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.]

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Canada as Global Bully: The Congo Example

Thank you Julian Fantino.

The International Co-operation Minister caused a ruckus last week when he said that the Canadian International Development Agency should actively promote the country's interests abroad rather than primarily focus on poverty reduction. Fantino defended "aid" that was given to groups partnering with Canadian companies building mines around the world. He said CIDA has "a duty and a responsibility to ensure that Canadian interests are promoted."

If China Can Have State-Owned Energy Firms, Why Can't We?

"To be blunt, Canadians have not spent years reducing the ownership of sectors of the economy by our own governments, only to see them bought and controlled by foreign governments instead." -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Dec. 7, 2012

There are many good reasons that the Conservative government should have rejected the $15 billion takeover of Canada's Nexen oil and gas giant by the China National Offshore Oil Corporation instead of accepting it last Friday.

Treaty Troubles: Colonialism's Deep Currents

[Editor's note: The 20-year effort to create modern treaties between B.C. First Nations and the federal and provincial governments has not produced many agreements. Underlying the challenge are complex structural relationships between First Nations that more than a century of colonial influence has aggravated. This four-part series by Carly Wignes looks at the deep tension one potential treaty has created, how others have succeeded, and the complex history that makes it so difficult to redress longstanding inequity.]

Income Inequality Canada: TD Bank Says Wage Gap Has Held Steady Since 1998

Income inequality in Canada has remained steady since 1998 according to the traditional benchmark, but absolute dollar gains by the country's highest earners have far outstripped the gains by those at the bottom, a report by TD Bank said Tuesday.

Even though the poorest saw a slightly larger percentage gain in income, absolute gains — the amount of dollars in a person's pocket — tell a different story, said TD Bank chief economist Craig Alexander.

A Plan to Stop the Feds From Reading Your Emails

The US government's warrantless surveillance powers largely remain a mystery, even to most of the members of Congress who are set to reauthorize them this week. A small group of senators, however, is planning to introduce a handful of amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act that would pull back the curtain on the program.

"When they passed [changes to the law] in 2008, they were going to get information and watch closely and do oversight," says the ACLU's Michelle Richardson. "Here we are four years later getting ready for a vote, and there's no information in the public realm about how this works."

John Boehner Has No Mandate

House Speaker John Boehner has grown increasingly belligerent in his “fiscal cliff” fight with the Obama administration. Struggling to hold together a caucus that never really respected his “leadership,” Boehner is trying to rally his troops by ripping President Obama’s supposed disregard for Republican control of the House of Representatives.

Arguing that the Obama White House must meet his demands for deep cuts in programs that benefit the elderly and the disabled, Boehner griped on Fox News this week that “they must have forgotten Republicans continue to hold a majority in the House.”

Afghanistan Women's Rights Abuses Prevail Despite New Law, U.N. Says

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan women are frequent victims of abuse, despite some success by authorities in prosecuting rape cases, forced marriages and domestic violence under a 3-year-old law, according to a report issued Tuesday by the United Nations.

The report came out a day after gunmen shot and killed the head of the women's affairs department for eastern Laghman province. Afghan officials said Najia Sediqi, who took the job after her predecessor was killed in a bomb attack in July, was on her way to her office when she was shot dead.

Politico Accidentally Exposes Beltway Elite

Politico editors Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen today have published what may be the most revealing piece I have ever read about the Washington power elite. The value of the piece is almost entirely anthropological. That is to say, read at face value, it tells the reader almost nothing new. But examined as a cultural specimen, it offers profound insight. The piece reads as if it were written by Upton Sinclair, if he were taken prisoner and trying to smuggle messages out to the world past a particularly literal-minded group of censors.

Winnipeg Squash Star Fears Death If Deported To Pakistan

A squash star who fled to Canada to escape the Taliban in Pakistan is facing deportation and fears for his life.

Asif Khan Khalil, 20, could be sent back to his native country on Sunday unless his lawyer can get an emergency reprieve.

Khalil, who claimed refugee status in Winnipeg in August 2010, says his success with a Western sport is seen as a violation of Islam by the fundamentalist Taliban, especially in his home city of Peshawar, which borders Afghanistan.

Violence Against Women Canada: 67% Of Canadians Know A Woman Who Has Experienced Abuse

Just days after the 23rd anniversary of the Montreal Massacre and National Day of Action on Violence Against Women, a new study shows that Canada still has a long way to go.

According to new findings from the Canadian Women's Foundation, 67 per cent of Canadians have known a woman who has experienced physical or sexual abuse. The study also found that Alberta had the highest reported incident rate at 74 per cent.

