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, September 06, 2012

Mulcair begins two-year countdown: NDP ready to run Canada by 2014, leader claims

ST. JOHN’S, NL. — The NDP must be primed for an election and ready to form government by 2014, Leader Tom Mulcair told his team Wednesday, noting the “two-year countdown” starts when the Parliamentary session begins later this month.

“It’s the fall of 2012 and we’re heading into this fall session ready to take on a very tough adversary in Ottawa, stand up for the things we’ve always worked so hard for in our political careers — a fairer Canada, a better Canada for everyone,” he said in his opening remarks to caucus during a strategy session in Newfoundland.

Tory MP calls for new rules that would allow public servants to opt out of union dues

An Ottawa-area Conservative MP says Canada’s largest union of federal public servants shouldn’t have endorsed separatist parties during the Quebec election and is calling for new rules allowing members to opt out of paying dues.

The proposal from MP Pierre Poilievre is similar to “right-to-work” legislation that has been adopted by more than 20 U.S. states, provoking heated debate and resistance from unions.

How Canada helped make Honduras the violence and impunity capital of the world

There is no end in sight to violence and repression in Honduras. There is no end in sight to the impunity and corruption with which the powerful economic, military and political sectors act.

There is also no end in sight to American and Canadian governments and businesses maintaining political, economic and military relations with the Honduras, empowering and legitimizing the regime. American and Canadian businesses and investors are, in effect, benefiting from the repression, violence, corruption and impunity.

Charest's defeat is a victory for students

"In politics, the victories are never as bright as you would like. We must make do. But for the moment, we should not be embarrassed to say that we won: the [tuition] increase will be set aside, Bill 12 also... and Jean Charest has resigned." - Former CLASSE co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois

There is so much to say about last night's election, it's hard to know where to begin. Before the results had sunk in came news of a tragic shooting at the PQ's Metropolis party. A clearly deranged man, wearing a bathrobe and shouting, in French, about Anglos waking up, took the life of one man, and left another in hospital. Our thoughts go out to the victims and their families, and, as always, we wonder how a non-automatic AK-47 could possibly be legal. But enough ink has been spilled on the act of a lone maniac, so I'll stick to the election.

Rob Ford vs. Clayton Ruby -- ‘I don’t recall,’ was the mantra during Toronto Mayor’s day in courtroom 6-1

There was this morning a certain Inherit the Wind anticipation in the atmosphere outside courtroom 6-1, atop Toronto’s 361 University Ave. courthouse.

Above the crush of gathered reporters, the Buddy Holly-spectacle-wearing blogistas with jauntily disheveled hair and ironic ties, and the just plain morbidly curious, there was the sense that cross-examination sparks would soon fly, that a great legal mind would scalpel the fat from the muscle of truth or that–just maybe–Mayor Rob Ford would unleash himself on Clayton Ruby, LL.B, LL.M., for the gleeful benefit of anti-swell fantasists and pro-willful-ignorance enthusiasts everywhere.

Finley blames faulty facts for EI fears

Human Resources Minister Diane Finley says concerns being raised over controversial changes to employment insurance stem from misinformation and a lack of understanding.

Finley was scheduled to arrive in P.E.I. Wednesday, but her plane was diverted due to poor weather. She was supposed to meet with P.E.I. Innovation Minister Allen Roach to discuss the province's ongoing concerns over changes to the EI system being rolled out by the federal government.

Canada not an ‘energy superpower’: report

Canada’s claim to energy superpower status rings hollow because the country is a laggard when it comes to developing and exporting its own technology, according to a new report.

The country is falling dangerously behind in the multibillion-dollar global energy technology race, hobbled by “piecemeal and fragmented” government policies and programs, says the report by the Mowat Centre at the University of Toronto, slated to be released Thursday.

Ottawa’s approach to a PQ Quebec? More stick than carrot

There were three reasons that a plethora of cabinet ministers fanned out across Canada Wednesday reannouncing federal spending that had already been promised.

The first was to emphasize that it was business as usual in the Harper government, despite the Parti Québécois victory Tuesday night.

The second was to send a message to the incoming government in Quebec: that whatever Pauline Marois may be about to demand, the answer is no.

Wall has had talks with PM

Brad Wall says despite the election of the Parti Quebecois, he has personal assurances from Prime Minister Stephen Harper that Quebec will not get any special treatment from the federal government.

