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.]

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Greece Migrant Workers Shot By Foremen On Strawberry Farm After Demanding Back Pay

ATHENS, April 17 (Reuters) - Greek police were hunting three foremen on Thursday who were suspected of shooting and wounding more than 20 migrant workers at a strawberry farm.

The supervisors were believed to have opened fire on Wednesday at a crowd of about 200 mostly Bangladeshi immigrants who were demanding wages that had not been paid, police said. The wounded were taken to hospital but none of the injuries was serious.

CISPA Vote: House Passes Cybersecurity Bill To Let Companies Break Privacy Contracts

WASHINGTON -- The House of Representatives passed a broad cybersecurity bill Thursday that allows corporations to share customers' personal data with other firms and the U.S. government, even in cases in which a company has a signed contract explicitly vowing not to do so.

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, known as CISPA, passed by a margin of 288 to 127, despite receiving a late veto threat from the Obama administration, which warned that the bill does not sufficiently protect civil liberties. The veto threat was particularly noteworthy, given President Barack Obama's Department of Justice has been urging Congress to expand its data-gathering and cybercrime powers for years. Congress shelved a similar bill last year after the White House expressed its formal opposition.

Ohio Sex Education Bill Threatens Teachers With $5,000 Fine

A two-year budget bill advanced by Ohio's state House of Representatives on Tuesday would defund Planned Parenthood, redirect that state money to Christian-run "crisis pregnancy centers," and impose a fine of up to $5,000 on teachers who provide certain kinds of sex education instruction to their students.

The sex education amendment to the budget bill, introduced by Rep. Lynn Wachtmann (R), encourages schools to teach abstinence-only education and bans sexual education that condones "any gateway sexual activity or health message that encourages students to experiment with sexual activity." The amendment also prohibits teachers from distributing contraceptive materials and bans public schools from using the services of any individual or organization who “endorses student nonabstinence from sexual activity as an appropriate or acceptable behavior, or if that individual or organization promotes, endorses, advocates, or condones gateway sexual activity.”

Agency That Investigates Plant Explosions "Grossly Mismanaged"

On April 2, 2010, an explosion at the Tesoro Corp. oil refinery in Anacortes, Washington, killed five workers instantly and severely burned two others, who succumbed to their wounds.

Eighteen days later, the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig blew up in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and unleashing a massive oil spill.

In both cases, the US Chemical Safety Board—an independent agency modeled after the National Transportation Safety Board—launched investigations. Like the NTSB, the Chemical Safety Board is supposed to follow such probes with recommendations aimed at preventing similar tragedies.

Unpaid Internships: U Of T Students' Group Calls For Ban, Says 300,000 'Illegal' Interns Working In Canada

A group of university students has called on Ontario’s Minister of Labour to end unpaid internships, just as two prominent Canadian employers become the latest focal points for growing controversy over the practice that critics say illegally exploits young people.

The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) contends that more than 300,000 Canadians are “illegally misclassified” each year as interns, trainees and non-employees, a situation that they say has a destabilizing effect on the economy because unpaid work drives average wages down while increasing student debt at a time when the youth unemployment rate is twice the national average at 14.2 per cent.

Rehtaeh Parsons Posters: Family Enraged Over Support For Teen Suspects

Bold, colourful posters are blanketing the streets of Halifax in support of the boys accused of hounding Rehtaeh Parsons to death.

And now, these posters and their message are hounding the family of the girl, who was taken off life support on April 7, just days after she tried to take her own life.

The posters, according to CBC, urge the community to "Stay strong, support the boys."

Industry voices dominate at Canadian Food Summit

Fellow Canadians, have you eaten today?

If you did -- and even, or especially, if you didn't for lack of physical or economic access to food -- you should know that behind closed doors sits a group of industry leaders claiming to be non-partisan, objective, independent and representative. They are hammering out a national food strategy for Canada.

Reality check on Transport Canada's claims for tanker safety

Harper's public relations and spin team hit Vancouver in March claiming to have substantially revamped environmental protections for pipelines and tankers. Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver and Minister of Transport Denis Lebel described their new regime for oil spill safety against the backdrop of the Port of Vancouver. Minster Joe Oliver trotted out a line we are bound to hear more often, in the boilerplate of nonsense to which we seem to be inured, that the Exxon Valdez spill could never happen in Canada.

