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, October 31, 2013

Labour Reform Up For Debate At Tory Convention

A number of labour reform proposals on the agenda at this weekend’s Conservative party convention could be signs that the party is shifting further to the right, political observers say.

At least nine resolutions for amendments to the Conservative party’s policy book seek to crack down on the power of organized labour. The labour reform proposals are sponsored by various riding associations in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta.

Many call for an end to union political involvement, but one amendment seeks a more radical change to the Rand formula, a staple of Canadian labour relations that requires all employees in a unionized environment to pay union dues regardless of whether they join.

Smithville, Texas Oil Spill: Koch Pipeline Leaks Crude Southeast Of Austin

A Koch Pipeline Co.-owned pipeline spilled around 400 barrels, or about 17,000 gallons, of crude oil in Central Texas this week, KVUE reported.

A Texas Railroad Commission representative told the station that the spill likely came from a leak in an eight-inch diameter pipeline that delivers crude oil to refineries in Corpus Christi.

The spill, which occurred about 40 miles southeast of Austin near Smithville, has reportedly been contained. Oil did contaminate a "private stock pond and two overflow reservoirs" that are "not used by the public," according to KVUE. A 100 by 25 yard area was impacted, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

Shackles and Ivy: The Secret History of How Slavery Helped Build America’s Elite Colleges

A new book 10 years in the making examines how many major U.S. universities — Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Dartmouth, Rutgers, Williams and the University of North Carolina, among others — are drenched in the sweat, and sometimes the blood, of Africans brought to the United States as slaves. In "Ebony & Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities," Massachusetts Institute of Technology American history professor Craig Steven Wilder reveals how the slave economy and higher education grew up together. "When you think about the colonial world, until the American Revolution, there is only one college in the South, William & Mary ... The other eight colleges were all Northern schools, and they’re actually located in key sites, for the most part, of the merchant economy where the slave traders had come to power and rose as the financial and intellectual backers of new culture of the colonies," Wilder says.

Author: --

Oil firms asked to account for climate change risk

A group of global institutional investors have asked the world’s oil companies to determine how much risk they face from potential policies to reduce carbon emissions.

Two U.S.-based ethical investment companies — Ceres and Carbon Tracker Initiative — have written to 45 of the world’s oil companies on behalf of big pension and institutional investors to ask about how they intend to manage demands to deal with climate change.

Politics and the Canadian Language

The Senate expenses scandal, as the CBC now calls it, continues to grow, while the language used to describe it continues to shrink: we have fewer words to describe the scandal and those involved, and many of them are clichés like "bombshell" and "house of cards."

Without an extensive and nuanced vocabulary, our media provide a narrow and simplistic picture of events. Our own ability to think about those events is similarly narrowed.

Canada massively fails to meet Copenhagen targets, calls it 'progress'

Canada's carbon emissions in 2020 will be 20 per cent higher than Harper government's promised reductions under the 2009 Copenhagen Accord. More importantly, Canada's emissions will be 66 per cent to 107 per cent higher than what's actually required to do its share in meeting the 2C global warming target a new Environment Canada report revealed.

That is "significant progress" the report says without irony.

Trade deal may add $1.65B to drug bill: study

OTTAWA - The recently announced free-trade deal with Europe will likely cost Canadians hundreds of millions of dollars more for prescription drugs, says a new analysis.

The report, by two York University professors, says concessions by the federal government to cement the deal will delay the arrival cheap generic drugs by about a year, on average.

And the delay will add between $850 million and $1.65 billion — or up to 13 per cent — to the total drug bill paid annually by Canadians, either directly, through insurance plans or by provinces.

Paradis defends mining exec on aid panel

OTTAWA - Christian Paradis, Canada's new development minister, is standing firm on two controversial policies — using a mining executive as one of his key advisers and not funding abortions in cases of war rape.

Both policies will remain as Paradis moves forward in the coming months with the major task of integrating the former Canadian International Development Agency into Foreign Affairs, the minister said Wednesday.

The merger was first publicized, with no fanfare, in this year's federal budget.

Paradis is carrying forward the Conservative government's plan to integrate private businesses in Canada's overall development strategy — an approach that's been tried in places such as the United Kingdom, but that nonetheless remains unpopular with some aid groups.

Stephen Harper’s government spent over $50 million on ads in 2012, say records

OTTAWA — The federal government spent tens of millions of dollars in advertising in the last fiscal year led by major multimillion dollar marketing offensives from the Finance Department, and others touting their own policies, say new accounting records tabled Wednesday in the House of Commons.

The Public Accounts of Canada documents, tabled by Treasury Board president Tony Clement, show that the Finance Department, which has been running a long-standing advertising blitz touting the government’s economic policies, spent $15.25 million on advertising initiatives for the fiscal year, which ended on March 31, 2013.

Robocalls witnesses harassed, feared for jobs: Elections Canada

OTTAWA — Witnesses who gave key evidence against the former Conservative campaign worker accused in the robocalls affair were subjected to online harassment, and fear for their jobs if their names are published, according to Elections Canada.

Investigator Allan Mathews said in an affidavit sworn last week that the media attention surrounding his probe of robocalls in Guelph has had a “chilling effect” and discouraged some witnesses from speaking with him.

Canada, Aboriginal Tension Erupting Over Resource Development, Study Suggests

Canada has been singled out as the country with the most risk of conflict with aboriginal communities in a new study examining treatment of indigenous rights and resource development around the world.

“Canada is a developed country and it is having an implosion of the sort that we’ve only seen in the developing countries,” said Rebecca Adamson, president and co-founder of First Peoples’ Worldwide, the group that conducted the study.

“We’ve always seen this erupt when a government refuses to be clear in upholding indigenous land tenure.”

House Republicans Skip Obamacare Briefing They Furiously Demanded

For all their fury, most of the House Republicans who had demanded their own closed-door briefing from the administration on President Barack Obama's struggling health care rollout were no-shows on Wednesday.

Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) told reporters that "about 20 members" attended the House GOP briefing, at which senior Health and Human Services Department official Mike Hash laid out some of the issues facing the website.

Elizabeth Warren: 'No Excuse' For Corporations To Keep Their Political Spending Secret

WASHINGTON -- Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) on Wednesday called for the Securities and Exchange Commission to finally adopt a rule requiring publicly traded corporations to disclose their political spending to their shareholders.

"This is foundational," said Warren at an event organized by the watchdog group Public Citizen. "There is no excuse. There is no reason, on the other side, for saying a corporation wants to be able to spend shareholders' money and not tell shareholders how that money is being spent."

Election Days, Opening Nights

Only two offices in American political life have a double function, one official and the other ceremonial, offering, and demanding, a second role that everyone knows about, but no one quite articulates. The Presidency is one: it’s both political and monarchical. He (or, soon, she) gets the top job in politics, and is also the embodiment of the state. Presidents who do both jobs passably well—Reagan and Kennedy, and Obama, too—get many a break from their constituents, and from the history books. We want a guy who looks the part. Those who never did—Nixon, Carter—get kicked around, perhaps unduly.

Immigrant mental health compounded by language and cultural barriers

For almost 25 years, since the onset of her schizophrenic symptoms, Kim Ngan Nguyen did not know why she heard voices and saw things that other people did not.

The 62-year-old Vietnamese immigrant says she had no idea what “schizophrenia” was when her psychiatrist in Toronto handed her the diagnosis in 1983, two years after she moved here with her husband.

She never spoke about her mental illness with her friends and family, not even to her husband when he passed away a decade ago.