"I think the country has changed significantly since there was last a PQ government in place in Quebec," Wall told reporters Wednesday. "The country has changed to the point that our expectations of the federal government is that they will continue to treat the provinces in an even-handed way and that there isn't special treatment for any province - Quebec or any other jurisdiction in Canada."

Food Insecurity A Problem Among Ballooning Number In U.S.: Report

WASHINGTON, Sept 5 (Reuters) - The number of poor Americans who repeatedly ran short of food shot up by 800,000 in 2011 to nearly 17 million compared with 2010, the U.S. government said on Wednesday.

The Department of Agriculture said in a report that about 5.5 percent of Americans, or nearly 17 million, suffered "very low food security" last year, meaning they had to skip meals or not eat for a day because of a lack of money to buy food. That is a rise of 800,000 over the prior year, it said.

Canada’s 120-year-old spanking law unlikely to change despite doctors’ protest: Justice Department

While it was once a doctor-sanctioned cure-all for disobedience, delinquency and even psychopathy, child-spanking has received official censure from Canada’s leading medical journal, which Tuesday called it an “anachronistic excuse for poor parenting.”

“Parents need to be re-educated as to how to discipline their children,” wrote John Fletcher, editor-in-chief of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, in an editorial calling for the repeal of Section 43, a controversial passage in the Criminal Code that authorizes spanking provided it is “reasonable under the circumstances.”

Enbridge pipeline hearing focuses on economic benefits

EDMONTON - Under fire from Alberta unions, Enbridge said Tuesday its proposed Northern Gateway pipeline will not cause job losses in the refining sector though it will be affected by higher prices for crude oil that will result if the pipeline goes ahead.

As the federal hearing on the project entered its final stages, the Alberta Federation of Labour questioned the company’s panel of well known energy economists about the impact of exporting 585,000 barrels of bitumen a day to China rather than upgrading and refining it in Canada.

The Finnish model: A beacon for education reform?

For the last decade, Finland’s success on international tests has caught the attention of education policymakers around the world. What is it about this small Nordic nation that has led to its students’ high performance in science, math and reading assessments? Are there lessons for other countries, such as Canada? Pasi Sahlberg, a former teacher and education expert, endeavours to answer these questions in Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?

What is most perplexing for international experts is that Finland has produced top-performing students while eschewing market-based education reforms premised on competition and standardized tests. “Finland is an example of a nation that lacks school inspection, standardized curriculum, high-stakes student assessments, test-based accountability, and a race-to-the-top mentality with regard to educational change,” Sahlberg explains.

Premier refuses, again, to testify before ORNGE probe

Premier Dalton McGuinty has refused a second request to testify before an all-party committee probing the ORNGE disaster.

Not only has the premier refused, House Leader John Milloy and the premier’s senior health policy advisor Sophia Ikura also did not accept invitations to appear before the probe on Wednesday.

Despite claims that the Liberals want to get to the bottom of the air ambulance scandal, charged Progressive Conservative MPP Christine Elliott, all they are doing is blocking progress.

Canadian Auto Workers Strike Could Hit All 3 Detroit Automakers At Once

TORONTO - Workers need to be ready to shut down the Canadian operations of the Big 3 Detroit automakers if a deal can't be reached at the bargaining table, the Canadian Auto Workers' union told its members Wednesday.

"It is our hope and intention to reach an agreement with at least one of the three companies before the deadline," the union said in a news release.

Government User Fees: Canada Rakes In $8 Billion In 2010-11, Double Previous Year

OTTAWA - The federal government has made much about its record in cutting taxes, but a new report shows it is making out like a bandit on user fees.

Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page's report on user fees shows Ottawa raked in just over $8 billion in the 2010-11 fiscal year.

That represents only a small portion of what it gets from taxes, but it's more than double the $3.4 billion it got from user fees a decade earlier.

TransCanada Submits New Environment Report On Keystone XL To Nebraskan Authorities

CALGARY - TransCanada Corp. has submitted a report to Nebraska environmental authorities outlining another revised route for its contentious Keystone XL oil pipeline.

"TransCanada shares the goal of protecting key water and natural resources with Nebraskans," said company CEO Russ Girling in a release.

"The identified route, along with our commitment to implement additional safety requirements above and beyond those required for any other pipeline, ensures the protection of Nebraska's resources."

