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.]

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Climate Change Deaths Could Total 100 Million By 2030 If World Fails To Act

LONDON, Sept 26 (Reuters) - More than 100 million people will die and global economic growth will be cut by 3.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030 if the world fails to tackle climate change, a report commissioned by 20 governments said on Wednesday.

As global average temperatures rise due to greenhouse gas emissions, the effects on the planet, such as melting ice caps, extreme weather, drought and rising sea levels, will threaten populations and livelihoods, said the report conducted by humanitarian organisation DARA.

The Massachusetts Senate Race Gets Ugly, Fast

Last week’s debate between Senator Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren showcased each candidates strategy for the final stretch, in what polls show is a very close race: Warren, as John Nichols wrote, smoothly made the case that even if voters like Brown, his re-election could return Republicans to the very crucial control of the Senate.

Brown, meanwhile, telegraphed his strategy pretty clearly in his opening statement. He spent almost all of it hitting Warren over the silly “Cherokee” controversy, and derisively referred to her as “professor” throughout the debate. (At some points during her professional career, Warren claimed on forms or to employers that she has Native American heritage, which is true—though it’s only one-thirty-second of her lineage. But she never used it to get hired under any sort of affirmative action program, and her employers have said it was always irrelevant. So this amounts to a big nothing-burger).

Why I Refuse to Vote for Barack Obama

Tell certain liberals and progressives that you can't bring yourself to vote for a candidate who opposes gay rights, or who doesn't believe in Darwinian evolution, and they'll nod along. Say that you'd never vote for a politician caught using the 'n'-word, even if you agreed with him on more policy issues than his opponent, and the vast majority of left-leaning Americans would understand. But these same people cannot conceive of how anyone can discern Mitt Romney's flaws, which I've chronicled in the course of the campaign, and still not vote for Obama.

More Guns, More Mass Shootings—Coincidence?

In the fierce debate that always follows the latest mass shooting, it's an argument you hear frequently from gun rights promoters: If only more people were armed, there would be a better chance of stopping these terrible events. This has plausibility problems—what are the odds that, say, a moviegoer with a pack of Twizzlers in one pocket and a Glock in the other would be mentally prepared, properly positioned, and skilled enough to take out a body-armored assailant in a smoke- and panic-filled theater? But whether you believe that would happen is ultimately a matter of theory and speculation. Instead, let's look at some facts gathered in a two-month investigation by Mother Jones.

Worst Prime Minister: Harper Most Popular Choice In New Poll Of Leaders Since 1968

More than a quarter of Canadians think Stephen Harper is the worst prime minister since 1968, according to a new poll from Angus Reid.

The findings come hot on the heels of a poll from Abacus Data which found 50 per cent of Canadians disapprove of Harper. The findings also agree with an informal poll on the best prime minister ever conducted by HuffPost Canada earlier this year in which readers ranked Harper dead last.

In the Angus Reid survey, Harper was judged most harshly by Atlantic Canadians, Quebecers and British Columbians.

Original Article
Source: huffington post
Author: The Huffington Post Canada

Ontario Property Tax Hike Will See Homeowners Pay 18 Per Cent More Over 4 Years

PICKERING, Ont. — Ontario homeowners will see the determined value of their houses rise 4.5 per cent in each of the next four years — and may face tax increases as a result — following a report that found property values have risen 18 per cent since the last update in 2008.

The report released Tuesday by Ontario's Municipal Property Assessment Corp. said property owners will see an average assessment increase of 4.5 per cent in each year for the next four years as it phases in the increases.

22 Minutes Mocks Rob Ford's Geography

22 Minutes is joining the widespread mockery of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford for confusing Winnipeg and Windsor on a trip to Chicago last week.

On Tuesday night's episode, cast member Mark Critch shows us how a map of North America looks to Ford. Let's just say poutine, NFL football and Ford Nation are involved in the cartography.

Ford, and his brother Councillor Doug Ford, have been giving satirists plenty of material to work with over the past few weeks.

Toronto's mayor has been under fire for allegedly using city resources to help run a football team he coaches and for reportedly making sure the road in front of his family's business was repaired ahead of schedule.

On Sunday, the Brothers Ford lashed out against the media on their radio show. On Monday, Councillor Ford referred to the media as "pricks."

Perhaps, Marg Delahunty should pay Councillor Ford a visit.

Last year, Mayor Ford called the police after 22 Minutes contributor Mary Walsh showed up at his house for an unscheduled interview dressed as her alter ego, warrior princess Marg Delahunty.

We think she would have a good time with Doug as well.

    This Hour Has 22 Minutes airs on CBC TV Tuesday nights at 8:30 p.m. Catch more clips of the show on Facebook and Twitter.

Original Article
Source: huffington post

Arctic Sea Ice Coverage 'At Lowest Level For A Million Years', Says Researcher

Sea ice in the Arctic has melted to below four-million square kilometres, the lowest it has been for a million years, according to a noted sea ice geophysicist and climatologist.

Professor John Yackel from the University of Calgary said: "This is the smallest minimum ice extent we've ever had, and not just in the satellite record, but probably in the last million years."

Revamped Canadian Wheat Board faces 1st test

The Canadian Wheat Board is facing its first test in the open market, competing with other grain companies to get farmers' business this fall.

The federal Conservative government stripped the agency of its monopoly on wheat and barley sales in August, meaning Prairie producers can sell their grain to the board or to other companies.

