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.]

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Brother Wristwatch and Grandpa Wen: Chinese Kleptocracy

Two days after Americans go to the polls, China will embark with great fanfare on its own leadership transition, anointing a new generation of men—and they almost certainly will all be men—to run the country for the next ten years. A team of seven, the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party, will intone their official priorities for the new term: economic rebalancing, technological innovation, and territorial integrity, among other things. There is one issue that they will not emphasize, but it is more essential to their Party’s survival than any other: combatting corruption.

Romney spends big on firms tied to aides

WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney's campaign has directed $134.2 million to political firms with business ties to his senior staff, spotlighting the tightknit nature of his second presidential bid and the staggering sums being spent in this election.

Nine firms that are run by, or recently employed, top Romney aides have received almost a third of the $435.8 million that Romney's campaign and a related fundraising committee have spent on operating expenses through Oct. 17, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis of federal election finance reports.

Lawrence Wilkerson, Former Colin Powell Aide, Blasts Sununu, GOP, As 'Full Of Racists'

Colin Powell's former chief of staff condemned the Republican Party on Friday night, telling MSNBC's Ed Schultz, "My party is full of racists."

Retired Army Col. Lawrence Wilkerson made the comment in response to Mitt Romney campaign surrogate John Sununu's suggestion on Thursday that Powell's endorsement of President Barack Obama's re-election was motivated by race. Wilkerson, who served as Powell's chief of staff when the general was secretary of state during the first George W. Bush term, told Schultz that he respected Sununu "as a Republican, as a member of my party," but did not "have any respect for the integrity of the position that [Sununu] seemed to codify."

Excellon Mexican Mine Protest: Canadian Mining Company Bulldozes Camp

UPDATE: The chief operating officer of a Canadian mining company personally participated in the tearing down and bulldozing of a protest camp in Mexico, says a press release from a Mexican activist group.

    Robert Moore, the chief operating officer of Excellon Resources, "directly participated in the action against the landowners, pulling down the fence that the landowners had set up to protect their camp," said a statement from the Project for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ProDESC).

    The activist group said the camp — which was set up by villagers and union members near the La Platosa mine because of what the protesters say is Excellon's failure to live up to agreements with the community — was not on Excellon property and had the blessing of the landowners.

50 Actual Facts About Rape

Remember facts? Remember facts about rape? Because it turns out that a whole lot of people know less than nothing about the subject. Indeed what they think they know is a whole lot of something that is wrong and dangerous to our heath, safety and well-being. Republican Representative Richard Mourdock's recent "misspeaking" is unexceptional. Despite what he may have meant when he said "even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape that... is something God intended to happen," he is unexceptional. He's not an outlier. Not a radical. In no substantive way different from his conservative peers in this regard (see below if you disagree). Indeed, he and others, like Todd Akin and Paul Ryan, are part of an age-old tradition of men with power defining when women are raped. And others who enable them to do it for their own gain. But, they are not just the Republican party's legislative norm, they are a fair reflection of our cultural tolerance, one without party affiliation, for rape and its qualifications. For months now we've been subjected to surreal revelation when it comes to what people think and understand about rape, god and women's magical bodies. Here is some real, fact-checked information from a list originally published last week in RHRealityCheck. And this is trigger warning. You may want a strong cup of coffee. Or a drink. Or an empty stomach. There is nothing remotely divine about rape. But steeping our selves in denial or happy oblivion is hurting too many people and has the potential to hurt a lot more.

BC Liberal Convention In Whistler Aims To Rally The Faithful

WHISTLER, B.C. - British Columbia's Liberals are barely able to contain their glee at what they are calling the implosion of the upstart B.C. Conservative Party, but some Tories aren't prepared to hand over the free-enterprise mantle to Premier Christy Clark's Liberals and they're saying: "Not so fast."

At the Liberal Party convention Friday, the Liberals were treated to a confession-like speech by former Conservative John Martin, who quit the Conservatives and joined the Liberals after losing last April's Chilliwack-Hope byelection to the New Democrats.

Conrad Black: A misguided attempt to restore his reputation

If you want to convince the world you’re not a criminal, here’s a tip: don’t appear on television and call people a--hole and jackass. Definitely don’t threaten to smash someone’s face in. If that seems like obvious advice to you, you are probably not Conrad Black.

The former media baron spent this week attempting to give his reputation what he insists he never needed: rehabilitation. Black appeared on several British television shows in support of his new book, A Matter of Principle, in which he argues that he was falsely accused of fraud and obstruction of justice, falsely convicted and unfairly imprisoned in a Florida penitentiary for three years.

Money will always flow to the oilsands

There are many reasons we should think hard about whether to approve CNOOC’s bid for Calgary oil company Nexen. Getting cut off from capital we need to develop our resources isn’t one of them.

Especially in the wake of Ottawa’s turning down of Malaysia’s Petronas’ bid for Progress Corp., hand-wringing is the order of the day in the business community as the deadline looms for Ottawa’s ruling on the Nexen transaction. These decisions are creating uncertainty that will make oil companies very reluctant to invest in Canadian natural resources, is the constant refrain from investment firms, financial journalists and the oilpatch itself.