Vladimir Putin Reportedly To Fly On Hang-Glider, Wear Fake Beak With Siberian Cranes

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin is reportedly planning to put on a fake beak and fly a motorized hang-glider to lead a flock of endangered young Siberian white cranes on part of their migration to Asia.

The cranes, raised in captivity, do not know how to fly south, and environmentalists have to devise an imitation lead crane to show them the way.

Budget watchdog to detail impact of government cutbacks

Fed up with the lack of transparency, Canada’s budget watchdog says he will publish his own analysis of the impact of government cutbacks on programs and the bureaucracy.

Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page says he will release quarterly reports starting later this month on the effects of $37-billion in cutbacks announced in the past three budgets.

Trudeau, LeBlanc front runner prospective candidates in Liberal leadership race

MONTEBELLO, QUE.—Two high-profile MPs who were “born” into Liberal politics emerged as the most prominent prospective candidates for the party’s imminent leadership race during discussions and news appearances at the Liberal Parliamentary caucus retreat on Wednesday.

MP Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) took care to avoid a direct encounter with a healthy pack of hovering reporters, arriving quietly as almost the last of Liberal MPs and Senators to enter the caucus meeting room before a keynote speech from Interim Leader Bob Rae (Toronto Centre, Ont.). Mr. Trudeau paused only for a second, long enough to politely tell The Hill Times he wasn’t discussing leadership, before his assistant nudged him toward the caucus room doors as reporters began turning toward him.

Judge must punish Rob Ford without punishing voters

Rob Ford, the persecuted? Please.

Rather, as Toronto’s mayor approaches the half-way point of his mayoralty, he is politically suicidal and dangerously in need of protection — from himself.

Ford, 43, appeared in front of Justice Charles Hackland in a University Ave. court Wednesday morning, charged with conflict of interest in a matter that perfectly sums up the befuddling construct that is the city’s chief magistrate.

Kuwaiti company in joint venture talks with Athabasca

CALGARY—Athabasca Oil Corp. confirmed Friday that it is in the early stages of forming a joint venture for two of its Alberta oilsands properties.

The news follows a published report that Kuwait’s state-owned petroleum company is looking to invest as much as $4 billion in an oilsands partnership.

The newspaper quoted Kuwait’s Ambassador to Canada, Ali al-Sammak, as saying the deal should be finalized by October.

Gulf Oil Spill 2010: U.S. Department Of Justice Accuses BP Of 'Gross Negligence And Willful Misconduct'

WASHINGTON, Sept 4 (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department is ramping up its rhetoric against BP PLC for the massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, describing in new court papers examples of what it calls "gross negligence and willful misconduct."

The court filing is the sharpest position yet taken by the U.S. government as it seeks to hold the British oil giant largely responsible for the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

At GOP Fundraiser with Billionaires, Karl Rove Maps 2012 Strategy and Jokes of Murdering Todd Akin

Last week, Bloomberg Businessweek reporter Sheelah Kolhatkar attended an exclusive fundraiser on the final day of the Republican National Convention. Speaking to a group of hedge fund billionaires and investors at the event, top GOP strategist Karl Rove joked about murdering Missouri Senate hopeful Todd Akin and laid out his strategy for winning the 2012 presidential election. Kolhatkar joins us to discuss Rove’s event.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

Bede Vanderhorst, Teen With Down Syndrome, Was Not Allowed To Fly First Class

A Southern California family decided to splurge on first-class plane tickets for the first time but were denied entry onto the plane because their son has Down Syndrome, they claim.

Joan and Robert Vanderhorst had flown without issue with their 16-year-old son Bede, who has Down Syndrome, at least 30 times, Robert told the New York Daily News.

This time, on a "lark," they decided to spend an extra $625 to fly first class. "My wife said, 'Oh Bede's never flown first class. He'll be so excited,'" Robert recounted.

Canada Emissions Rules: Peter Kent, Environment Minister, To Lower The Bar For Coal-Fired Power

OTTAWA - After a year of tough negotiations with companies and premiers that tested Ottawa's resolve to fight climate change, Environment Minister Peter Kent is finally ready to present the final version of regulations to curtail greenhouse gas emissions from the coal-fired electricity sector.

Kent is travelling to Saskatoon today to present a weaker version of the regulations he drafted a year ago, The Canadian Press has learned.

Multiple sources say the new performance standard for coal plants will not be as strict as initially proposed.

Ethanol and how governments bought a cleverly-packaged scam

Remember Corn Cob Bob?

