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, November 30, 2012

Palestine’s Man in the Middle

Last night, a few hours after the United Nations General Assembly voted to give Palestine nonmember observer status in the international body—a move that the Times described as an “upgrade”—the Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, flew coach from New York to Washington, D.C., in order to see a movie about himself.

The film, an Israeli-directed documentary called “State 194,” is almost dreamily hopeful—capable, at times, of giving you the sense that this endless, corrosive, cruel, and seemingly intractable conflict is in its final stages. “If you are a Palestinian you have no choice but to be optimistic,” Fayyad says on camera. At another point, he says, “We are at the final turn to the homestretch—the homestretch to freedom.”

Mr. China Comes to America

Near the end of this year’s second presidential debate, Candy Crowley of CNN pointed out that iPads, iPhones, and other globally sought-after Apple products are all made in China. What would it take, she asked both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, to “convince a great American company to bring that manufacturing back here?”

I listened to this question with special interest, since I was following the debate, via hotel-room TV, from the Shenzhen manufacturing zone of southern China, where many of those same iPads and iPhones are made. For the few days before the debate, I’d been revisiting PCH International, an outsourcing company I’d first written about for this magazine in 2007, in “China Makes, the World Takes.” The company’s revenues have increased more than sevenfold since then and its workforce has grown almost as fast, despite the years of global recession. This is testament both to its own success and to the nonstop surge of outsourcing contracts to China.

XL Foods Memo: Directive For Alberta Plant Food Inspectors To Ignore Contaminants On Meat Dismissed By Ritz

Gerry Ritz and the Conservatives are dismissing a leaked memo directing meat inspectors at the XL Foods plant in Brooks to ignore contamination on beef destined for Canadian markets.

"Any carcass regardless of where destined that is contaminated is pulled from the line as is the carcass on either side of it, it's called bracketing," Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says in a report by 680 News.

New court documents show cross-country complaints about election calls

OTTAWA — Newly released court documents show that Elections Canada has obtained phone records from across the country as it probes misleading election calls that investigators believe were “wilful conduct” aimed at keeping voters from casting their ballots.

Elections Canada released the documents to lawyers in a Federal Court case on Wednesday, as soon as the information requested had been returned to investigators from phone service providers Shaw and Videotron.

Canadian economy stuck in neutral

Canada's economic expansion slowed to a crawl in the third quarter, growing by 0.1 per cent in the three months ended September and expanding at a pace of less than one per cent for the year as a whole, according to data released today.

Statistics Canada said Friday the country's gross domestic product expanded at a 0.6 per cent annualized pace, down from 0.8 per cent during the second quarter because of less investment by businesses and slumping exports.

Palestinians win historic UN vote over Canada’s objections

Did the Earth move?

For the Palestinians, who won a historic 138-9 vote at the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday — with 41 abstentions — upgrading their UN status from observer to “non-member observer state” was a seismic shift.

Not so for Canada, which stood stolidly on the sidelines, weighing in against the move as destructive to a negotiated peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, and warning that “we will be considering all available next steps” in response.

Canada recalls diplomats from Israel, West Bank and UN over Palestinian vote

OTTAWA—Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is temporarily recalling senior diplomats from Israel, the West Bank and the UN missions in New York and Geneva.

He says he wants to get their views on the implications of the UN General Assembly vote which recognized the Palestinians as a non-member observer state at the world body.

“Canada is deeply disappointed but not surprised by yesterday’s result at the United Nations General Assembly,” he said in a statement Friday.

Church Of England General Synod Votes No To Women Bishops

The Church of England has been plunged into turmoil after legislation introducing the first women bishops failed to clear its final hurdle at the General Synod.

The draft measure was carried in the houses of bishops and clergy of the General Synod but failed to gain the necessary two thirds majority amongst the lay members of the General Synod.

The House of Bishops voted 44 in favour, with three against and two recorded abstentions. In the House of Clergy, 148 voted in favour, 45 against and there were no abstentions.

N.L. premier ready to fast-track Muskrat Falls

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Anger boiled over at the legislature in St. John’s, N.L., Monday as Premier Kathy Dunderdale signalled she’s ready to approve the $7.4-billion Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project even before a curtailed debate.

It was a raucous first day of the fall sitting that culminated when Dunderdale moved a private member’s motion in support of the development in Labrador — a tactic that limits debate to “not more than one sitting day,” according to standing orders.

Union helps migrants counter worst abuses of foreign temporary worker program

Canada's temporary foreign worker program is in the media spotlight this month, thanks to the growing outcry over a B.C. mining company's plan to import hundreds of temporary Chinese labourers and a human rights complaint recently filed by a group of Mexican workers against their former Canadian employer. The light being cast on the program is unflattering, to put it mildly.

