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, January 23, 2013

Scott Lively, 'Kill The Gays' Bill Supporter, Says 'Right To Sodomy' Is Destroying Human Rights

A controversial evangelical currently on trial for crimes against humanity has written a new online column in which he claims that same-sex marriage and LGBT equality will signal the end of human rights.

Scott Lively, a U.S. evangelist and outspoken supporter of Uganda's extreme political persecution of gays and lesbians, published his article entitled "The Death of Human Rights" on Jan. 21 for Defend the Family International, a site closely affiliated with Lively.

NOM Slams Obama's Call For LGBT Equality, Says Gays 'Already Treated Equally'

In the wake of President Barack Obama's precedent-setting call for LGBT equality Monday, anti-gay groups have been quick to dismiss the administration's apparent support for marriage equality.

As the New York Times notes, Obama became the first president ever to use the word "gay" during an inauguration speech, saying that "our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.'"

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon At Davos: 'We're Doing The Right Thing'

DAVOS, Switzerland — Leading bankers at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, are on the defensive amid demands to regulate their industry more closely following the financial crisis that battered the global economy.

Bankers have been widely blamed for the financial crisis that has dramatically reduced the living standards of many in the world, whether they're in work or not.

Kevin Page, Budget Watchdog, Accuses Government Of Breaking Law With Budget Secrecy

OTTAWA - Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page is warning the federal government that 64 departments and agencies have broken the law by refusing to hand over information about upcoming budget cuts.

In a June 18 letter to the Clerk of the Privy Council Wayne Wouters, Page says he has obtained a legal opinion that confirms his right to request and receive information about the effects of $5.2 billion in cuts.

Canada expected to extend mission in Mali Ottawa 'not considering a Canadian combat role in Mali,' says spokesman

Canada is expected to extend its commitment to Mali, but the decision is still pending some final consultations with other allies involved in the conflict, CBC News has learned.

The federal government is still considering how to respond to requests for an extension of Canada's commitment to support the French-led military operation in Mali as the one-week tour of a C-17 transport plane in the West African country nears its end.

Red Squares, Red Feathers

After a year of marching with the carré rouge pinned to coats, lapels and backpacks, activists are now donning Idle No More’s red feather—joining a slew of movements attempting to work together to overcome shared struggles.

At a general assembly set to take place in Ottawa next weekend, a number of activist groups plan to launch a process that will pave the way towards a People’s Social Forum, aiming to unite common goals across various social movements in Canada.

Alberta paying the price for relying too heavily on oil and gas revenue: economist

CALGARY — The Alberta government is facing a reckoning after years of following a high-risk budget strategy of relying on non-renewable resource revenue, says a new “budget primer” from the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy.

U of C economist Ron Kneebone, author of the report, said Tuesday that both the government and opposition parties must answer three fundamental questions about financial planning.

Alberta doctors highest paid in the country for second straight year, new study finds

EDMONTON - As Alberta’s doctors remain locked in difficult negotiations with the provincial government, a new national study shows they earn the highest average pay in the country compared with physicians in other provinces.

The findings from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, which compiled billing and compensation information from all 10 provinces, found Alberta doctors, on average, received gross payments of almost $350,000 in 2010-11 — the most recent year of which statistics are available.

Alberta public sector workers paid 10 per cent more than private sector counterparts, report finds

EDMONTON - An Alberta government wrestling with deficits should take a serious look at the amount of money it spends on public sector workers, according to an analysis by a conservative Canadian think-tank.

In a report released Tuesday, the Fraser Institute said its number crunching of Statistic Canada’s Labour Force Survey data from April 2011 found that public sector workers from all three levels of government working in Alberta earn an average of 10 per cent more than private sector counterparts doing the same job.

ORNGE officials Rainer Beltzner, Maria Renzella and Rhoda Beecher approved Mazza payments

Beltzner. Renzella. Beecher.

Those are the three former ORNGE officials who approved the payments that funded Dr. Chris Mazza’s lavish lifestyle.

Rainer Beltzner was the chairman of the board, which oversaw the provincial air ambulance service. ORNGE records show Beltzner and his board signed off on the rapid, $1.2-million increase in payments to Mazza in his last year at the service.

In the expense category, vice-presidents Maria Renzella and Rhoda Beecher signed the documents that reimbursed former president Mazza for his many trips to five-star hotels, ski jaunts and boozy dinners. ORNGE records show Mazza’s expenses were then presented to the “board,” which reviewed them.

