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.]

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Understanding the victory of Thomas Mulcair

Most of the mainstream media, with the help of the Mulcair and Topp campaigns, constructed the leadership battle at the NDP convention as a battle between those who wanted to move to the centre to win government and those who wanted to win maintaining the "traditional" social democratic values of the NDP.

Brian Topp's bold-sounding declaration that he was a proud social democrat made those of us who have spent decades on the left of the party cringe. Isn't the NDP a social democratic party? Hasn't the history of the party been the struggle between a democratic socialist left --  best represented by the Waffle but succeeded by a series of progressive groups, ending with the New Politics Initiative -- with the social democratic establishment? Is that establishment now in the position of opposition pushing the party to the left? If it is true, it is depressing on the one hand and deliciously ironic on the other.

What is left out of this narrative is that there is a new force in the party that I would consider the new left and it was best represented in this campaign by Nathan Cullen. Cullen's language was very close to the politics of the New Politics Initiative. He speaks of social struggles and the alliance between the party and First Nations and environment groups. He speaks from the heart without the spin that has infected almost everyone else. He is at heart a democrat. This left is less sectarian. Many of them supported strategic voting in past elections and this time the more strategic electoral alliance with the Liberals. I don't agree with them on that but there is no question that they are the most progressive force in the party right now and the one closest to the social movements who are flooding into the streets and the parks across North America.

2 Ont. First Nations communities declare emergency

Two First Nations communities in northern Ontario have declared a state of emergency and are evacuating residents as ice breakup on a nearby river causes jams and flooding.

The evacuation of "vulnerable residents" in the First Nations of Kashechewan and Fort Albany began as a precaution Saturday and is continuing today.

A spokesman with Ontario's Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services says the plan is to evacuate some 300 residents today and take them to the northern Ontario towns of Kapuskasing and Wawa.

Greg Flood says approximately 50 people were taken from Kashechewan to Kapuskasing Saturday, where preparations to house them have been made.

He says a breakup of ice on the Albany river has caused localized flooding and ice jams near the two communities which sit on the James Bay coast.

Flood says weather conditions, mainland access for residents on an island and aircraft availability may impact the number of people evacuated from the communities today.

The ministry says vulnerable residents being airlifted out include the elderly, women, children and people with medical conditions.

The operation is being co-ordinated by Emergency Management Ontario and the Ministry of Natural Resources, in collaboration with federal, provincial, municipal and First Nations officials.

The ministry has said the first priority of everyone involved is the health and safety of the residents of the communities.

Original Article
Source: CBC
Author: The Canadian Press 

Most Chinese takeovers not a security threat to Canada: report

The vast majority of foreign takeovers from China — but not all — pose no national security threat to Canada, says a new report that proposes Ottawa apply a three-step test to determine what is in the country's interest.

The report by Theodore Moran, a professor of international business at Washington's Georgetown University, to be released Monday by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, comes at a time of growing Chinese interest in Canada's resource riches.

In a recent visit to China, Prime Minister Stephen Harper was expansive about broadening the economic ties between the two countries and said the government was anxious to build a pipeline through British Columbia that would ship Alberta oil-sands crude to the country.

Mr. Moran's report does not advocate selling off resources to foreign interests, but does say that national security considerations should not be an impediment in most cases.

“The predominant impact of Chinese procurement arrangements does not support popular concerns about Chinese ‘lock up' of world resources,” the report states.

Tory view on budget: Don’t just look at cuts, it’s a growth plan

The Harper government is trying to brand its upcoming budget as an exercise in long-term employment creation rather than an austerity effort that will eliminate thousands of jobs.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will deliver a budget Thursday that is expected to make significant cuts to government departments and agencies, reducing public-sector jobs across the country.

But the government wants Canadians to see the budget as a growth plan, and not simply an effort to balance the books.

“If you concentrate on savings, you are going to miss out on what this budget is all about, it's about long-term sustainability for jobs, growth and prosperity,” a senior government official said Sunday.

Canada’s employment growth has stalled in the past five months – losing an average of 7,400 positions a month since October – even as the U.S. economy has begun to show sign of vigour.

Do We Need Government to Fight Discrimination?

Following a lecture I gave once, a student with a vaguely libertarian perspective asked, Is it possible to end discrimination without building up government? She didn’t like discrimination, but she also disliked interference in people’s lives. Ingrained in an organizing tradition that relies on government as the main locus of change, I actually had to think. Could we win racial justice without much government?

Fighting discrimination requires setting standards for both individual and collective behavior, educating everyone about those standards and ultimately creating some consequence for violating them. This young woman’s question implied that a society can generate compliance with such standards through volunteerism, an individual embrace of colorblind or gender-neutral ways of dealing with neighbors, students and employees.

The allure of power proved irresistible

In politics, little is more irresistible than the alluring scent of power.

After 50 years on the opposition sidelines, the federal NDP belatedly picked up that scent in the last election. On the weekend that scent led its members into the arms of Thomas Mulcair.