As details of the Chinese miner case emerge, it's shaping up to be a perfect illustration of how the temporary foreign worker program has become an easy way for companies to bypass the domestic labour market and import cheaper, more pliable foreign workers en masse. The human rights complaint, meanwhile, calls attention to the rotten feature at the core of the program: the tying of workers' permits to a single employer, who can fire and send them back home at any time, for any reason.

In the Middle East, the fuse that is Gaza

There is no good time for a conflict in the Middle East, but this could arguably be one of the worst in memory — and all the players know that.

Despite the rumours of a possible, Egypt-brokered truce between Israel and Hamas, there are far more concrete signs — like the tens of thousands of Israeli troops massing at Gaza's border, not to mention the continuing barrage of rockets launched by militants in Gaza into new Israeli territory — that this could go on for some time.

Ten Things You Need to Know About Gaza

As Palestinian militants in Gaza fire rockets into Israel and the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) bombard the Strip 'in retaliation', here are 10 things you should probably know about Gaza:


David Cameron once referred to Gaza as a "prison camp" and "some sort of open-air prison". 1.7million Palestinians are crammed into just 140 square miles; Gaza is one of the most crowded places on earth.

Israel, despite withdrawing its troops and settlers from the Strip in 2005, continues to control its airspace, territorial waters and border crossings (with the exception, of course, of Gaza's land border with Egypt).

Parcelling off the democratic commons for corporate profit

Don’t be fooled. The innocuous language used to describe the avalanche of so-called “trade” agreements raining down on Canada under the Harper government — the TransPacific Partnership (TPP), the Canada-European Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Canada-China Foreign Investment Agreement, not to mention the plethora of single-country trade deals — aren’t about trade at all.

Their real purpose is to repeal democracy, to elevate investor/corporate rights over the democratic will of the people. Corporations — not governments — become the decision-makers, the de facto rulers.

Canada's privacy watchdog raises concerns about new mini-visa

OTTAWA — Canada’s privacy watchdog is raising concerns about a new mini-visa that will require certain visitors to Canada to disclose personal information that may include details about their mental health status and drug use and could be shared with the United States.

The Electronic Travel Authorization — a commitment made as part of Canada’s perimeter security deal with the U.S. — is among the measures crammed into the latest budget implementation bill.

Harper to stay in Ottawa despite premiers’ invitation to talk economy

OTTAWA — Stephen Harper will be going about his day-to-day routine in Ottawa while Canada’s premiers and territorial leaders meet without him in Halifax this week.

For months, the premiers have publicly called on Harper to attend their economic forum this Thursday and Friday to no avail.

Harper’s staff confirmed to The Chronicle Herald that he does not have any special events or announcements planned during the days of the meeting.

Online postings during 2011 election match rising concern at Elections Canada over voter misdirection calls

OTTAWA — Online complaints posted during the last federal election campaign show that voters were getting incorrect poll-moving calls from the same numbers that sent Elections Canada workers scrambling in the final days before the 2011 election.

Some voters vented their frustration with unsolicited calls from the Conservative Party on websites used to track the source of annoying telemarketing calls.

On sites such 1-800-NOTES and whocallsme, voters complained about Conservative calls from the same numbers cited in a flurry of frantic emails at Elections Canada in the last three days of the campaign.

Cnooc Said to Agree on Canada Demands for Nexen Takeover

Cnooc Ltd. (883), China’s biggest offshore oil and gas producer, has accepted management and employment conditions set by the Canadian government as it seeks approval for its $15.1 billion takeover of Nexen (NXY) Inc., according to two people familiar with the matter.

Negotiators for the Canadian government adopted many of the conditions requested by Alberta Premier Alison Redford last month, which include guarantees that at least 50 percent of Nexen’s board and management positions be held by Canadians, the two people said on condition they not be identified because negotiations are confidential. There are still commercial issues being negotiated such as the extent of capital spending requirements and other matters related to Cnooc’s status as a state-owned enterprise, one of the individuals said.

Deluding Canadians about 'trade' deals

The Harper government thinks negotiating and signing various deals with all kinds of countries shows it is fulfilling its economic mandate. Nothing could be further from the truth. What are erroneously described as trade agreements or, worse -- free trade agreements -- end up limiting Canada’s ability to develop and create products and services for Canadians that people in other countries might use as well.

If you want to trade, you need a product or service, a market, and money to put the deal together. All the commercial agreements in the world are no substitute for having something other people want enough to buy.

How Big Oil Luddites are blocking progress on climate change

In the interest of fighting climate change, most of us avoid buying SUVs -- fortress-like vehicles that aren't necessary unless one intends to take the whole family for a spin through downtown Baghdad.