No privacy if bags checked, court told

OTTAWA — Canadians forfeit their right to privacy when they check their baggage for a flight, a lawyer argued Tuesday as a Halifax man’s drug charges were debated before the Supreme Court of Canada.

Issues of racial profiling, privacy rights and even whether drug-sniffing dogs should be used in Canada were all raised as lawyers debated whether Mandeep Singh Chehil should face a new trial.

Prisoner death sparks new allegations of guard neglect

Canada’s Correctional Service is facing fresh allegations that guards at a federal psychiatric prison in Saskatoon stood by and ignored the distressed calls from an inmate who died on the weekend from an apparent heart attack.

The inmate, 35-year-old Kinew James of Manitoba, was looking forward to being freed this summer after serving a sentence of more than 15 years for manslaughter, assault, uttering threats, arson, mischief and obstruction of justice.

Why Albertans support more private health care options

The myths we Canadians cherish about our public health care system are going to be the death of us.

Consider that this week the Conference Board of Canada published the results of a survey of our attitudes towards the possibility of more private delivery of care. Only in Alberta were as many as half of residents in favour of more private options. Nationally, 60% were opposed.

Quebecers told EKOS Research they were the most opposed (65%) of any Canadians. At 64%, Atlantic Canadians were the next-most reluctant.

Corporate balance sheets healthy as economy languishes

Corporate leaders reared up like wounded lions last August when Jim Flaherty and Mark Carney scolded them for hoarding their earnings.

The double dose of censure came out of the blue. The first rebuke came from the normally business-friendly finance minister. “There’s a lot of capital sitting out there that needs to get engaged,” he said “We need private action.”

Canada’s two new solitudes: one wealthy, one wanting

The tar sands — and Ottawa’s extreme laissez-faire approach to economics — are pulling Canada apart.

Canada already is the most decentralized federation on the globe. But the oil boom centered in Alberta is leading to even greater decentralization, creating ever more interprovincial and regional disparities and inequalities.

Here are just some of the staggering statistics in a new report, The Petro Path Not Taken, by Bruce Campbell, executive director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. All are from publicly available sources:

Questions raised about future role of Parliamentary Budget Officer after Kevin Page leaves

OTTAWA—Kevin Page, the financial watchdog who has fought hard to open up Ottawa’s books for Canadians, will soon be leaving his post — raising urgent questions about the role of the Parliamentary Budget Officer once he’s gone.

As the first person to hold the position of PBO, the 55-year-old Page has taken his mandate to provide MPs with an independent look at the federal government’s budgets and spending very seriously. His unvarnished reports have put him in conflict with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government over deficit projections, F-35 fighter jet costs, the need to change Old Age Security and prison price tags.

Time for a paradigm revolution: Seeking an alternative to neoliberalism

"It is not so easy to ask our young scientists to think outside the box when a significant portion of their salary (and mortgage payments) depends on guaranteeing a steady source of funding. Consequently, professors become highly attuned to the institutional priorities of various funding agencies -- often at a cost to their own creativity and desired research directions."

New York Times, 2/11/09

The 20th century's best-known Western philosopher of science was Thomas Kuhn (1922-1996). His most famous book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) was conceived when he was a graduate student in theoretical physics at Harvard. The book sold one million copies and was translated into 16 languages. The work influenced scientists, historians, sociologists and philosophers. Kuhn controversially argued that science was not a constant, slowly increasing accumulation of knowledge, but was instead a process that was unpredictably interrupted by sudden intellectual revolutions. In those upheavals, the dominant conceptual framework was replaced by another: for example, Copernicus in astronomy, Einstein in physics, and the Darwinian transformation of biology.

Beating back the anti-labour agenda in Ontario

Since the summer, the Ontario Liberals have been engaged in a campaign to limit bargaining rights and implement concessions across the public sector. They started with teachers and school support staff in the province by introducing Bill 115. The Liberals were planning on expanding this attack to some 400,000 public sector employees before the legislature was prorogued. Ostensibly, this campaign was undertaken to balance the $15-billion budget deficit, but in reality this has been nothing but a crass ploy to curb the power of organized labour.

Environment Canada hits alleged polluters with warnings instead of prosecutions

OTTAWA – The federal government has given warning letters to several oil, gas and pipeline companies across the country instead of trying to prosecute them for alleged transgressions that include polluting air and water, inadequate emergency planning and sloppy record-keeping.

Environment Canada sent the written warnings, released to Postmedia News under access to information legislation, to a range of companies in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Quebec.