Time will tell whether the party succumbed to a case of fatal attraction as some of its elder statesmen feared or more simply decided to grow up and become a full-fledged national party with credible aspirations to power.

What is certain is that for all the misgivings of former leader Ed Broadbent and former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow, the New Democrats ultimately played it safe by selecting Mulcair.

He is the leader most likely to keep Quebec in the NDP fold. In that province, none of his opponents even register.

Any other choice could have set the NDP back to pre-Jack Layton levels in Quebec and the party back to third or fourth place behind the Liberals and the Bloc Québécois.

Mulcair was also the most ready to take on Stephen Harper in the House of Commons and the only one to combine electoral success with previous government experience.

Mulcair's definition of victory takes new meaning as NDP Leader

Thomas Mulcair keeps repeating that he has won all three provincial and three federal campaigns he has entered. He can now boast that he has won his first leadership race, beating out his six rivals to become Jack Layton’s successor at the helm of the New Democratic Party.

So forget all the nicknames that the hot-tempered Mr. Mulcair has earned over the years (“Grizzly” being the main one): All he cares about is being seen as a winner.

As of today, however, the definition of victory for the 56-year-old MP for Outremont, Que., has become harder than ever. In order to keep his election record intact, he has to become Canada’s first NDP prime minister in the 2015 general election.

Mr. Mulcair likes to set a high bar for himself, cultivating a tough-guy image over the course of a political career that goes back to the 1990s. Former staffers and colleagues keep referring to his trenchant approach to interpersonal relationships and his occasional behind-the-scenes outbursts.

As Mr. Mulcair entered the NDP leadership race last fall, he said he had only one goal.

“It’ll be to win, regardless of who is on the other side,” he said.

Opposition attacks PCs over $450,000 bill to fly empty aircraft

The Alberta government continues to spend more than $450,000 annually flying empty aircraft between Calgary and Edmonton, outraging opposition critics who decry it as a scandalous waste of money.

For the past three years, the governing Conservatives have logged more than 200 so-called deadheads flights a year, often to pick up the lieutenant-governor to fly him to events in Edmonton and other communities, according to passenger flight manifests published on the Alberta Treasury Board website.

Last year 116 of the 247 deadheads were flights between Edmonton and Calgary that cost taxpayers about $3,900 per one-way trip. Government planes also made numerous flights with no passengers from Edmonton to Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat as well as to other Canadian cities, but those additional costs are unknown.

Premier Alison Redford said the taxpayer dollars that fund government flights is money well spent.

"There are a lot of places in this province - this very big province - that it's not possible to get to on commercial flights and it'd important for us - not just for politicians but also for government employees, for people that are part of some of our government boards (and) youth secretariats - to be able to travel around the province and connect with each other," Redford said. "I believe we have four planes and I know they are put to very good use. . . . That's an investment in what it means to build strong communities across the province so we're not separate from each other."

Ottawa says unforeseen challenges made plans for Arctic station too costly

The federal government says budget concerns are behind cuts to a planned Arctic naval facility.

A defence department official says downgrades to plans for the Nanisivik station on the eastern gate of the Northwest Passage were necessary because of the unexpected high costs of building in the North.

Kim Tulipan says the cuts were made to keep the project within its $100 million budget.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay said last week the cuts wouldn't make any difference to northern military operations.

MacKay says the facility will still be an improvement.

Original plans included office, accommodation and workshop buildings as well as improvements to the wharf. They've now been reduced to an unheated warehouse and a small tank farm.

Improvements to the aging 1970s-era jetty have been put off for years.

``Any infrastructure work in the Arctic poses a number of unique challenges due to the remoteness of the location and various other difficulties, such as a shorter construction season and permafrost. Therefore, the original scope of 1/8Nanisivik 3/8 had to be reduced to ensure the project remained on budget,'' Tulipan wrote in an email.

White pride rally in Edmonton lasts only minutes after anti-racists show up

EDMONTON—A white pride rally in Edmonton’s downtown lasted only minutes when the demonstrators fled into a subway stairwell after they were greeted by over 100 anti-racist counter-protesters.

Police then blocked subway platform entrances until the roughly two dozen white pride demonstrators, most of them masked, were able to leave on a train.

Police spokesman Scott Pattison said at one point as the racist group was nearing the site near Edmonton City Hall, both sides clashed briefly, but police separated them quickly.

“I believe there was some pushing and shoving but it was only momentary,” Pattison said, noting there were no injuries or arrests.

As the groups neared City Hall, police kept the anti-racists from crossing the street and getting close to the white pride rally, but both sides shouted insults at each other until the white pride group left.

Anti-racist demonstrators ran from entrance to entrance of the subway in an effort to follow the rally, and expressed their frustration at police who were blocking the doors.

“I think it’s a shame that our tax dollars are being used to coddle and protect racist hate groups in our city,” said one anti-racist demonstrator with a megaphone.

Harper Says Many Viterra Assets Will Remain in Canadian Hands

Glencore International Plc’s $6.1 billion bid for Viterra Inc. (VT) will keep many of the acquired company’s assets in “Canadian hands,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said.

