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.]

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Union Questions Why Mandarin An 'Asset' At B.C. Mine

More questions are being raised about the temporary hiring of Chinese miners to work in underground coal mines in northeastern B.C.

The United Steelworkers Union says job ads posted on the Government of Canada’s job bank last year list speaking Mandarin as an asset.

Director Stephen Hunt says this raises questions about the requirements for working at the mines, especially after one company found no qualified Canadians to work at an underground mine near Tumbler Ridge.

DND owes two years in pension contributions to soldier sent sick-leave bill

The combat veteran against whom the Canadian Forces is threatening legal action to retrieve $427.97 in overdrawn sick days is actually owed more than two years in pension contributions by the Defence Department, the Citizen has learned.

The Canadian Forces is not backing down from its position that Kevin Clark, diagnosed with PTSD after coming to the aid of a fellow soldier shot by a Bosnian sniper, has to pay up for the two days of extra sick leave he took in 2006. But department officials say the pension issue is a separate case that retired master corporal Kevin Clark will have to work through.

Bureaucrat who took $600,000 in kickbacks says he was victim

A Montreal city engineer who lined his pockets while inflating cost estimates so construction companies could cash in says he is a victim of the system he helped build.

In his fourth day of testimony at Quebec’s corruption inquiry, Gilles Suprenant said he would have been happier of the system had never taken root – even if he pocketed at least $600,000, along with a wide assortment of gifts.

Beware of Romneycare

Mitt Romney can be a hard man to pin down. But there is one thing that he’s been clear about: if he becomes President, he will repeal Obamacare. That simple promise, more than any other that Romney has made, illuminates what is most at stake in this year’s election. The campaigns may spend most of their time talking about taxes and jobs. But health care is where the election’s outcome will have the most immediate and powerful impact on how Americans live.

Abolishing Obamacare would eliminate subsidies for people buying insurance and rescind regulations requiring insurance companies to guarantee coverage and benefits (for instance, to people with preëxisting conditions). Romney’s proposed alternative is to give individuals a tax break when they buy insurance and to push them toward high-deductible insurance plans, which he believes will make them more rigorous and price-conscious in choosing doctors and treatments. Romney also wants to reform Medicare by encouraging more competition among private insurers. The details are skimpy, but the core principle is that unleashing the power of the free market will bring down costs and raise quality.

Ryan's Riots: Plan Will Starve One in Five Americans and Create Massive Social Unrest

It's Food Day, so let's put Paul Ryan's soup kitchen stunt aside for the moment and take a serious look at what a Romney/Ryan budget might mean for the future of eating. Today, the number of Americans receiving food stamps has reached nearly 15 percent of the population, and 17 million American households experience hunger. Despite such indications of growing domestic food insecurity, Paul Ryan has proposed a $133 billion cut to nutrition assistance, an evisceration that would add 10 million more Americans to the 50 million who already are missing meals.

Closing The Gender Wage Gap Would Create 'Huge' Economic Stimulus, Economists Say

When 24-year-old preschool teacher Katherine Fenton stood up at the second presidential debate and asked the candidates what they planned to do about the gender wage gap, both candidates dodged the question, and conservatives collectively rolled their eyes at the mention of one of their least favorite of the Democrats' talking points. But lost in the election season banter over women's issues is the fact that pay equity, if taken seriously, could stimulate the economy to at least twice the degree that President Barack Obama's 2009 stimulus bill did.

Paul Krugman: Romney Victory Could Mean 'Double-Dip Recession'

If Mitt Romney is elected president, then the economy may experience another recession, according to Paul Krugman.

"I think there's a real chance that he'll manage to pursue a policy in the first couple of years that simultaneously blows up the deficit and depresses the economy," the Nobel Prize-winning economist said on HuffPost Live Wednesday. "Tax cuts for the rich, who won't spend them, and slash spending for the poor and the middle class, who will be forced to cut back. And so we end up managing to have a simultaneous deficit explosion and double-dip recession."

Bank Of America Mortgage Fraud: Feds Sue For Over $1 Billion Alleging Multi-Year Scheme

Federal prosecutors sued Bank of America for $1 billion on Wednesday, alleging that the bank's former Countrywide unit concocted a mortgage scheme it called the "Hustle" in order to sell thousands of fraudulent and otherwise defective mortgage loans to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

"In order to increase the speed at which it originated and sold loans ... Countrywide eliminated every single checkpoint on loan quality and compensated its employees solely based on the volume of loans originated," the lawsuit, filed in Manhattan federal district court, alleges.