Former human rights chief abused employees, report finds

The former head of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal abused and harassed her employees, a report tabled in Parliament today concludes.

Public Service Integrity Commissioner Mario Dion says Shirish Chotalia is guilty of gross mismanagement, improper behaviour, and making inappropriate remarks. The investigation took almost two years to complete.

Shame on the Senate: Gun Control Is Dead, For Now

Among so many depressing days in Washington, Wednesday is surely one for the ages.

In the Hart and Russell office buildings, staffers panicked over packages deemed “suspicious” by police, which later turned out to be nothing, and a “man with letters in his backpack” was taken into custody. Meanwhile, Senators across the street in the Capitol were taking a decidedly more relaxed approach to policing potential danger—virtually ensuring that criminals can continue to by weapons at gun shows or online without submitting to a background check, and that those weapons can still be military-style assault weapons with 30-round clips.

Diana Carney Hits Tories Over Carbon ‘Tax On Everything' Comments

Diana Carney, the wife of Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney, has made some thinly-veiled criticisms of the Harper government’s environmental record and what she sees as a degradation of the debate about climate change in Canada.

Ms. Carney, who heads the progressive think tank Canada2020, made her comments in a report released ahead of a forum to be held in Ottawa today on “how to sell carbon pricing to Canadians.”

Alison Tonge, Health Executive, Had Private Health Services Paid For By Alberta Taxpayers

EDMONTON - Alberta's official Opposition has brought forward documents that show a former health executive was allowed to get private tests at public expense.

Wildrose party Leader Danielle Smith told the house that Alison Tonge was reimbursed $1,160 for diagnostic tests at a private Edmonton clinic in December 2011.

The tyranny of the tar sands

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Canada is fast becoming a place that I no longer recognize. In the last year, federal policy has aimed to remove any obstacles to tar sands expansion using repressive tactics that undermine our longstanding democratic traditions. There seems to be no higher federal priority than doing whatever multinational oil companies demand and we – you and I – are being systematically denied any role in Canada’s natural resource future.

How do you talk to a government that hates advice?

It was almost like an ambush in a John Wayne movie. No public announcement, no explanation, no accountability. Just a single shot ringing out from the sagebrush, a puff of smoke, and a body going backwards off its horse. Another one.

The shooter was one Stephen Harper, former top hombre at the National Citizens Coalition, now prime minister. On page 260 of Stephen Harper and the Future of Canada, author William Johnson notes that the NCC was founded by insurance millionaire Colin Brown as a personal advertising campaign against medicare.

Our love-hate affair with political attack ads

Are you fed up already with the nasty attack ads that Stephen Harper unleashed this week against Justin Trudeau just hours after he won the Liberal party leadership?

If so, then you aren’t alone, judging by the widespread reaction on Facebook, Twitter and radio hotline shows.

In fact, most Canadians tell pollsters they despise political attack ads, which Harper deployed so successfully in the past against former Liberal leaders Stéphane Dion and Michael Ignatieff.

Mountie to be appointed Canada’s ambassador to Jordan

OTTAWA — The Mountie who heads Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s personal security detail will be appointed Canada’s ambassador to Jordan.

The appointment of RCMP Supt. Bruno Saccomani will likely raise eyebrows in the diplomatic community and prompt questions from opposition parties about why the job isn’t going to a career diplomat.

By closing the Health Council of Canada, Stephen Harper is abandoning national medicare

Health Ministers from across Canada were recently told by the Harper government that it will stop funding the Health Council of Canada and wants it “wound down” in order to save $6 million.

When the Harper government says it is time to wind down the Health Council of Canada, it is saying in effect, it is time to wind down national medicare. Let me explain.

Harper cut to Health Council could signal end of National healthcare

(OTTAWA) – The Canadian Health Coalition issued an urgent alert to Canadians in light of today’s news that the Harper Government is terminating its funding of the Health Council of Canada.

“This announcement signals Harper’s intention to withdraw essential federal leadership from health care. Medicare will not survive the withdrawal of the guardian of national standards and universal access to care for all Canadians regardless of where they live. This could mean the end of Canada’s last and most loved social program,” said Michael McBane, National Coordinator of the Canadian Health Coalition.