Why is Alberta studying seniors' care at the same time as it's privatizing it?

On Monday, Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne announced a year-long project to study seniors' residential centres and figure out the best way to fund and run them.

Sounds good, lots of Albertans must have concluded, before getting on with their business confident the administration of seniors' care under Premier Alison Redford is in good hands.

But if Horne and the provincial Health Department are really serious about assessing the financial sustainability of the 400 or so seniors' facilities, weighing various funding models and exploring what type of services and programs they ought to offer, why is Alberta Health Services plunging ahead and closing publicly run seniors' centres right and left, pushing the residents into private facilities?

"Fire in the Blood": Millions Die in Africa After Big Pharma Blocks Imports of Generic AIDS Drugs

The new documentary, "Fire in the Blood," examines how millions have died from AIDS because big pharmaceutical companies and the United States have refused to allow developing nations to import life-saving generic drugs. The problem continues today as the World Trade Organization continues to block the importation of generic drugs in many countries because of a trade deal known as the Trips Agreement. We’re joined by the film’s director, Dylan Mohan Gray, and Ugandan AIDS doctor Peter Mugyenyi, who was arrested for trying to import generic drugs, and is recognized as one of the world’s foremost specialists and researchers in the field of HIV/AIDS.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: -

Advocate Decries Loss of EI for Seasonal Migrants

Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, Lucy Luna migrated to Canada 16 years ago. Now she advocates for migrants, most of them also from Mexico, who are seasonal agricultural workers. She is coordinator of the Abbotsford regional office of the Agricultural Workers Alliance, an arm of the UFCW labour union.

In December the federal government announced that seasonal migrant workers will no longer be covered by Employment Insurance (EI). That news caused hardly a ripple of interest among the wider public but had big implications for the agricultural temporary workers Luna sees daily, she told The Tyee in an interview.

Idle No More's Energizers

The groundswell of activism across Canada that is Idle No More doesn't lend itself to a tidy diagram or a roadmap of designated leaders, armed with a coherent platform or handing out a unified message.

Indeed, Idle No More has come to resemble more a meteorological map of forces that is unlikely to ever coalesce into a single united front, either behind the elected chiefs of the Assembly of First Nations, or even the four Prairie women widely-credited as founding mothers of the movement.

May slams Mulcair’s order to NDP MPs not to respond to her electoral cooperation letter

PARLIAMENT HILL—Green Party Leader Elizabeth May says she questions how NDP MPs can “stomach” their party leader Thomas Mulcair’s edict forbidding them from taking her up on a proposal to begin discussing electoral alliances to defeat Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the next federal election and go on to reform Canada’s election system with a new government.

Ms. Green (Saanich-Gulf Islands, B.C.), who extended her comments to cover Liberal MPs who she says have also been ordered not to respond to her proposal for backbench MPs to begin laying out groundwork for electoral cooperation, accused Mr. Mulcair (Outremont, Que.), and eight of the nine candidates for the federal Liberal leadership who have also rejected the idea, of being overly partisan and putting their own interests ahead of the country.

Ontario Tories say unions shouldn’t be allowed to bully teachers

Tim Hudak says unions should not be able to tell teachers they can’t provide extracurricular activities.

Speaking in Ottawa, Hudak said Tuesday the Ontario Labour Relations Act would be changed under a Conservative government so unions could no longer “intimidate” its own members, for example by threatening fines of up to $500 for ignoring union directives.

B.C. First Nations Health Authority says allegations of financial misdoing inaccurate

OTTAWA—A non-profit organization that will take over responsibility for delivering aboriginal health services in British Columbia from Health Canada says allegations of financial mismanagement are based on outdated and incomplete documents leaked by a disgruntled employee.

“It is natural for human beings to respond fearfully in the face of transformative change,” Davis McKenzie, a spokesman for the First Nations Health Authority based in West Vancouver, wrote in an emailed statement Tuesday.

Empty legislatures a disturbing trend for Canadian democracy

OTTAWA—There are 1,066 duly elected members of the House of Commons, provincial and territorial legislatures in Canada.

Tuesday, not a single one sat in their legislative chamber.

Not a single prime minister, premier, federal or provincial cabinet minister was formally being held to account under our Parliamentary system anywhere, from Victoria to St. John’s, from Ottawa to Iqaluit.

Why the stroller debate on Toronto public transit is a gendered fight

I woke up this morning to a city full of snow and a Twitter timeline on fire.

