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.]

Monday, August 13, 2012

Harper Tories hear what they want from researchers

I'd like to offer an apology to everyone who was innocently munching on their breakfast Wednesday morning when they happened to scan the front page of the Journal.

I'm sorry for the mess created when you spat your cornflakes across the table as you read with incredulity the headline, "Science will decide pipeline: PM."

It's not often you see a reference to the prime minister and science in the same sentence. The two seem mutually exclusive if not oxymoronic.

Using Jack Layton to attack the CBC

Too many political narratives in this country are depressingly predictable, their outcome written far in advance and their plodding plot played out to national shrugs.

The Jack Layton saga of 2011 was the neon-lit exception to the Canadian rule.

So, it’s disheartening that as production begins on a CBC biopic of the late NDP leader, everyone appears to be playing to type again.

How to Launch a Mass Movement for Economic Justice

The billionaires may be trying to hijack the presidential election, but they have failed to stifle the creative ambitions of progressive leaders. Amid the toxic fumes of big-money politics, the people Paul Wellstone once identified as the “Democratic wing of the Democratic Party” are pursuing an audacious goal with characteristic optimism: to re-elect Barack Obama, then reset his priorities.

The challenge is forbidding and doubtless sounds naïve to establishment politicians. But the risks of failure are huge. Faced with the growing fear that Obama will pursue a “grand bargain” with conservatives after the election, further compromising core principles, leading liberal-labor forces are toughening up their tactics. They see the prospect of re-election as a great opportunity to coax or push the president toward the fundamental economic reforms he ducked in his first term—
a source of great disappointment on the left.

Paul Ryan's Got a Great Big Problem With Progressivism

Paul Ryan's return to Wisconsin on the day after his selection as Mitt Romney's choice for the Republican vice presidential nomination was billed as a "homecoming."

But Ryan did not actually go home to Janesville, the blue-collar town where he was born and raised. Janesville is a Democratic city that backed the ticket of Barack Obama and Joe Biden in 2008, and that might well do so again in 2012. Indeed, the headline on a news story from Janesville published Sunday read: "Residents and Officials Say Ryan Brings Welcome Attention Even if He Won't Get Their Vote."

Instead, Ryan and Romney appeared in Waukesha County, the state's Republican stronghold.

'President Romney'?

Allergic to issues, obsessed with personality, and unwilling to confront the reality of Republican radicalism, most members of the mainstream media have focused their coverage of the GOP presidential nominee on a single banal inquiry: “Who is Mitt Romney?”

Allow me to clear this one up: it doesn’t much matter.

Befitting a Republican who sought statewide office in navy-blue Massachusetts, Mitt Romney spent most of his political life, in the words of The New Yorker’s Louis Menand, as “a liberal Republican cryogenically preserved from the pre-Reagan era.” Back in Massachusetts, Romney believed that “abortion should be safe and legal in this country” and pledged to “sustain and support” Roe v. Wade. He promised not to “line up with the NRA” and proudly boasted of the state’s “tough gun laws.” He refused to sign Grover Norquist’s “no tax” pledge as governor and termed it an example of “government by gimmickry.” He endorsed equal rights for gays, a generous immigration policy and, most famously, instituted universal healthcare for the state’s citizens based on an insurance mandate.

The Reformers Strike Back! The conservatives behind Citizens United have lost some key fights lately. But another battle over corporate money in politics looms

Since the mid-2000s, a small cadre of lawyers and activists has reshaped the role of money in American politics. Led by Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), attorney James Bopp, Jr., and law professor and activist Brad Smith, this group has won a string of victories that have imploded campaign finance laws. Citizens United? That was Bopp. Super-PACs? Thank Smith's Center for Competitive Politics. The 2010 and 2012 DISCLOSE Act filibusters? All McConnell.

But it's been rough going for the deregulators as of late. They've lost a slew of cases intended to gut existing political disclosure laws. They've failed to knock down bans on contribution limits. And despite their objections, the Internal Revenue Service has said it might revisit how it regulates dark-money nonprofit groups, which outspent super-PACs 3-to-2 in the 2010 elections and unloaded at least $172 million through June of this election cycle. "The free speech crew's winning streak has hit a bump in the road," says Neil Reiff, an election law attorney who used to work for the Democratic National Committee.

Paul Ryan in Six Charts: How He'd Bring Romney's Taxes Close to Zero

Paul Ryan loves charts. As chairman of the House Budget Committee, the Wisconsin GOPer has cultivated a reputation as the consummate policy wonk, ready to wage ideological battle at the drop of the dime with an arsenal of tables and graphs. But Ryan's numbers don't always add up. And when they do, the results can be stunning. When Democrats tested arguments about his budget in focus groups, they found it difficult because voters refused to believe that a politician would actually propose, say, gutting Medicare to cut tax for the rich. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says it's "the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history."