Patenting the Sun - Big Pharma wants to own naturally occurring genes. What would Salk say?

In 1955, when Jonas Salk's successful polio vaccine was announced, CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow famously asked the scientist: who owns the patent on this new drug that has finally wiped out one of the most dreaded scourges of the century? Salk replied matter-of-factly: "Well, the people, I would say. There is no patent."

He paused, as if to let this seemingly obvious fact sink in, then continued: "Could you patent the sun?"

Fast-forward a half century, and Salk's statement seem quaint, if not downright quixotic.

Vast Coastal Protection Plan May Hinge on Election

After 11 years, millions of dollars, dozens of stakeholder meetings, and several unexpected bumps, a plan to protect a huge swath of B.C. coast -- the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area -- is nearing completion.

With an election ahead, environmental groups want to make sure the plan doesn't lose momentum. And a related poll by the David Suzuki Foundation found a rare total consensus among British Columbians: Every person who answered said they wanted more coastline protection.

Why are big bankers giving advice on job-creation in Canada?

RBC customers are still fuming, Canadians are seething, the bank’s brand is taking a beating and its employees are smarting over the way their bosses tried to outsmart everyone.

Here’s one more casualty: The bank’s high profile CEO, Gord Nixon, has fallen from his lofty perch atop Canada’s business and political pyramid.

Jim Flaherty’s currency appears to be losing value

OTTAWA—Is it time to put Jim Flaherty’s picture on a milk carton? The federal finance minister has not graced the House of Commons with his presence since he presented his 2013 budget a month ago.

Flaherty flew off on a trade mission to Asia 24 hours later and Parliament was adjourned for the Easter break a week later. But since the House reconvened on Monday his seat has continued to remain vacant.

Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau exchange barbs over Boston bombing

OTTAWA—Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau are exchanging barbs over the Boston Marathon bombing.

Harper, in London to attend the funeral of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher Wednesday, appeared to take issue with Trudeau’s suggestion to search out the “root causes” behind Monday’s devastating attack.

Global report issues ‘wake-up call’ on fossil fuels and catastrophic warming

Canada and the rest of the world need “strong, credible and long-term commitments” to reduce heat-trapping greenhouse gases across the economy and prevent catastrophic global warming, says a new report released Wednesday by the International Energy Agency.

The report — Tracking Clean Energy Progress 2013 – said that global efforts to clean up energy sources had stalled, despite some progress in new technologies such as electric vehicles and a boom in renewable forms of energy such as solar and wind power that is reducing costs.

Neskantaga, Ontario First Nation, Declares State Of Emergency Amid Suicides

OTTAWA - Two recent deaths among the members of the Neskantaga First Nation have prompted the remote northern Ontario community to declare a state of emergency in the hope of getting help to prevent the spread of suicide.

The First Nation northeast of Thunder Bay has seen two of its members die over the last two weeks, throwing the fragile community of 300 into grief and fear for the stability of other families.

Gil Kerlikowske, Drug Czar, Opposes Marijuana Legalization

NEW YORK -- U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske sought to portray the White House as a champion of drug policy reform on Wednesday, while staunchly opposing marijuana legalization and leaving unanswered questions about how the Justice Department will handle legalized recreational pot in Colorado and Washington.

Gun Bill Background Check Amendment Fails, Other Key Provisions Follow

WASHINGTON -- With shouts of "Shame on you!" echoing in the chamber, the U.S. Senate failed to muster sufficient support Wednesday for a gun-buyer background check bill that's supported by nearly 90 percent of Americans.

It also voted down other key measures and counterproposals, defeating a string of amendments in a series of procedural votes that likely doomed any major legislation to curb gun violence.

'War on Whistleblowers' Film Highlights Dangers of Crackdown

Since taking office, President Obama's Department of Justice has brought charges against six whistleblowers under the Espionage Act of 1917 – more than every previous administration combined. The chilling effect such prosecutions can have is profound and further insulates those in power from any kind of accountability for their actions. As a report released on Tuesday illustrated in exceptional detail, impenetrable secrecy was part of what allowed the Bush administration to engage in torture and systemic abuse. Obama's era has been defined by an expansion of that secrecy, if not the same policies themselves.