On Etobicoke election, the Supreme Court is wrong

The Supreme Court was wrong to uphold the contested — and controversial — election results in Toronto’s Etobicoke Centre.

The four judges who prevailed in the court’s split decision argued that they were protecting the fundamental right of Canadians to choose their own MPs when they dismissed the challenge from defeated Liberal candidate Borys Wrzesnewskyj.

And in making that particular argument, Justices Marshall Rothstein, Michael Moldaver, Rosalie Abella and Marie Deschamps were eloquent.

NDP government would restore OAS retirement age to 65 in first year: Mulcair

TORONTO - An NDP government would reverse changes to Old Age Security by restoring the retirement age to 65 instead of 67, New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair said Friday.

The governing Conservatives introduced the changes last spring and they are slated to take effect in 2023. The government says the measures will help ensure the sustainability of the pension system.

Speaking at a town hall meeting sponsored by the seniors' organization CARP, Mulcair said the NDP would kill the changes within its first year of forming a government.

The real problem with voting isn't too many votes, but not enough

On election day, 206 ballots ended up in the ballot box at Poll 426, at the Village of Humber Heights, a senior's residence in the prosperous Toronto suburb of Etobicoke.

The paperwork in the poll book says that 26 of those ballots ended up in the box because the voter filled out a registration certificate, a document that allows voters to cast a ballot even though they are not on the list, so long as they are eligible to vote.

Labour minister intervenes in airport screener dispute in Atlantic Canada

OTTAWA - Canada's labour minister is growing concerned about the possibility of labour action by 800 airport screeners in the Atlantic provinces.

Lisa Raitt has asked the Canada Industrial Relations Board to review the situation and ensure public safety would not be affected by a work stoppage.

The workers' current contract expires this Wednesday.

Populists, policy wonks and prime ministers

EDMONTON - For the last few years, Preston Manning has headed to Ottawa each March for a major huddle of the country’s Conservative establishment.

More than 700 showed up last year for the Manning Networking Conference — old time Reformers, cabinet ministers and Conservative caucus members, think tanks, activists and lobbyists all gathered at Congress Centre in the capital’s downtown. The topics on the table included energy policy, national defence and moving beyond the welfare state. Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave a speech.

Charlottetown accord’s demise marked end of Canadians’ faith in each other

FREDERICTON—Exactly 20 years ago this week, the Canadian Constitution became officially toxic — politically, at least.

The Charlottetown accord, a complex array of updates to the law of the land, including a brand-new Senate and deals to accommodate Quebec and aboriginal people, died on Oct. 26, 1992, in a national referendum.

It was rejected mainly in a torrent of voter antipathy toward politicians of all stripes, who had painstakingly cobbled together the accord over many months and many hard-bargaining sessions.

Foundering B.C. premier hires Alberta strategist Stephen Carter

As predicted here at Alberta Diary, British Columbia Premier Christie Clark has hired Alberta-based political strategist Stephen Carter in hopes of turning around her foundering campaign against the province's New Democrats.

As we explained the situation back on Sept. 28, with Clark, "a conservative Liberal, desperately low in the polls, facing an election in less than eight months, having just been forced to fire her chief of staff for unspecified naughtiness, who would want to bet against Carter showing up in Victoria with a smile on his face and a nice apartment overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca?"

China blocks New York Times website after report on top official’s wealth

BEIJING — An explosive story about the massive wealth accumulated by the family of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao caused the Chinese government to block the website of the New York Times early Friday morning, just days before a sensitive once-in-a-decade transition of power from Wen and others to a new generation of leaders.

The article documents assets controlled by Wen’s family worth at least $2.7 billion, a shocking figure even in a country where government corruption is rampant and popular resentment against the elite has increased in recent years. The scandal also complicates the apparent intention of Chinese leaders to tackle corruption as a main issue at the Nov. 8 party congress, a move they have been signaling in the wake of other scandals that had dramatically shaken the party’s core leadership.

Romney: 'Some Gays Are Actually Having Children. It's Not Right on Paper. It's Not Right in Fact.'

We've witnessed many Mitt Romneys, but the one unearthed by the Boston Globe's Murray Waas yesterday is perhaps the most vicious and cruel: a zealot who, as Massachusetts governor, became hellbent on stigmatizing the children of gay and lesbian parents, labeling these kids as outcasts and causing them to suffer hardship throughout their lives.

Waas reveals how, after gays and lesbians in Massachusetts won the right to marry in 2003, Governor Romney wouldn't allow the Registry of Vital Records and Statistics to revise birth certificate forms for babies born to same-sex couples. The plan was to have the box for "father," for example, relabeled "father or second parent." But according to documents obtained by Waas, Romney rejected the plan, demanding the agency continue using old forms. Romney then demanded hospitals get permission from his office each time a child was born to a same sex-couple in order to cross out, with a pen, the label "father" or "mother," and write-in, with a pen, "second parent." (Romney also required gay male parents to get a court order before any birth certificate was issued.)