Islanders to rally against EI changes

Community and labour groups upset over changes to employment insurance are planning to bring their concerns to National Revenue Minister and Egmont MP Gail Shea’s doorstep when they rally at her office this weekend.

The groups are calling for the federal government to scrap recent changes to allowable part-time earnings for EI claimants. These changes will hurt seasonal industries as well as part-time workers, said Lori MacKay, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees in P.E.I. (CUPE).

Canada caught in geopolitical energy struggle between China and the U.S.

What is a middle power with an overabundance of natural resource assets to do when the rising rival of its most crucial ally — politically, militarily, economically — comes knocking?

That rival is China; the ally, the United States of America. Canada and the Harper government appear caught in the crosshairs of a geopolitical energy struggle.

Already, U.S. lawmakers have begun to raise the alarm over China’s growing stake in Canadian oilsands development. The pending sale of Canada’s Nexen for $15.1 billion to China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC) is deeply unpopular with Canadian voters, with a majority unhappy at the prospect of a Chinese state-owned enterprise owning a controlling stake in a Canadian energy gem.

University of Alberta poll suggests Albertans are wary of Chinese investment

CALGARY - Albertans are wary of Chinese investment in the province — especially full ownership of Alberta companies, according to a survey released Wednesday.

The University of Alberta's China Institute polled 1,210 people just days before China National Offshore Oil Co. announced its controversial $15.1-billion deal in late July to take over Calgary-based Nexen Inc. (TSX:NXY).

Alberta oilsands will benefit all provinces, think-tank says

The economic benefits of Alberta's oilsands will be felt in all provinces and will lead to billions of dollars of jobs and investment across the country, says a Conference Board of Canada report released today.

The think-tank says it expects the province's oilsands to generate $364 billion worth of economic activity over the next two decades, and create 880,000 person-years of employment.

Dominance of French and English languages shrinking, census shows

Immigration is turning Canada into a country of many languages, with the historic dominance of French and English shrinking.

Canada remains a nation of French and English speakers, but people are speaking a greater variety of languages at home, as long-term trends in immigration shape the country’s linguistic landscape.

The proportion of Canadians who reported speaking two or more languages at home was 17.5 per cent in 2011, up from 14.2 per cent five years earlier, according to Statistics Canada language data from the 2011 Census.

Dalton McGuinty defends prorogation decision

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty today defended his decision to prorogue the legislature, saying the controversial move gave the government crucial time to sign new contracts with unions and work on breaking the deadlock at Queen’s Park.

McGuinty faced reporters for the first time since announcing last week’s prorogation decision along with his surprise resignation, and said the decision won’t halt the business of government.

Many Israeli Jews support apartheid-style state, poll suggests

Palestinians should be denied the right to vote if Israel annexes the West Bank and should be required to live separately – in effect creating apartheid-style state – according to a poll published in Haaretz, the leading Israeli newspaper.

The poll exposes strong support for institutionalized discrimination against Palestinians. But the poll's questions and terminology, and Haaretz's publication of it seem intended to stir the emotional debate about the future shape of Israel during an election campaign.

Aboriginal languages in deep trouble, but some rescue efforts paying off

In a way, the chattering half-dozen First Nations youngsters are learning their mother tongue for the first time – and the future of the once-mighty Mohawk language is hanging in the balance.

The students are a critical component of a language-revitalization program at the Tsi Tyonnheht Onkawenna Language and Cultural Centre in Tyendinaga First Nation that hopes to breathe new life into the community’s original identity, one small voice at a time.

The Science of Racism: Radiolab's Treatment of Hmong Experience

On September 24, NPR show Radiolab aired a 25-minute segment on Yellow Rain. In the 1960s, most Hmong had sided with America in a secret war against the Pathet Lao and its allies. More than 100,000 Hmong died in this conflict, and when American troops pulled out, the rest were left to face brutal repercussions. Those who survived the perilous journey to Thailand carried horrific stories of an ongoing genocide, among them accounts of chemical warfare. Their stories provoked a scientific controversy that still hasn't been resolved. In its podcast, Radiolab set out to find the "fact of the matter." Yet its relentless badgering of Hmong refugee Eng Yang and his niece, award-winning author and activist Kao Kalia Yang, provoked an outcry among its listeners, and its ongoing callous, racist handling of the issue has since been criticized in several places, including Hyphen. When Hyphen's R.J. Lozada reached out to Kao Kalia Yang, she graciously agreed to share her side of the story for the first time. What follows are her words, and those of her uncle.

Planned Parenthood Protest: Anti-Abortion Demonstrator Accused Of Stabbing Man In Oregon

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — A man was stabbed Tuesday during a violent confrontation with an abortion protester outside a Planned Parenthood health center, police said.