Tithing In Canada: Churchgoers Divided Over Donating Percentage Of Their Income

This feature was produced by Rachel Phan, a student in Ryerson University's School of Journalism, in partnership with The Huffington Post Canada.

Wes Prang is a devout Christian who has given everything to his faith. Despite living on only $339 a month, Prang often used to give money to his church. He did this because he was told that it would make him a "good Christian."

It nearly ruined his life.

Facebook Page Calls For American-Only Hours At U.S. Costco

hereMany Canadians are taking advantage of the high Canadian dollar by shopping across the border — with cheap milk and gas being two of the big draws — but some Americans are fed up with the cross-border crowd.

Some Bellingham, Wa., residents started a Facebook page calling for American-only hours at the local Costco.

'Wealth Equals Health' Rings True, CMA Says

Canadians in lower income groups report poorer health than their wealthier counterparts, a poll for the Canadian Medical Association suggests.

The group's annual report card is being released today at its meeting in Yellowknife.

The gap in self-reported health status between income groups seems to be growing, with 39 per cent of those whose households earned less than $30,000 a year describing their health as excellent or very good compared with 68 per cent of those earning $60,000 or more.

Details revealed on Labrador base cleanup

The federal government revealed details Monday about a lengthy environmental project at its air force base in central Labrador.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced the latest contracts in a 10-year cleanup at 5 Wing Goose Bay, although much of the program flows out of a $300-million plan unveiled three years ago to deal with contamination at the base.

MacKay also announced new funding for infrastructure, including $6 million for the base. The announcement also includes funding for roof repairs, and for the base's ramp and apron.

The announcement coincides with the meeting in Labrador this week of the Conservative Atlantic caucus.

Another announcement is expected Monday. Federal cabinet representative Peter Penashue will join Bernard Valcourt, the minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) to reveal details about a mining project.

ACOA is expected to put money into a project to extract iron ore from the sand around Happy Valley-Goose Bay. The demonstration plant for that project is expected to be up and running within a week.

Original Article
Source: CBC
Author: cbc

‘Real inequalities’ a threat to medicare’s mission, incoming CMA chief says

The fundamental mission of Canadian medicare is to ensure no one is denied essential care, regardless of ability to pay – but it is increasingly failing to achieve that goal.

That is the blunt message from the president-elect of the Canadian Medical Association.

“There are real inequalities around the country,” Anna Reid said in an interview.

Canada’s peacekeeping tradition is worth defending

“I always thought Canada was on the side of the angels.”

This was the assessment of Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, the esteemed president emeritus of the University of Notre Dame, former chair of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and founder of the world-renowned Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.

I was visiting Notre Dame for a conference, and popped in to give my regards to Father Hesburgh, who expressed concern over Canada’s retreat from its celebrated role as postwar peacekeeper and “honest broker” in world affairs.

Romney running mate likes Tory tax cuts

He's no fan of Canada's health-care system, insisting it's plagued by inefficiencies and relies on medical equipment that is "old, unreliable and obsolete."

But he sees the federal Conservative government's record on corporate tax cuts as a perfect model for the U.S., once asking: "How on Earth are our businesses going to be able to compete with the Canadians?"

A Wisconsin congressman with at least a fleeting knowledge of nearby Canada has been catapulted into the spotlight by Saturday's announcement that 42-year-old Paul Ryan - a leading conservative voice in the U.S. House of Representatives - will be Republican nominee Mitt Romney's running mate in this year's U.S. presidential election.

Baird’s new Middle East policy

With his characteristic energy and acute sense of political timing, Foreign Minister John Baird took flight late last week on a hastily arranged tour of Lebanon and Jordan.

In Lebanon, he met with Prime Minister Najib Makati and the parliamentary leader of the March 14 opposition, Fouad Siniora. The purpose of the visit was to thank Lebanon for hosting Syrians seeking asylum from the violence that is ravaging their homeland. (Not that they really had any choice in the matter.) At the same time, Baird affirmed Lebanon’s importance to Canada.

Two cheers for our political journalism

Whenever I hear how much the quality of Canadian political journalism has declined, I am reminded of the days when I was a young (age 19), innocent, research assistant to an MP on Parliament Hill.

Every Friday morning, the parliamentary reporter from my boss’s hometown newspaper would drop by. After a brief chat in his office, the reporter would emerge with a large bottle of Five Star Canadian whisky. When the MP was away, he thoughtfully left instructions with the secretary, who would wordlessly produce the bottle from her large lower desk drawer and hand it to our faithful correspondent when he appeared at the appointed time – roughly when the sun was over the yard-arm.

