of the party in power. The island of stability that was supposed to be ushered in for the Conservatives with a majority win is showing signs of going sideways.

Not in democracy-challenged Ontario; not in separatist-harrumphing Quebec; not in rich but crotchety Alberta – no, in nature-loving British Columbia.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark warns of national crisis over pipeline

Any move by Ottawa to green-light the Northern Gateway pipeline over British Columbia’s objections would ignite a national political crisis, says Premier Christy Clark.

Putting its foot down on a provincial matter would fan the flames on both sides of the debate and run afoul of political reality: the pipeline will only get built if it has the “social licence” to proceed, Ms. Clark said.

Tory MPs court controversy

Saskatchewan Conservative MPs may be tiring of their image as "trained seals" under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and are suddenly taking contentious public stands on abortion, refugee health care, the Indian Act and other issues, says a political scientist.

For years in opposition and in a minority government, Harper's goal was to accumulate power, said Joe Garcea, head of the University of Saskatchewan's department of political studies. Harper did so at an unprecedented rate, Garcea said.

For the love of our B.C. coast

Humanity has become so powerful in numbers, technology, consumption and a globalized economy that we are altering the physical, chemical and biological properties of the planet on a geological scale. In the process, we are undermining Earth’s life-support systems – the air, water, soil, photosynthesis and biodiversity that keep the planet habitable.

It is within this context that Canadians are taking a close look at plans to fill tankers on the B.C. coast with raw bitumen piped from Alberta across forests and mountain ranges that support some of the world’s best salmon rivers. They don’t like what they see, and government had better start paying attention.

Something has gone terribly wrong in Canada

Remember when Canada was a great country?

That was a time when Canadians pushed for a fair and just society, our leadership believed likewise and together we created public healthcare, public schools, public pensions and unemployment insurance programs that were envied the world over.

We created peacekeeping and led the world towards a new awareness of conflict resolution.

Brookfield Square Mall Shooting: Incident Reported Near Wisconsin Mall

A mass shooting occurred on Sunday near a mall in Wisconsin, WISN 12 News reports.

The incident took place near Brookfield Square Mall in Brookfield, Wis.

Three people died in the shooting, according to police officials, and four were transported to the hospital with bullet wounds and serious injuries.

The Randian and the Bailout

There's nothing subtle about Bob Benmosche. “I’m an in-your-face CEO,” he told me one day, looking down from his vantage point six feet and four inches above the ground. He is a big guy. Big block-shaped head. Big ham-size arms. Infamously big mouth. “People say I use colorful language,” he told a room of people once. “Well, that’s a bunch of bullshit!”

Occasionally Benmosche will lapse into the kind of lingo you expect to hear from someone who has spent 40 years on Wall Street, like when he talks about “cost structure” and “maximizing value,” but those are just the lemons in an otherwise rich and varied cornucopia of anecdotes, parables, fragments of talking points, historical data, conspiracy theories, and opinions that tumble forth whenever you ask him a question.

Inside the Dark-Money Group Fighting Reform in Montana and Beyond

Voters haven't had a clue who is behind American Tradition Partnership—the Colorado-based group pushing to rewrite Montana's campaign finance laws—and that's just the way the secretive nonprofit wants it.

A 2010 fundraising pitch to its donors promised that "no politician, no bureaucrat, and no radical environmentalist will ever know you helped," and "the only thing we plan on reporting is our success to contributors like you."

Northern Gateway Victoria Protest Readied By Opponents

VICTORIA - Opponents of the Northern Gateway pipeline gathered Sunday for a protest school of sorts, in preparation for what they hope will be a massive show of environmental force on Monday.

An estimated 300 protesters, who organizers say are willing to risk arrest, attended the day-long protest boot camp being offered by Defend Our Coast, the coalition of environmental groups behind the sit-in planned Monday on the grounds of the provincial legislature in Victoria.

Spokesman Peter McHugh said the group hopes at least a thousand people will come out to show the provincial government that British Columbia voters do not want a pipeline or tanker port proposed by Calgary-based Enbridge Inc (TSX:ENB).

Spain Earthquake, Drilling Wells Linked In New Study Of Lorca Tragedy

MADRID (AP) — Farmers drilling ever deeper wells over decades to water their crops likely contributed to a deadly earthquake in southern Spain last year, a new study suggests. The findings may add to concerns about the effects of new energy extraction and waste disposal technologies.