Keystone XL Texas Lawsuit: Michael Bishop Argues Diluted Bitumen Doesn't Fit Definition Of Oil

HOUSTON - A Texas judge has ordered TransCanada to temporarily halt work on a private property where it is building part of a pipeline designed to carry diluted bitumen from the oilsands in Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Landowner Michael Bishop, who is defending himself in his legal battle against the Canadian oil giant, argues that TransCanada (TSX:TRP) lied to Texans when it said it would be using the Keystone XL pipeline to transport crude oil.

‘Vast majority’ of Canadians liked Nexen deal, says Harper. Is he right?

According to the prime minister Monday in question period, the markets approved of the government’s decision to approve CNOOC’s takeover bid for Nexen Inc. This was his defence against a verbal haranguing from Opposition leader Thomas Mulcair on foreign investment regulations. In short, Mulcair said, there is still not enough clarity.

“Parliament enacts legislation and the government executive is responsible for enforcing it and applying it equally to everyone. Last Friday we learned that the prime minister does not think he needs Parliament to change the law,” Mulcair lecture. “In the Nexen case, he said that as long as there are exceptional circumstances, he can continue to approve foreign takeovers even if there is no net benefit to Canada.”

Robocalls case: Yukon voter says he got ‘fishy’ call in last election; Tory MP Aspin says he has clear conscience in his Nipissing-Timiskaming riding’s election results

OTTAWA—One of eight voters in a Federal Court challenge of the results in six ridings from the 2011 general election disputed on Monday arguments from the Conservative Party lawyer that the voters waited too long to complain about allegedly fraudulent phone calls on voting day and were in effect pawns for a public interest group, the Council of Canadians, that has campaigned against Conservative government social and economic policies.

Quiet, competent Murray brings message of sustainability

Joyce Murray may lack the national profile enjoyed by other Liberal MPs hoping to lead their party, but her policy platform is a surefire attention grabber.

The MP for Vancouver Quadra would legalize and tax pot, slap a price on carbon, kill the Northern Gateway project, ban oil tankers on B.C.'s north coast, ensure 40 per cent of federal appointees are women, ditch Canada's first-past-the-post voting system, and address vote splitting through a voluntary system of partisan co-operation at the riding level to allow joint candidates to compete against vulnerable Conservatives.

Police response to pedestrian hits: clothing advice

hereNine pedestrians were hit by cars Monday morning, and the police responded by advising people to wear light-coloured clothing.

This is a sign not just that the force has failed miserably to keep the streets of Toronto safe for pedestrians, but also that it has no real interest in doing so.

Libor Manipulation Scandal: Britain's Serious Fraud Office Arrests 3 In Interest Rate Probe

LONDON, Dec 11 (Reuters) - Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and London police have made the first arrests as part of a global investigation into the manipulation of interbank lending rates, a scandal that has rocked the banking industry.

The SFO said on Tuesday three British men, aged 33, 41 and 47, were taken to a London police station for interviews in the early morning after three properties were searched.

File-Sharing Lawsuits Canada: TekSavvy Warns Customers It Has Received Requests For Personal Info

An independent internet service provider popular with tech geeks in central Canada is warning that it has been asked to hand over personal information about customers in advance of a potential file-sharing lawsuit, and it’s telling its customers they may want to lawyer up.

Chatham, Ont.-based TekSavvy says it has received a request from Hollywood production company Voltage Pictures to identify the people behind 2,000 IP addresses which the company presumably suspects of unauthorized file-sharing.

Budget watchdog finds average public service job costs $114K

A new report from Canada's budget watchdog suggests the country's federal public servants have enjoyed a pretty good decade or so.

The paper from Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page shows the average public servant costs taxpayers $114,100 a year in total compensation.

What's more, the PBO says compensation in the federal service has outpaced inflation and that of other employees — both in business and other levels of government — over the last 13 years.

Conservative lawyer attacks wildly on first day of the voter suppression case

If you ever plan to play hockey with Arthur Hamilton, you would be well advised to cover your groin if he gets you in the corner.

Hamilton is the lawyer for the Conservative MPs who are, in effect, “defendants” in the voter suppression case now before the Federal Court in Ottawa.

The CNOOC Nexen takeover: China plays chess, Harper plays checkers

Stephen Harper has announced Canada will approve the sale of energy giant Nexen to a Chinese state-owned oil company, CNOOC. Also Harper allowed Malaysia's national oil company Petronas to buy Progress Energy Resources, a purchase that will accelerate production and export of shale gas from Northern B.C.

The prime minister was clearly irritated: "To be blunt, Canadians have not spent years reducing the ownership of sectors of the economy by our own governments, only to see them bought and controlled by foreign governments instead." He added that, from now on, only under "exceptional circumstances" would additional Canadian bitumen sands assets be approved for sale to foreign state interests.

Medicaid Expansion: States Must Meet Obamacare Standards To Get Full Federal Funding

States must expand Medicaid all the way if they want to receive full Obamacare funding, federal officials said Monday.