Compulsory voting here should be on the table for discussion -- before it's too late

OTTAWA -- Quebec Premier Jean Charest last week interrupted one of the hottest, sunniest summers on record to call a provincial election.

It is, as it always seems to be in Quebec, a nail-biter of a campaign, and the issue of separatism is once again rearing its ugly head. It is also an election coming on the heels of some of the largest and longest-lasting protests Canada has seen, as thousands of Quebec students took to the streets to protest hikes in post-secondary tuition fees.

With young people in Quebec seemingly more engaged right now, one could hope it will drive them to the polls in greater numbers than usual.

Does pipeline risk outweigh political reward for Ottawa?

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says politics won’t determine whether big Western pipelines get built; objective criteria will. But no matter how decisions are made, the pipelines have already gone political.

Harper said last week the Northern Gateway decision will be made by experts using science and not politics. He says a review panel of the National Energy Board will make the call based on “economic costs and risks.”

Passing gas: Peter Kent and Canada's bogus GHG emission targets

"If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary-wise; what it is it wouldn't be, and what it wouldn't be, it would. You see?" -- Alice in Wonderland

On August 8, 2012, in a speech at the Algonquin Centre for Construction Excellence in Ottawa, Environment Minister Peter Kent delivered some startling environmental news:
"According to the report [Canada's Emission's Trends 2012], Canada is now half way to its target of reducing total greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. This is the result of the Harper Government's realistic, sector-by-sector approach to greenhouse gas regulations that is reducing emissions, while continuing to create jobs and encouraging economic growth. Last year, we were one-quarter of the way to our goal. And now we're half way there. This shows the significant progress we are making in meeting our Copenhagen commitment."

Time for premiers to step into void

Federal-provincial relations in Canada often bring to mind schoolyard analogies. But which ones are most appropriate? Are the provincial premiers a bunch of unruly youngsters in need of stern discipline? Or are they more like high school grads, grown up and canny enough to show their old teacher a thing or two? Lately both seem appropriate.

Recent weeks offer plenty of evidence of both the truculence and the maturity of the premiers. At their annual meeting in Halifax at the end of July, the provincial leaders made useful progress in sharing best practices for treating heart disease and diabetes as well as establishing a national bidding process to bring down the cost of generic drugs. All this without assistance from Ottawa.

Total war a lesson in hypocrisy

A series of (unattributed) attacks in Tehran over the past 2½ years have killed four Iranians reportedly engaged in nuclear weapons research/development.  Fingers point at Israel.  We say nothing.

On 18 July a suicide bomber attacked a Bulgarian bus, killing inter alia four Israeli tourists.  Israel blames Hezbollah and contends Iran is behind the attack.  Washington excoriated the attacker.  Iranians imply this and other thwarted attacks against Israeli targets are “tit” for the “tat” of the killings in Tehran.

On 18 July, a bomb kills the Syrian defense minister and other senior Syrian officials.  No comment beyond the standard statement that Syrian leader Bashar Assad should leave power.

Tories’ Senate reforms ‘dangerous,’ ‘unconstitutional,’ PM trying to score ‘political brownie points’: Russell

The government’s bill on Senate reform currently before the House is “nine chances out of 10” unconstitutional and the “most dangerous” piece of legislation for Canada’s future, say critics who are worried that the Conservatives will use time allocation to rush the bill through Parliament without adequate scrutiny.

“About 9 chances out of 10, [Bill C-7] is unconstitutional and it will be found to be unconstitutional and so it won’t happen unless they change their approach and the federal government tries to get the provinces to support it which will be very difficult,” said University of Toronto political science professor Peter Russell, who is also a constitutional expert. “You can’t predict entirely what courts will say but it’s pretty obvious that it would change the method of selecting Senators and the constitution is clear about that, you need seven provinces representing 50 per cent of the population if you’re going to change how Senators are selected.”

NDP, Liberals fighting for support in Atlantic where Canadians ‘hostile’ to PM

The national NDP caucus retreat in St. John’s, Nfld., early next month will be the start of a battle between the official opposition and the Liberal Party to appeal to a region where distrust for the Prime Minister may be at its highest, says a leading pollster.

“I think the Atlantic has become extremely hostile to [Prime Minister Stephen] Harper. That’s changed,” Ekos Research pollster Frank Graves told The Hill Times. “I don’t think the NDP are up from the last election. I think they are about holding their own. If anybody it looks like the Liberals might be up a bit. In some of the polls we had them leading in the Atlantic. It looks like a pretty tight three-way race.”

National media's political coverage declining, resembling sports reporting

The fast-paced environment in which journalists are working today has negative implications on political coverage and in many ways “resembles sports reporting” which is alienating the public, say experts.