Ted Clair was stabbed seven times in the abdomen and neck during a fight with Christopher Tolhurst, who had signs denouncing abortion and Planned Parenthood, officials said.

Witnesses said that earlier in the day, Clair's 22-year-old daughter, Kailah Clair, argued with Tolhurst and kicked over his protest signs, Lt. Dennis Ward said.

Plan for hunting terrorists signals U.S. intends to keep adding names to kill lists

Over the past two years, the Obama administration has been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the “disposition matrix.”

The matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. U.S. officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the “disposition” of suspects beyond the reach of American drones.

Michael Pollan: California’s Prop 37 Fight to Label GMOs Could Galvanize Growing U.S. Food Movement

As California voters prepare to vote on whether to label GMOs in food, we go to Berkeley to discuss Prop 37 and its implications for the broader food system with journalist and best-selling author Michael Pollan. Among the nation’s leading writers and thinkers on food and food policy, Pollan is the Knight Professor of Science and Environmental Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley School of Journalism. He’s written several books about food, including "The Botany of Desire," "The Omnivore’s Dilemma," "In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto," "Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual," and the forthcoming, "Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation."

Source: democracy Now!
Author: --

Sending government to the box

Are current techniques of parliamentary management such as prorogation and omnibus bills an affront to meaningful democratic traditions? Yes. But our problem in Canada is that we have weak and cumbersome democratic traditions.

Our national and provincial parliamentary systems still reflect the iron conventions of responsible government as they evolved in the 19th century. The chief of these is that a ministry with the confidence of a legislature can do anything it wants within the limits of the Constitution. And our Constitution imposes very few limits.

Democracy in crisis: the pundits speak out

Omnibus bills, prorogation, talking points and bare-faced lies — they’re driving the pundits crazy. But who’s to blame? Until last week it seemed to be the government in Ottawa. Then Premier Dalton McGuinty resigned and prorogued the Ontario parliament and things suddenly got messy. Now the search is on for a better explaination of what’s gone wrong with our democracy. There is one, and I’m going to try to sketch it in three parts: 1) Where are we now? 2) How did we get here? 3) What can we do about it?

Will democracy in Canada benefit from Borys Wrzesnewskyj’s persistence?

On Thursday night, at an Etobicoke pub called The Longest Yard, there will be one of two things – a party or a wake.

The nature of the event will depend upon the decision taken 450 kms away by people not likely to darken the door of The Longest Yard or any place like it – the esteemed members of the Supreme Court of Canada.

The court will announce on Thursday whether the voters of Etobicoke Centre have an MP, or will be going back to the polls to select one. Whatever the ruling, the merry-makers or mourners in the pub will have to get along without the man they have followed doggedly for more than a year in his quest for electoral justice – Borys Wrzesnewskyj.

Kevin Page’s battle with Conservatives is fundamental to Parliament

OTTAWA—Every so often a story bubbles up in the capital that is so important it demands attention, even if it is too easily dismissed as eye-glazing process.

Any yarn that includes the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the Federal Court, spending cuts and deputy ministers admittedly lacks the ingredients of a potboiler.

But the case of Kevin Page versus the federal government is simply too fundamental to the way this place is supposed to operate, and too vital to the tracking of taxpayers’ money, that it can’t be ignored.

China deal and budget sacrifice democracy to short-term goals

Why, when so many people oppose the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project, would government and industry resort to such extreme measures to push it through?

The problems with the plan to run pipelines from the Alberta tar sands across northern B.C. to load unrefined, diluted bitumen onto supertankers for export to China and elsewhere are well-known: threats to streams, rivers, lakes and land from pipeline leaks; the danger of contaminated ocean ecosystems from tanker spills; rapid expansion of the tar sands; and the climate change implications of continued wasteful use of fossil fuels.

Mental health problems treated as security issue in federal prisons, report says

OTTAWA—Correctional Investigator Howard Sapers is pointing to a new and alarming sign Canada’s prison system has adopted the wrong approach to mentally ill inmates: it has built its first padded federal cell.

Built at the federal Regional Psychiatric Centre in Saskatoon that serves the Prairie region, the cell was designed to deal with one female inmate who repeatedly injures herself, Sapers said Tuesday.

Baird shrugs off Treasury Board criticism of $15M sole-sourced embassy deal

OTTAWA - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird brushed off Treasury Board criticism that his department broke government rules by sole-sourcing $15 million worth of embassy security contracts to a British government agency for Canada's Afghanistan and Pakistan missions.