The health care reform law enacted in 2010 calls for Medicaid to be offered to anyone who earns up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $14,856 this year. Under the law, the federal government would pay the full cost of enrolling newly eligible people from 2014 to 2016, after which the share would gradually shrink until it reached 90 percent starting in 2022.

Egypt Protesters Attacked By Unknown Gunmen

CAIRO — The head of Egypt's key association of judges says 90 percent of its members have voted not to oversee Saturday's nationwide referendum on the country's contentious draft constitution.

Ahmed el-Zind, the chairman of the Judges' Club, announced the decision on Tuesday.

The move is unlikely to stop the referendum from taking place, but it casts further doubt on the legitimacy of the constitutional drafting process.

President Mohammed Morsi's deputy has said that if there are not enough judges to oversee the referendum, the vote can be staggered over several days. A faction of judges loyal to Morsi has said it would not boycott the vote.

Egypt is sharply divided and polarized over the draft constitution, which was hurriedly approved by an Islamist-dominated constituent assembly despite an opposition boycott.

Original Article
Source: huffington post

'The Limits to Growth': A Book That Launched a Movement

In the spring of 1972, a slim book called The Limits to Growth dropped like an intellectual bomb on the developed world’s most optimistic assumptions about itself. Peppered with computer-generated graphs and written in clear, dispassionate language by a team of MIT graduate students led by two young scholars, Dennis and Donella Meadows, the book delivered a seemingly extreme argument, which ran as follows: If 1970 rates of economic growth, resource use and pollution continued unchanged, then modern civilization would face environmental and economic collapse sometime in the mid-twenty-first century. Yes, collapse—as in massive human die-offs.

Oilsands Foreign Investment To Slow Under New Rules

OTTAWA - Foreign investment in Canada's oilsands is likely to slow and depress the value of some Canadian firms — but only moderately — as a result of Ottawa's new rules restricting state-owned enterprises, observers say.

But not everyone in the industry sees the development as a negative, arguing that too much development too fast is not necessarily good business.

Antonin Scalia Defends Legal Writings Some View As Offensive, Anti-Gay

PRINCETON, N.J. -- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Monday found himself defending his legal writings that some find offensive and anti-gay.

Speaking at Princeton University, Scalia was asked by a gay student why he equates laws banning sodomy with those barring bestiality and murder.

Aboriginal Canadians face racism, stereotyping in urban health care: report

TORONTO - A new report suggests aboriginal Canadians frequently face racism and stereotyping when using health care services in urban centres, a situation which can breed a degree of mistrust deep enough for some to avoid seeking professional help when sick.

The 74-page document, titled "Empathy, dignity, and respect: Creating cultural safety for Aboriginal people in urban health care," was released by the Health Council of Canada on Tuesday.

Born in Canada but not a citizen

OTTAWA — The Conservative government is deporting an Ottawa convict to India even though he was born in Canada.

Deepan Budlakoti, a 23-year-old first-time federal offender, is being deported to his parents’ homeland under a rarely-used law in the Citizenship Act that says if your parents are foreign diplomats or under their employ at the time of birth, you are not considered a Canadian citizen.

The Conservatives’ robocalls court defence is sheer hypocrisy

There are many arguments which can be deployed by the Conservative Party in its defence in the robocalls case currently before the Federal Court.

The case is frivolous. It lacks for evidence. But ‘champerty and maintenance’ — trying to benefit from someone else’s lawsuit? Talk about the pot calling the kettle black — or, in this case, blue.

First Nations say omnibus bill violates treaty rights

CALGARY — Joining a growing number of demonstrations taking place across the country, about 200 members and supporters of the Tsuu T’ina and Stoney nations gathered outside Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s constituency office on Monday to protest the federal government’s omnibus budget implementation bill.

Bill C-45, also titled the Jobs and Growth Act, 2012, is the second budget implementation act and includes extensive amendments to more than 60 laws.

Attawapiskat chief to go on hunger strike until Harper agrees to treaty meeting

OTTAWA — Attawapiskat First Nations Chief Theresa Spence said Monday she was ready to die in her campaign to get a treaty meeting with the prime minister.

“I’m willing to die for my people because the pain is too much and it’s time for the government to realize what (it’s) doing to us,” she said Monday on Parliament Hill, where she announced her intention to go on a hunger strike until Stephen Harper and a representative of the Queen agree to a meeting.

Canada ready to join NATO coalition if chemical weapons used in Syria

Amid growing fears that the Syrian regime will use chemical weapons against its own people, Canada has developed a contingency plan to join a NATO coalition ready to deal with the worst-case scenario, CTV News has learned.

If NATO asks for assistance, the federal government is ready to deploy the Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit, which handles chemical, biological and radioactive attacks.