Most of us also recycle and keep the thermostat low. However, these gestures are doing almost nothing to stop the warming of the planet.

Is the Conservative robocall narrative starting to crumble?

Here is Anita Hawdur, an Elections Canada officer, in an email a day before the 2011 election, the one in which the Conservatives are accused of attempting to rig the vote by directing voters to the wrong polling stations.

“The polling station numbers given out by the Conservative Party … are all wrong,” she writes to the agency’s lawyer. Later in the day she writes again: “The workers in the returning office think these people are running a scam.” In another, she says that some returning officers are reporting that people making calls falsely identified themselves as being from Elections Canada.

Mr. President: How Do You Define Precise?

"I want to make sure that people understand actually drones have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties…. For the most part, they have been very precise, precision strikes against al Qaeda and their affiliates. And we are very careful in terms of how it's been applied."

- President Obama, January 2012

Department of defence to spend $2 million to find out how its cost-cutting is going

The Defence Department will pay up to $2 million to hire a private company to tell it how it’s doing saving money and cutting costs.

The bids from companies, which would also recommend further reductions at DND, are due next Monday. The work is to be done in Ottawa.

The call for a private contractor to assess how cost-cutting measures are going at the Defence Department and in the Canadian Forces comes as DND states that it will get almost half its savings from cutting the number of private contractors it uses.

Who Can Stop Psychopaths from Ruining Companies? Insurers

Have bankers gone psycho? It seems hardly a week passes without another example of corporate fraud, rogue traders, rate fixing, and money laundering. Five years after the 2007 economic meltdown that wiped out $14 trillion of U.S. household wealth, the world's financiers seem to be behaving badly as ever and don't care who knows it. Perhaps expecting normal human behavior from many of these individuals is unrealistic because they are not normal -- they are psychopaths.

Corporate corruption linked to personal psychopathy presents both a problem and an opportunity. Rather than further futile efforts at regulation, solving the creditability crisis of global financial institutions may instead involve psychological screening to exclude certain individuals from occupying positions of trust they are medically unqualified for. And if so, cleansing of the capitalist Star Chamber will not be lead by government, but by the private insurance industry -- guided by the invisible hand of Adam Smith.

The Sounds in Gaza City

The bombing started on al-Hijriyah (the first day of the Muslim New Year); I was off of work because of the associated national holidays and was looking forward to a four-day long weekend. I have since spent those four days trapped in my home, in Remal, Gaza, an affluent neighborhood inside Gaza City. I am fortunate to not be living in the border areas nor in one of the densely populated—and Hamas-affiliated—camps. None of this means I feel safe.

The Twinkie Manifesto

The Twinkie, it turns out, was introduced way back in 1930. In our memories, however, the iconic snack will forever be identified with the 1950s, when Hostess popularized the brand by sponsoring “The Howdy Doody Show.” And the demise of Hostess has unleashed a wave of baby boomer nostalgia for a seemingly more innocent time.

 Needless to say, it wasn’t really innocent. But the ’50s — the Twinkie Era — do offer lessons that remain relevant in the 21st century. Above all, the success of the postwar American economy demonstrates that, contrary to today’s conservative orthodoxy, you can have prosperity without demeaning workers and coddling the rich.

Report: 70 Percent Of Retired Generals Took Jobs With Defense Contractors Or Consultants

A report released Monday by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the Brave New Foundation found that 70 percent of retired three-and-four star generals took jobs with defense contractors or consultants, a figure that has actually declined in recent years.

The report found that 76 out of 108 top generals took such jobs from 2009 to 2011, and a few continued to advise the Department of Defense while on the payroll of contractors. The report cited Gen. James Cartwright, who was elected to a paid position on Raytheon's board of directors while serving on the Defense Policy Board. Adm. Gary Roughead also served on the board while joining the board of Northrop Grumman, earning $115,000 per year.

A 'Grand Bargain' on the Fiscal Cliff Could Be a Grand Betrayal

With the election behind us, President Obama and the lame-duck Congress return to Washington to face a fiscal showdown, occasioned by automatic tax hikes and spending cuts scheduled to kick in after the first of the year. Most economists, including the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, agree that if nothing is done, this arbitrary, Washington-created “fiscal cliff,” as Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke dubbed it, will likely drive the economy back into recession.

Vulture Capitalism Ate Your Twinkies

What happens when vulture capitalism ruins a great American company?

The vultures blame the workers.

The vultures blame the union.

And vapid media outlets report the lie as “news.”

That’s what’s happening with the meltdown of Hostess Brands Inc.