Nine people died and nearly 300 were injured when an unusually shallow magnitude-5.1 quake hit the town of Lorca on May 11, 2011. It was the country's worst quake in more than 50 years, causing millions of euros in damage to a region with an already fragile economy.

Market braces for Petronas fallout

Ottawa’s decision to spike the $6-billion takeover of Progress Energy Resources Corp. promises to ripple through stock markets Monday, hitting not only the natural gas company in question, but possibly others that investors believed could at some point yield fat takeover premiums.

The federal government said Friday that Petronas, a state-owned Malaysian concern, did not clear the “net benefit” test for its proposed takeover of Progress. Petronas offered a 90-per-cent premium to the Progress stock price prior to its original bid, but the deal needed the blessing from the Conservative government.

Spouses of ministers hold portfolios of publicly-traded securities

The spouses of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and seven other Conservative cabinet ministers are holding portfolios of publicly-traded securities without having to put the assets into blind trusts.

While ministers must either sell their shares in publicly-traded companies or turn them over to a trustee to avoid a conflict of interest, there is no such requirement constraining their husbands or wives under current ethics rules.

Minister Ritz’s communications strategy still under attack

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz has done an “abysmal job” at handling the largest beef recall in Canadian history, say MPs and a communications expert who criticized the government’s communications strategy as one that’s “awful” because “there isn’t one.”

One consultant lobbyist who is also a communications expert who did not want to be named told The Hill Times last week that Mr. Ritz’s (Battlefords-Lloydminster, Sask.) strategy is worse than when more than 20 people died in 2008 from listeriosis.

Page’s fight with feds increases calls for independent budget office

Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page will serve deputy ministers with notices of court action this week as more than 40 government organizations went back on a promise to provide his office with information on $5.2-billion in government cuts.

The Parliamentary Budget Office told media on Oct. 21 that it will be filing and serving legal notice on all non-compliant deputy heads [of departments] early this week.

Canada-China investment treaty lopsided, risky, possibly unconstitutional

TORONTO—The Canada-China investment treaty is lopsided, risky, and possibly unconstitutional. Once it is ratified, the consequences of the treaty for Canada will be irreversible by any Canadian court, legislature, or other decision-maker for 31 years. Other investment treaties (also known as FIPAs) have a similar duration but none puts Canada primarily in the capital-importing position. This affects dramatically the risk-benefit for Canada.

Chinese companies that own assets in Canada will be able, at their option, to challenge federal or provincial legislative, executive, or judicial decisions outside of the Canadian legal system and Canadian courts. Under similar treaties, investors have received awards in the hundreds of millions or billions of dollars. Taxpayers are in effect underwriting long-term business and political risks assumed by Chinese investors in Canada.

Parliament itself is a reflection of bullying in society

OTTAWA—Canada’s premier bully pulpit is about to take on bullying. In the wake of the tragic suicide of British Columbian teen, Amanda Todd, a New Democrat has introduced a private member’s bill on the subject.

In defence of his proposed legislation, the NDP MP for Chicoutimi-Le Fjord, Que., makes a public confession.

Dany Morin says he was motivated to act because of his personal stake in the bullying question. As a youth, he was the victim of bullying.  

Has anything changed at the Integrity Commissioner’s Office?

OTTAWA—It appears that the more things change, the more they remain the same. When Christine Ouimet was replaced as Canada’s integrity commissioner under a cloud of scandal, Mario Dion was brought in as interim commissioner. A change of culture and approach were promised. Dion repeatedly made assurances that his office was doing work to the highest standard. He has also said that if he had any limitations on his powers, they were the result of the law that created the office.

George McGovern Dies at 90: Remembering Democratic Senator, Antiwar Candidate’s Life and Legacy

The former South Dakota senator and Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern has died at the age of 90. McGovern is best known for running against Richard Nixon in the 1972 presidential election on a platform of withdrawing U.S. troops from Vietnam, reducing defense spending and providing amnesty to those who evaded the draft. We’re joined by Stephen Vittoria, director of the documentary, "One Bright Shining Moment: The Forgotten Summer of George McGovern."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

When billboards are bad for democracy

OAKVILLE, ONT.—In case you haven’t noticed, disturbing signs abound which indicate the Conservative government is using tax dollars to undermine Canadian democracy.

And I really do mean “signs,” as in billboards.