$43B federal payroll the focus of government budget report

OTTAWA — Canada’s budget watchdog will release Tuesday the first report in more than a decade on how the federal government spends $43 billion on pay, pension and benefits on federal workers.

The federal payroll is the government’s biggest single operating cost and some would argue is probably one the least scrutinized and poorly managed.

Dr. Mustafa Barghouti: Canada's unconditional support for Israeli policy is 'astonishing'

In a visit to Canada last weekend, Palestinian legislator and activist Dr. Mustafa Barghouti expressed his pessimism at the prospects of a future Palestinian state.

"My heart wishes for a two-state solution, but my mind tells me otherwise," says Barghouti, who finished a three-day Canadian speaking tour organized by the Montreal-based NGO Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME).

Egypt’s military assumes temporary powers ahead of vote as country braces for more rallies

CAIRO—Egypt’s military assumed responsibility Monday for protecting state institutions and maintaining security ahead of a Dec. 15 constitutional referendum, as the country braced for another round of mass demonstrations by the supporters of the country’s Islamist president and the liberal opposition over the disputed charter.

The referendum on a contentious new constitution lies at the heart of a bitter political battle that has deeply polarized Egypt and triggered some of the worst street violence between backers and opponents of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi since he took power in June as the country’s first democratically elected leader.

Seasonal migrant workers stripped of parental benefits

Ottawa has quietly eliminated the special parental benefits for foreign migrant workers who contribute an estimated $3.4 million annually to Canada’s Employment Insurance system.

Effective Monday, EI’s special parental, maternal and compassionate benefits are only available to those who are authorized to work in Canada year-round.

RBC leads big bonus parade for Canadian banks

Canada’s banks have set aside $10.3 billion for bonuses, a 7.5 per cent increase over last year, bucking the global trend toward pay cuts and even job losses on Wall Street and in London.

From tellers to investment bankers, the individual payouts in Canada can range from a few hundred dollars to millions, according to industry experts.

Still, the days of the really big payouts followed by year-end spending binges may be moderating, some industry experts said.

“Protest Here is Vigorous”: Sharif Abdel Kouddous on Unrest, Polarization Before Egypt’s Referendum

Egypt is bracing for new protests today over President Mohamed Morsi’s hotly contested effort to hold a referendum on a controversial draft constitution. Ahead of today’s rallies, masked gunmen attacked opposition protesters camped out in Tahrir Square overnight, injuring more than a dozen. At least seven people have died in clashes and hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets since Morsi unilaterally expanded his powers last month. Democracy Now!’s Sharif Abdel Kouddous files a report from Cairo.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Michigan GOP Push Through Anti-Union, Elite-Backed "Right to Work" Law Before House Majority Shrinks

Thousands are expected to protest in Michigan today as Republican Gov. Rick Snyder prepares to sign a pair of anti-union bills that would make his the 24th so-called "right to work" state in the country. Pushed through before Democrats gain five House seats in the new legislature next month, opponents call the effort an organized attack against labor that will suppress wages and weaken collective bargaining rights. “He has decided to support the most divisive piece of legislation that has ever come forward in Michigan,” says Democratic Michigan State Representative Brandon Dillon. “You’ll see by the people gathered at the capitol today that he is tearing the state apart.”

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Chinese miners asked to pay for Canadian jobs

Labour brokers may be charging Chinese miners up to $16,000 for the chance to work in Canadian mines as temporary foreign workers, a CBC investigation has found.

The National visited a prominent recruitment agency in Beijing carrying hidden cameras. Investigators posing as miners learned that workers with minimal mining experience are being offered positions in Canadian gold, copper and potash mines.

Harper government crafts Canada’s energy policy in Ottawa’s back rooms

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is catching flak from both sides of the political spectrum as Canadians ponder the implications of his decision to let Chinese and Malaysian state-owned companies buy $20 billion worth of our oilsands industry. On the left, New Democrats complain the Tories have recklessly “rubber-stamped” a deal with no great benefit to Canada. Critics on the right fret that Ottawa will scare off investment with its murkily “incoherent” policy on acquisitions.

Obama Fiscal Cliff Speech: I 'Won't Compromise' On Taxes

REDFORD, Mich. -- President Barack Obama warned Monday that he "won't compromise" on his demands that the wealthiest Americans pay higher tax rates, digging in on the chief sticking point between the White House and Republicans as they seek a way to avert the "fiscal cliff."

Obama brought his pressure-Congress campaign to the heart of industrial America, ripping lines from his own re-election bid as the nation inched closer to a perilous economic cliff. He said the country couldn't afford a "manufactured" crisis and pledged to cheering auto workers that he would fight to extend tax cuts for the middle class before they expire at year's end.