The goofy-looking mascot for the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association — a farmer’s body with a bright yellow corn cob head — was ubiquitous a few years ago. So was his creator Kory Teneycke, executive director of the association.

They showed up farmers’ markets, fall fairs and holiday celebrations promoting ethanol. Then they started appearing at political events alongside MPs and cabinet ministers.

It was one of the most effective marketing campaigns in recent memory. By 2005, three provinces — Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario — had set mandatory standards for ethanol in gasoline. In 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made it national; all Canadian gasoline and diesel had to contain 5 per cent ethanol. In 2008, he appointed he appointed Teneycke as communications director.

Higher food prices may not hurt Canadian shoppers

Bad weather across much of the United States and parts of Europe is driving up the cost of some food stuffs, but Canadian consumers are not expected to feel the full effect.

Corn and soybean production in the U.S. has been cut by up to 13 per cent this summer because of drought and prices for those commodities have jumped by as much as 40 per cent since June. Poor weather in Ukraine, Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe has hurt wheat crops and sent wheat prices up 36 per cent this year. The question now is how hard those rising prices will hit consumers.

It’s Party Time: Corporations, Donors with Billions at Stake Fund Lavish Events at DNC

The celebratory mood in Charlotte was on display Tuesday night as thousands of delegates kicked off the Democratic National Convention and millions watched on TV. But the political party continues beyond what the public sees on prime-time broadcasts or even inside the convention center. There are exclusive events underway that range from corporate-sponsored parties hosted by the powerful Democratic Governors Association to a Super-O-Rama party hosted by the the three top Democratic super PACs, where the recommended contribution starts at $25,000. We’re joined by the Sunlight Foundation’s Liz Bartolomeo, who has been keeping an eye on the hundreds of events reserved for big donors and powerful figures.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Bids Are In (Again) For The Canadian Forces Close Combat Vehicle

The bids are in for the Close Combat Vehicle (CCV). At least one company, Nexter Systems, has confirmed it has submitted a bid in response to the government’s Request for Proposals.

Nexter will offer the VBCI 25 – a platform currently in service with the French Army in both Afghanistan and Lebanon, according to the company.

“The VBCI is a state of the art platform with an excellent combination of protection, mobility and firepower” Patrick Lier, Nexter’s Vice President, Sales & Business Development, North America, noted in a statement released Tuesday. “Perhaps its most significant feature is its thick aluminum alloy hull which provides unparalleled protection against mines and IEDs.”

Ottawa to unveil weakened emissions rules for coal-fired power

After a year of tough negotiations with companies and premiers that tested Ottawa’s resolve to fight climate change, Environment Minister Peter Kent is finally ready to present the final version of regulations to curtail greenhouse gas emissions from the coal-fired electricity sector.

Mr. Kent is travelling to Saskatoon Wednesday to present a weaker version of the regulations he drafted a year ago, The Canadian Press has learned.

NDP out to prove they have the team to form government

ST JOHN’S — The NDP is out to start proving to Canadians this fall that it is indeed a bona fide government-in-waiting and a big part of that means demonstrating that it’s got a cabinet-ready team that can run the country.

New Democrats began gathering in St. John’s Tuesday to map out the party’s plan for the Parliamentary session — a new beginning, they say, since the party spent much of its first year dealing with the transition to official Opposition status with a large crop of neophyte MPs, the death of Jack Layton and the leadership race that followed.

Embodying the values of a new progressive economy

A decade ago, the liberation theologian Frei Betto and the ecosocialist Michael Löwy wrote an article for the 2002 World Social Forum titled "Values for a New Civilization." They pointed out that the current neoliberal order is essentially dominated by a religion of profit: this system of beliefs has its churches (the stock markets), its Holy Offices (the World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund and World Bank), its theologian (Adam Smith), a vast clergy (orthodox economists) that defends its principles, and a variety of instruments to persecute its heretics (all those who oppose the faith). Betto and Löwy contended that the quantitative values of this neoliberal creed should be replaced with a qualitative ethics of solidarity.

Harper cautions PQ government not to revisit ‘old battles’

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper congratulated the Parti Quebecois on Tuesday on its electoral victory but warned its new separatist premier against renewing past constitutional wars.

The message was delivered in a written statement from Harper about an hour after it became clear that PQ leader Pauline Marois had won the election.