Baird offered an impassioned defence of the need to protect diplomats in harm's way in the House of Commons on Tuesday when questioned by the NDP's foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar about the matter.

Conservatives trying to 'whitewash' Public Accounts Committee report on F-35s, say opposition MPs

PARLIAMENT HILL—Government attempts to water down a report from a Commons committee inquiry into Auditor General Michael Ferguson’s scathing report last spring on Canada’s acquisition of the F-35 stealth warplane have held the report back for nearly a month, the opposition parties say.

Liberal MP Gerry Byrne (Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte, Nfld.) told The Hill Times on Tuesday the government is attempting to “whitewash” the report from the Public Accounts Committee, after Conservative MPs last month ended an NDP filibuster on the panel to send it into in camera sessions to prepare findings after rejecting opposition calls for more witnesses.

Richard Mourdock On Abortion: Pregnancy From Rape Is 'Something God Intended'

WASHINGTON -- Indiana GOP U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock declared Tuesday night he opposes aborting pregnancies conceived in rape because "it is something that God intended to happen."

Debating Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) in their final Senate race showdown, a questioner asked them and Libertarian candidate Andrew Horning to explain their views on abortion.

The Terrifying Rise of Greece’s Nazi Party

GULAM HUSSEIN, a 20-year-old Afghan with a bushy brush cut, hates Greece. He’d leave if he could—even if that meant returning to the imperiled village in eastern Afghanistan that he fled a decade ago. “Anywhere but Greece,” he told me one afternoon late this summer in Athens. “I’d heard it was bad here, but I didn’t know how bad.”

About a week before we met, Hussein had gone searching for scrap metal in a central Athens neighborhood near Attica Square. Collecting scrap is a hand-to-mouth job; it pays only a few euros a day. But with his poor Greek language skills—and a sick wife and a one-and-a-half-year-old daughter to support—scavenging for other people’s junk was Hussein’s only option.

The Commons: Thomas Mulcair and Stephen Harper play charades

The Scene. What does it mean to act? What is change? What does one do when one takes something and makes it somehow smaller? How should one describe such action?

For all the regular moaning about the rote thuggery of partisanship, this place is periodically like an undergraduate philosophy class. Or at least a game of charades played by men in suits.

Labour, environmentalists and First Nations 'diametrically opposed' to tankers and pipelines

“We are diametrically opposed to the pipelines.”

That's a message which was repeated again and again as at least 4,000 people rallied on the steps of B.C.'s Legislature yesterday (Oct. 22) for Defend Our Coast -- the largest protest yet against transporting chemical-laden bitumen from Alberta's oil sands to the West Coast.

Led by representatives from First Nations across the province and country, at least 30 speakers voiced their staunch opposition to plans by Enbridge, Kinder Morgan and Keystone to export bitumen -- citing a litany of environmental risks, Aboriginal opposition, job losses and sovereignty. The protest continues tomorrow (Oct. 24) with actions planned across the province.

MP defends giving Queen's Jubilee medal to jailed woman

Two convicted criminals, one of them still serving time, have been awarded Queen's Diamond Jubilee medals by a Conservative MP.

Linda Gibbons, a grandmother who has spent 10 years on and off in prison for violating injunctions in front of abortion clinics, and Mary Wagner, who is in jail in Toronto charged with mischief and breaching court orders at abortion clinics, have both received the special medals that commemorate the Queen's 60 years on the throne.

George McGovern: a portrait of character

He ran for president and lost 49 states. His campaign split the Democratic Party for a generation. His name became an adjective and a pejorative, symbolizing pacifism, ultra-liberal social policy and radical economic redistribution.

But George McGovern, who died on Sunday at 90, was far more than any of that. He was a decorated war hero – a fearless Second World War bomber pilot. He was a historian, producing an acclaimed biography of Abraham Lincoln at the age of 86. He was a prairie populist with a practical political impulse, teaming with a rural conservative, Bob Dole, to enhance the Food Stamps legislation that provides food for the poor. He was an international battler against hunger.

The politics behind Harper’s approach to Chinese energy takeovers

Prime Minister Stephen Harper doesn’t use the language of economic nationalism. In fact, he preaches the opposite.

But in practice, his Conservatives have been more hostile to foreign takeovers of Canadian companies than any federal government — Liberal or Conservative — since the early 1980s.

They’ve now vetoed three, the latest being the proposed purchase of an Alberta oil company by Malaysia’s state-owned Petronas. That’s almost certainly a prelude, one way or the other, to the government’s decision next month on the far more important attempt by state-owned China National Offshore Oil Co. (CNOOC) to buy a major Calgary oil firm, Nexen Inc.