Internet Rates Canada: CRTC To Require Transparency On Wholesale Costs

GATINEAU, Que. - The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission says large telephone and cable companies will have to make more information public on the rates they charge smaller competitors for space on their networks.

The CRTC says new guidelines will increase transparency and allow Canadians to better understand how wholesale rates are established.

The big telecoms and cable companies such as Bell (TSX:BCE), Rogers (TSX:RCI.B) and Telus (TSX:T) sell smaller Internet providers space on their networks at wholesale rates.

Dean Del Mastro: Anonymous Comments On Internet Should Be Addressed By Parliament

Dean Del Mastro got the Internet all riled up Friday, after targeting one of the Web's most sacred cows — anonymous comments.

Prior to question period, the Tory MP used his member's statement to suggest Parliament should act to regulate anonymous commentary online.

Canadian Banking Downgrade: BMO, Scotiabank, Desjardins, CIBC, National, TD Face Credit Review

Concerns about consumer debt and home prices in Canada prompted Moody's Investors Service to place the long-term ratings of six Canadian banks on review Friday for a possible downgrade.

The ratings agency said high levels of consumer debt and high housing prices have left the banks more vulnerable to downside risks to the Canadian economy than in the past.

"Moody's recognizes the strong domestic franchises and solid earnings capacity of these large Canadian banks, and they will continue to rank among the highest-rated banks globally following this review," said David Beattie, a senior credit officer at Moody's.

5 loose ends from past federal elections

The Supreme Court on Thursday tied up one loose end from the last federal election in a decision that maintained the result in Etobicoke Centre.

Former Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj had challenged the result based on the number of ballots cast by people who couldn't prove they lived in the riding. An Ontario court declared the election result null and void last spring, and Conservative MP Ted Opitz appealed that decision to the Supreme Court.

Under the Supreme Court decision, Opitz keeps his seat and Wrzesnewskyj will have to wait until the next election, set for 2015, if he wants to challenge Opitz again.

Amazon tells customer she doesn’t own her e-books

If all the books on your shelf suddenly disappeared, you’d probably say you’d been robbed.

But when a Norwegian woman lost access to her Kindle books without warning, she learned she had never owned them in the first place.

Linn Jordet Nygaard, 30, an IT consultant from Oslo, said the debacle began two weeks ago when her Kindle stopped working; she later discovered she was locked out of her Kindle account, and could not access her library.

Government plans independent review of how F-35 purchase program was handled

OTTAWA - The government is looking for an independent firm to review how the program to buy new stealth fighters was handled.

Public Works has issued a request for proposal for a company to study how things worked up to last June, when the government put the brakes on and set up a new body to handle the program.

The department says the review will look at whether the problems with the acquisition process uncovered by the auditor general last spring have been addressed.

Bilingualism debate heats up on Parliament Hill as Tories study NDP bill

OTTAWA – The bilingualism debate is heating up on Parliament Hill in the wake of new data suggesting English Canadians are losing interest in French, and amid media reports that Prime Minister Stephen Harper feels it was a “mistake” to appoint unilingual anglophones to senior positions such as the office of the auditor general and the Supreme Court.

Harper reportedly made his comment after several cabinet ministers told the Tory caucus last week that the government would support legislation introduced by the NDP to require that all officers of Parliament be functionally bilingual.

22 changes in the budget bill fine print

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty told the House of Commons last Thursday MPs would know what was in the Harper government's second omnibus budget implementation bill if only they had read the budget last March.

It's true that Flaherty's media event on the day the bill was tabled did feature the extension of a small business-friendly hiring tax credit that was heavily marketed around last spring's budget. A dozen or more other tax changes are also featured in the first section of C-45.

Harper again rejects debate on China investment treaty, but public pressure is having an impact

The Conservative majority on trade committee defeated a motion yesterday from NDP trade critic Don Davies which would have forced the committee to study the Canada-China investment treaty (FIPA) before it’s allowed to become law, as early as November 1. In typical fashion, the committee went in-camera for the vote so that Harper’s abuse of democracy went unrecorded. They do this quite often.

“It boggles my mind that the government would want to move forward with that [treaty] without a debate, without a vote and without a study,” said Davies Thursday afternoon. Davies also complained about receiving “thousands upon thousands of emails” against the China treaty forwarded to him from the office of Conservative MP Bev Shipley, who is also on the trade committee.

Speculations on newspaper character and the Globe and Mail

I keep hearing people ask about the Globe and Mail. It's been going on since well before it put up a paywall this month. People get that. Newspapers are in a panic over funding in the Internet era (as they were before it, about TV, and probably radio, though this time's definitely worse). Their questions are more like: What's with the Globe? Who does it think it is? What's it trying to be?

They ask this with special trepidation since the Globe, unlike other papers, always had a quasi-public, quasi-official aura, a bit like the banks. Everyone knows they're private and for-profit but when you walk in, they still feel somehow . . . civic, with larger duties and responsibilities. Maybe it's because they're our source for common currency. In the Globe's case I don't know what lends it that aura -- perhaps it's the font.