The fact is, you can’t drive down any street these days without seeing a billboard plastered next to some construction project, boasting about how the new bridge or new parking garage or new whatever was made possible by the Conservative government’s “Economic Action Plan.”

Flaherty eyes privatization of CMHC

When Finance Minister Jim Flaherty took steps to cool the housing market over the past four years, he largely did so via the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., the Crown corporation that dominates the mortgage insurance market.

Now he says his interventions in the housing market are at an end – and he would like to see the CMHC privatized in the next five to 10 years.

CIA chiefs face arrest over horrific evidence of bloody 'video-game' sorties by drone pilots

The Mail on Sunday today reveals shocking new evidence of the full horrific impact of US drone attacks in Pakistan.

A damning dossier assembled from exhaustive research into  the strikes’ targets sets out in heartbreaking detail the deaths of teachers, students and Pakistani policemen. It also describes how bereaved relatives are forced to gather their loved ones’ dismembered body parts in the aftermath of strikes.

The dossier has been assembled by human rights lawyer Shahzad Akbar, who works for Pakistan’s Foundation for Fundamental Rights and the British human rights charity Reprieve.

Canada ranked worst of G7 nations in fighting bribery, corruption

Canada has again been scolded on the international stage for its “lack of progress” in fighting bribery and corruption by a watchdog agency that ranks it among the worst of nearly 40 countries.

Transparency International, a group that monitors global corruption, put Canada in the lowest category of countries with “little or no enforcement” when it comes to applying bribery standards set out by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Yemen Drone Strike: Officials Say U.S. Drone Airstrike Kills At Least 4 Suspected Militants

SANAA, Yemen — Yemeni security officials say an airstrike targeting a vehicle traveling through the country's east has killed at least four suspected militants.

The officials say the attack happened Sunday outside the city of Marib. Officials and local witnesses say the strike was carried out by a U.S. drone. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

The U.S. considers the local al-Qaida branch the world's most active and has used drones in the past to go after its members. A senior al-Qaida member was killed earlier in October in a similar airstrike in the eastern Shabwa province.

Yemen's government has intensified its campaign against militant groups with the help of U.S. advice and logistical support. Militants have carried out attacks in retaliation.

Original Article
Source: huffington post

Steve King: Comparing Immigrants To Dogs Was 'A Compliment'

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) on Sunday stood by eyebrow-raising comments he made in May, insisting that he was praising immigrants when he compared selecting visa recipients to choosing a "good bird dog."

"It was a compliment ... They knew it was a compliment, they turned it into an insult because they're professional hyperventilators," the immigration hardliner said in an interview on Des Moines NBC affiliate WHO-TV, posted by a site run by the campaign of his Democratic opponent, Christie Vilsack.

Oilsands Ethical Investors Say Industry Must Cut Environmental Risks

An international group of ethical funds with investments in Alberta's oilsands is concerned the industry's environmental performance could be creating financial risk.

"We recognize the economic significance of the resource," the group says in a statement to be released Monday.

"But (we) are concerned that the current approach to development, particularly the management of the environmental and social impacts, threatens the long-term viability of the oilsands as an investment."

Mulcair Slams Feds On Handling Of Petronas Deal

NDP critics Peter Julian and Hélène Leblanc added their voices Monday to those objecting to the Harper government's "secretive handling" of foreign investment reviews.

Yesterday, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair denounced the federal government's lack of transparency in its decision to reject a $6-billion bid by Malaysia's state-owned oil company Petronas for Calgary-based Progress Energy Resources during a speech to party faithful in Ottawa.

American opposition to CNOOC proposal grows

OTTAWA – Former U.S. governor Howard Dean is adding his voice to a growing chorus of Americans warning of the potential backlash that could occur if Canada approves China National Offshore Oil Corp.’s proposed takeover Nexen Inc.

“I personally don’t think that’s a good idea for either Canadian or American assets,” Dean said in an interview on the Global News program The West Block with Tom Clark.

“But I think that, of course, each government with make their own decision.”

Poverty gives way to inequality and the Great Frustration

Former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos recently told me a story to explain why he, like a growing number of political leaders, has stopped viewing poverty as his primary problem.

The story involved a poor village in the foothills of the Andes. When Mr. Lagos was education minister in the early 1990s, he built its first school. Later in the decade, as minister of public works, he built the first modern road to the village. Then as president after 2000, his programs delivered the village’s first supplies of clean water, agricultural irrigation and electricity.