Throughout the campaign, Harper had remained studiously quiet. His spokesmen said it was up to the people of Quebec to determine their own future.

Quebec election results: What PQ minority rule will mean

hereThe results of the Quebec election are bad news for the winners. Pauline Marois and the Parti Québecois expected to win a majority (63 seats) of the 125 seats. Instead, they fell short (55 seats) winning only 32 per cent of the vote, the second lowest PQ share of the popular vote in the nine elections, since forming government for the first time in 1976 with 41 per cent of the vote.

Voter turnout was impressive at more than 73 per cent, sharply up from the last election when it was less than 60 per cent.

With the PQ in Quebec, can Canada afford a national leader with no national vision?

With the PQ back in power in Quebec City, no matter how tenuously, one prays Stephen Harper can overcome his tin Albertan ear for the aspirations of Quebeckers and his Americanized party's predilection to appeal to the basest instincts in English Canada.

The auguries are not promising.

Face it, "just saying No" is no strategy to save a country. Nevertheless, just saying No is apparently the best Harper can come up with for dealing with a Parti Quebecois government led by Pauline Marois -- which we now have thanks to Jean Charest's cynical campaign to save his rotten provincial government's Canadian bacon by pleading national unity.

Mulcair's NDP plots new course amid Quebec’s PQ minority

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair says the fact that the Parti Québécois was limited to a minority in Tuesday's Quebec provincial election means the separatist government will be limited in its ability to press for sovereignty.

If that proves to be the case, it may make the road ahead less challenging for Mr. Mulcair’s New Democrats.

PQ Leader Pauline Marois has said she will move quickly to demand more powers for Quebec from Ottawa. But Mr. Mulcair, who is attending a two-day meeting of his caucus in St. John’s, said he does not foresee a “rattling” of the sovereignty cage anytime in the near future.

McGuinty pleads with teachers to accept ‘pause’ in pay hike

Teachers are mad as hell at Premier Dalton McGuinty and he doesn’t blame them one bit.

Even though teachers’ compensation has increased by 25 per cent since he was elected in 2003 and working conditions have improved with smaller class sizes and higher test scores, McGuinty says he appreciates why they are angry that he’s freezing their pay and curbing their collective bargaining rights.

Windmills, trains and Dalton McGuinty’s tin ear

Ontario outside of Greater Toronto is not universally happy with Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals. This is understatement.

In North Bay, there is palpable anger at McGuinty’s decision to shut down the government-owned Ontario Northland Railway, a mainstay of the city since 1902.

In an unusually confrontational move, the president of the local chamber of commerce has called on Northern Development Minister Rick Bartolucci to resign over the decision — one expected to affect about 1,000 jobs.

Over to you, Mr. Harper, after PQ victory in Quebec election

Quebec did not vote for an independent Quebec in Tuesday’s election. The vote for the Parti Québécois was a narrow vote for change after nine years of Jean Charest’s Liberal government, that is all. But by electing a minority government headed by Pauline Marois, Quebeckers have effectively ended the moderation that has characterized relations between Quebec and other parts of Canada. The insouciance toward Quebec exhibited by the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper must also end.

Charest has only himself to blame for Quebec election defeat

Jean Charest was not the first political leader, and he will not be the last, to fall in love with his success and to believe that it could continue. Hubris blinded him to his weaknesses such that it took the Quebec electorate to tear the veil from his eyes Tuesday night, defeating his Liberal government. Mr. Charest appeared to have lost his Sherbrooke seat, to add insult to injury.

Nonetheless, the victory of the Parti Québécois was like the proverbial kiss from your sister. The PQ, facing an unpopular government led by a Premier tempting fate in trying for a fourth mandate, mustered only about a third of the vote – hardly a mandate for jubilation. If that were the best result the PQ could harvest, under such favourable circumstances, it does not provide much encouragement for the idea that within the next few years the PQ could organize a referendum and remove Quebec from Canada.

Tragedy strikes PQ election party, one shot dead

MONTREAL – A celebration of the Parti Québécois’ return to power was shattered Tuesday — first by a political disappointment, then by a stunning tragedy.

The party won a minority government with a weaker-than-desired result, of 54 seats won out of 125, that could severely limit its ability to pursue its independence agenda.

A victory speech by premier-in-waiting Pauline Marois was then marred by an exceptionally ugly scene: she was whisked off the stage by guards during an attack in which two people were shot, one was killed, and a fire was set behind the hall where she spoke.