“When a reporter doesn’t have the time, knowledge or background to deal with the complexity of an issue, there are still two ways he or she can tell the story—by focusing on conflict or personality,” Carleton University journalism professor Chris Waddell wrote in a new book, How Canadians Communicate IV: Media and Politics. “Assisted by new technology, these two approaches have become the staple of political reporting and that has helped to alienate the public from politics and public policy.”

More transparency needed on foreign investment reviews, says NDP MP Julian

The government should use the China National Offshore Oil Corporation’s takeover bid for Canadian energy company Nexen as an opportunity to finally define what ‘net benefit’ means in its foreign investment review, says the NDP.

“This is a whole different scale in terms of CNOOC making this large of a takeover proposal. What we’ve seen from state companies in the past have been small takeovers,” said NDP MP Peter Julian (Burnaby-New Westminster, B.C.), his party’s natural resources critic, who described the takeover bid as a “wake-up call” for the government. “Now we have a huge case with significant ramifications. They’ve got to put in place an open and transparent review process.”

House rules should be changed to prevent 'frivolous' report stage amendments, says former House leader

The government should reintroduce restrictions to the amendments that MPs can make at report stage or risk the House becoming a ‘serial voting chamber,’ says a former House leader, but Green leader Elizabeth May who helped force a 24-hour voting marathon in June says she will continue to use every procedural avenue available to challenge the Conservatives’ agenda.

“The government has got to bite the bullet and fix the rules, otherwise this is going to be a millstone around their neck,” said former Liberal Cabinet minister Don Boudria, who served as government House leader for six years. “They’re going to have to put down a motion and move closure on the motion, and they’re going to be criticized for being draconian and evil. I’ve been accused of all these sins myself, so I know what the criticisms sound like.”

Elections Canada 'hindered' in Del Mastro investigation, DPP should step in: NDP MP Angus

If Elections Canada cannot provide immunity to witnesses who want to testify in the alleged kick-back scheme involving a Conservative MP and his cousin’s business, the director of public prosecutions should take over the investigation, says NDP MP Charlie Angus who believes the Justice Minister is wrong in his assessment not to do so.

On July 6, Mr. Angus wrote a letter to Justice Minister Mr. Nicholson stating that the NDP believes the alleged offences facing Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro (Peterborough, Ont.) “fall under federal jurisdiction, potentially crossing several federal laws,” and asked that the matter be referred to the director of public prosecution.

Economy, trade, energy, strategic review and fall legislative priorities top Tory caucus meeting agenda

The economy, and ways of keeping Canada going strong, will once again be top of mind at the Conservatives’ upcoming national caucus meeting.

“The main things that are going to likely be on the agenda are: the economy, the economy, with a side order of the economy,” said Jim Armour, vice-president of public affairs for Summa Strategies and former senior Hill staffer.

Cuts to free Parliamentary tours means less access for Canadians: Liberal MP Simms

Canadians will have less access to Parliament with cutbacks to free, informed tours which is a “shame,” says an opposition MP who wants to know why there was no consultation on the matter.

“I think it’s a shame that they are doing that. I don’t know where the consultation was done. I was never asked as an MP about if direct savings have to be done, where it will come from,” said Liberal MP Scott Simms (Bonavista-Gander-Grand Falls-Windsor, Nfld.), his party’s heritage critic. “What’s sad about the over-arching theme of the cuts is lack of consultation.”

Senior Merkel ally sends stark warning to Greece

A senior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party issued a stark warning to Greece on Monday, saying Germany would not hesitate to veto further aid to the country if there were any signs it was not meeting the conditions of its bailout.

The comments, by the deputy parliamentary leader of Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) Michael Fuchs, are a sign that frustration with Greece among ruling party lawmakers is nearing the breaking point.

Why Germany shuns Canada’s debt model

Angela Merkel may be thinking about the Canadian example right now, and not in a good way.

The German Chancellor will be in Canada on Wednesday and Thursday for talks with Prime Minister Stephen Harper about a proposed Canada-European Union free trade agreement. They will also, of course, discuss the state of things in Europe. That is where the unhappy Canadian precedent comes in.

Many observers expect the chronic European debt crisis to become acute this fall. Push could come to shoved-out-of-the-euro for Greece. Spain and Portugal are also increasingly insolvent. Ireland continues to struggle, and Italy can’t meet its deficit-reduction targets because of a worsening recession.

eHealth CEO Greg Reed takes $81,250 bonus while staff sue for theirs

The man brought in to lead eHealth Ontario following a scandal that rocked the Liberal government will get a bonus of about 25 per cent on top of his $329,000 salary this year, while staff at the agency have turned to the courts to get back the bonuses they were promised but denied.

EHealth president and CEO Greg Reed will be paid a bonus of $81,250 this year, agency spokesman Robert Mitchell confirmed Sunday.