Harper commented today at a news conference in Tokyo on Glencore’s proposed acquisition of Viterra, Canada’s biggest grain handler. As part of the transaction, Calgary-based Agrium Inc. (AGU) will acquire about 90 percent of Viterra’s Canadian retail facilities. Glencore has also agreed to sell assets to Richardson International Ltd., a unit of Winnipeg-based James Richardson & Sons Ltd.

“My understanding of the deal is that many of the assets will actually remain in Canadian hands, so I’m not sure it really would be categorized at this point as primarily a foreign investment,” said Harper, after meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.

The deal shows how much interest there is in the Canadian grain and agriculture sector, which is “a tremendously good thing,” Harper said.

He added that such interest is “genuinely welcomed by farmers, and our main concern is always that farmers will retain choice in terms of their marketing options going forward.”

Under the Investment Canada Act, the federal government reviews foreign acquisitions of companies with assets valued at more than C$330 million ($330 million). The C$16.25-a-share offer announced by Baar, Switzerland-based Glencore will also require approval from Canada’s Competition Bureau, which said it would be reviewing the proposed transaction.

Original Article
Source: bloomberg
Author: Andrew Mayeda

Canadian Spending Cuts Will Be Within Expectations, Harper Says

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said spending cuts in his government’s March 29 budget will fall “within the expectations” his party set during the last general election in May.

“The actions the government will be taking will be within the expectations we set during the election campaign,” Harper told reporters at a news conference today in Tokyo.

The government said in its budget last March that it would seek to cut spending by as much as C$4 billion ($4 billion) annually.

“We’ll also be making some very significant investments in changes to ensure the growth of the Canadian economy in the future to ensure that we continue to create jobs and that we have long-term prosperity and sustainability of our social programs,” he said.

Original Article
Source: bloomberg
Author: Andrew Mayeda

ORNGE aborts emergency call as chopper door flies open midflight

An ORNGE air ambulance made an emergency landing Friday night after one of its doors opened and a window blew out in midflight, which could have been “catastrophic.”

The chopper took off from the Billy Bishop island airport after 6 p.m. on Friday en route to pick up a patient west of Toronto. Shortly after the helicopter was airborne, one of the doors opened, forcing the helicopter’s two pilots to search for a spot to land.

They found it in the middle of a dog park in Colonel Samuel Smith Park near Humber College’s Lakeshore campus around 6:20 p.m. Toronto EMS scrambled to get an ambulance to the area for precautionary reasons, but neither the pilots nor the two paramedics on board were hurt.

“The pilots made the right decision and landed,” said Jennifer Tracey, a spokesperson with ORNGE.

The chopper was on the way to a car crash near Brantford, according to an ORNGE insider, who said if the door or window hit the tail rotor, “it could have been catastrophic.”

ORNGE refused to say what happened to the patient, citing confidentiality rules, but said “the patient would have been transported by other means.”

Viterra another example of Canadian short-sightedness

Canada’s Viterra Inc. (VT-T15.91----%) attracted lavish takeover attention, to no one’s surprise. The company is one of North America’s premier grain handlers and marketers. It is a huge supplier of fertilizer, seed and other agri-products to Canadian farmers. It owns great chunks of the South Australian grain-handling network. Between Canada and Australia, Viterra is a key player in two of the world’s most important bread baskets.

In short, it was a global champion in the making. Not any more. Early this week, Viterra was blown away like a tumbleweed by Glencore International of Switzerland, the world’s biggest and most aggressive commodities trader. Glencore, which is paying $6.1-billion for its prize, is keeping most of Viterra’s grain elevators, ports and other bits of infrastructure, plus virtually all of the Australian goodies. The rest of the company, such as the fertilizer business, is to be divvied up between Agrium and Richardson International.

What a shame. Canada needs global corporate champions. It has, perhaps, three: Bombardier, the world’s third-largest aerospace company, Barrick, the top gold player, and Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan. Potash Corp., the global fertilizer leader, would have disappeared too had the federal government not blocked its sale to Australian mining colossus BHP Billiton in 2010.

Between France and the Malha mall

The voice on the other end of the phone was clearly very upset. Its owner had rung late at night to talk about the "pogrom," as he called it, at Jerusalem's Malha shopping mall a few days before. As the former head of one of the state law enforcement agencies he was particularly outraged that the incident had attracted no media attention and that no arrests had been made.

On Friday the full, terrible truth of the incident came to light. Oz Rosenberg reported in this newspaper that last Monday night hundreds of Beitar Jerusalem soccer fans rampaged through the mall, chanted racist slogans, spat at female Arab workers and attacked dozens of male Arab workers with their fists, their feet and with sticks.

"They caught some of them and beat the hell out of them," Rosenberg quoted one shop owner as saying. "They hurled people into shops, and smashed them against shop windows."

Mall director Gideon Avrahami said he had never seen such a "disgraceful, shocking, racist incident." On Tuesday he took the praiseworthy step of calling a meeting with the shopping center's Arab employees and apologizing to them. "How could you see such a thing and do nothing?" one asked.