Elsa La Rosa’s complaint yesterday to the Toronto Transit Commission has kicked off, not only a staff report, but a noisy city-wide airing of grievances about “SUV-sized strollers” taking up too much space on crowded buses. It’s easy to blame the parents (for whom taking an actual SUV is probably out of the question). But let’s get real: This isn’t about individual choices. It’s about gender and class and how they intersect in public space. And when I say “gender”, I mean “women.”

SIRI RISING: The Inside Story Of Siri's Origins -- And Why She Could Overshadow The iPhone

The world got its first inkling of the quick wit that would make Apple’s Siri an icon during a packed press conference held before an auditorium of tech elite.

"Who are you?" an Apple executive asked the assistant.

“I am a humble personal assistant,” Siri answered to appreciative laughter.

Oilsands' Environmental Impact Puts Alberta Region Midway Down Pack Of Climate Villains: Greenpeace Study

Canada's oilsands are midway down the pack of the world's climate change villains, according to a new Greenpeace report ranking potential carbon emissions from the globe's top energy developments.

Climate enemies numbers 1 and 2 — by far — are expanding coal projects in Australia and China, the report says. The oilsands don't appear until fifth spot, which is shared with projects in Iraq and the United States.

Vancouver Housing Affordability Ranks 2nd Worst In World: Demographia

Vancouver is the second least affordable city in the world when it comes to housing, according to a U.S. think-tank.

Demographia ranked the B.C. city second only to Hong Kong on housing affordability, although it is getting better on Canada's West Coast.

Paul Ryan Changes His Story on "Makers and Takers"

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is taking back what he said about "takers"—well, kind of.

In his second inaugural address Monday, President Barack Obama told Americans, "The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative, they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great." My colleague David Corn called that line a slap in the face of the tea party, but it was targeted at one person in particular—Ryan, Mitt Romney's ticket-mate, who has a long habit of decrying the gap between the "makers and the takers" in America.

The White House Sends Troubling Signals About Its First Climate Test: Keystone XL

Addressing climate change was—quite remarkably—the most prominent policy vow President Obama made yesterday on the steps of the US Capitol Building. “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” he proclaimed.

The administration’s resolve on this issue will be tested quickly, when the Keystone XL pipeline comes up for review once again. Obama denied approval for the project in January 2012 over concerns it would damage Nebraska’s Ogalalla Aquifer, but allowed TransCanada to reapply for a permit with a different route, which it has done. A re-review of the project from the State Department may now be coming within the next few weeks.

Global Unemployment To Reach Record 200 Million In 2013: Report

GENEVA (Reuters) - The global jobless queue will stretch to more than 200 million people this year, the International Labour Organization said in its annual report on Tuesday, repeating a warning it has made at the start of each of the last six years.

The U.N. jobs watchdog estimates unemployment will rise by 5.1 million this year to more than 202 million, and by another 3 million in 2014, following a rise of 4.2 million in 2012.

Athens' metro strikers defy court order

Athens has been paralysed by huge traffic jams after metro workers, protesting new pay cuts, defied a court order to return to work and continued to strike for the sixth consecutive day

"With these latest cuts, someone like me who earned 1,300 euros ($1,732) per month will end up clearing something like 700 euros ($933)," said Antonis Stamatopoulos, who heads the metro worker's union.

Israel losing support over settlements

Britain has said that continued Israeli settlement expansion into the occupied Palestinian territories has driven hopes for a two-state solution to near death.

British foreign secretary William Hague, speaking as Israelis took to the polls on Tuesday, warned the Israeli government that their actions were costing international support.

How the Vatican built a secret property empire using Mussolini's millions

Few passing London tourists would ever guess that the premises of Bulgari, the upmarket jewellers in New Bond Street, had anything to do with the pope. Nor indeed the nearby headquarters of the wealthy investment bank Altium Capital, on the corner of St James's Square and Pall Mall.

But these office blocks in one of London's most expensive districts are part of a surprising secret commercial property empire owned by the Vatican.

Leon Panetta: Drones To Be 'Continuing Tool' Of U.S. National Security

WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Monday that the Obama administration will continue to use drone strikes as part of its counter-terrorism efforts, despite controversy over their use. He added, however, that he envisions a time when the program is no longer in use.

First Nations just want Ottawa to honour the law

I wish to submit the following, as a Siksika Nation grandfather and as a Canadian, in respect to Bill C-45. First Nations fought alongside your ancestors toward the creation of an independent country, shared our knowledge so they could survive on our lands and entered into treaties to live in peace and friendship.