Staff at the Winnipeg-based CWB are now trying to convince farmers to sign up for its early delivery wheat pool by a Friday deadline, as it seeks a high buy-in rate to prove it is still relevant in the open market.

MacKay accused of trying to undercut military ombudsman

Defence Minister Peter MacKay brushed aside concerns the Conservative government is trying to undercut the role of the Canadian Forces ombudsman, saying he, as minister, can be relied on to stand up for the country’s soldiers.

A battle has been brewing between Canadian Forces Ombudsman Pierre Daigle and the senior military leadership, who now say they don’t recognize the military watchdog’s authority over some of the complaints soldiers bring to the ombudsman’s office.

On Monday, MacKay also warned Daigle not to advocate on behalf of the soldiers.

Citizenship Minister Jason Kenney wants MPs to decide when human life begins

What would I do without Jason Kenney? He’s not the gift that keeps on giving, he’s the gift that keeps forcing itself on you.

He’s like your mother who sends you clippings she thinks might interest you, which coincidentally are always ways to change your life in ways that have been anathema since you burst out of rural Saskatchewan to make the big city your home. But you’re polite because you know she wants the best for you.

Unions fear reforms to public service pensions raise spectre of “two-tier” workforce

OTTAWA — The Conservatives’ pension reforms will create the first “two-tier” workforce within Canada’s public service that will force all new hires to work longer than their colleagues to receive a full pension.

The government’s plan to increase the age of retirement to 65 for all new hires could be the most controversial change to the pension plan that’s expected to be shortly introduced in a second omnibus budget implementation bill.

CNOOC-Nexen Deal: Chinese Company Heavily Invested In Iran, Calls Itself 'Strategic Weapon'

A majority of Canadians are already opposed to the takeover of Alberta’s Nexen by the Chinese state-owned oil company CNOOC, and the latest news on that front is not likely to make many people change their mind.

A report Monday in the Financial Times highlighted a seemingly overlooked fact about CNOOC: That the company is working on a natural gas project in Iran, with whom Canada recently broke diplomatic relations, and that it sees at least some of its operations as being a “strategic weapon.”

Protect Canadian ownership of oil sands firms, executives urge

Top oil industry executives are asking Ottawa for rules to protect Canadian ownership of major oil sands companies from a flood of foreign investment expected in the sector.

Canada’s oil sands contain the third-largest crude oil reserves in the world and are a strategically critical resource for the country, industry executives argue. They support the proposed $15.1-billion acquisition of Nexen Inc. by China’s CNOOC Ltd., but note the deal signals growing foreign interest in the oil sands and insist Ottawa needs to ensure a substantial level of domestic ownership as more deals loom.

Study Finds U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan Miss Militant Targets and "Terrorize" Civilians

A new report on the secret U.S. drone war in Pakistan says the attacks have killed far more civilians than acknowledged, traumatized a nation and undermined international law. In "Living Under Drones," researchers conclude the drone strikes "terrorize men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities." The study concludes that most of the militants killed in the strikes have been low-level targets whose deaths have failed to make the United States any safer. Just 2 percent of drone attack victims are said to be top militant leaders. We’re joined by report authors James Cavallaro, director of the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic at Stanford University, and Sarah Knuckey, professor at New York University School of Law and former adviser to the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

Fetus-rights motion deepens Tory rift on abortion

A backbench MP’s motion to study the legal rights of the fetus is drawing attention to the personal beliefs of some Conservatives as they weigh the cost of opening the debate over when human life begins.

Stephen Woodworth’s motion seeks to create a parliamentary committee to consider the question, which he argues has never been adequately studied in Canada. But critics see the move as a thinly veiled attempt to reopen the debate on abortion, something Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised not to do during the last election campaign.

Motion 312 and reproductive rights: Pay attention to what Tories do, not to what they say

In this era of routine political deceit, wise voters are advised to pay attention to what their elected representatives actually do, not what they say.

So when Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative Party of Canada tries to have it both ways on abortion in the debate surrounding Kitchener Centre MP Stephen Woodworth's Motion 312, which would have Parliament "study" the point at which a baby becomes a human being, this strategy should be seen for what it is: an effort to chip away at women's reproductive rights through the Parliamentary back door.

Tory heavy Jason Kenney says he's voting for it. Prime Minster Harper says he'll vote against it. But by allowing the vote to proceed later today they are tossing a hunk of red meat to their hard-right social conservative base, which would ban abortion outright in a moment if it ever got the chance.

Kenney and the mass email saga: You learn something new every day

Every so often I wake up and think that today is the day I finally *get* mainstream Canadians. Been here for almost seven years now, and been keeping a close watch on them for a while, so I must have finally grasped them. And then suddenly, boom, something happens and I am caught scratching my head.

This happened to me early this week. Many of my friends and I received the now infamous email from Kenney titled LGBT refugees from Iran. I skimmed it, and deleted it.

As I told anyone who would listen, of course Kenney would data mine petitions to get people's emails and send then targeted emails. If only many of the groups I work with had the resources to do that. No biggie, case closed, I said.

Thousands Surround Spanish Parliament in Bid to "Occupy Congress" and Stop Austerity

Thousands of people surrounded the Spanish Parliament in Madrid on Tuesday to protest austerity measures and the loss of public confidence in elected leaders. The "Occupy Congress" protest came as the conservative administration of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy prepares to unveil further austerity measures on Thursday. After hours of protest, police in riot gear charged against demonstrators with batons and fired rubber bullets. Thirty-five people were arrested, and at least 60 people were injured. We go to Madrid to speak with independent journalist Maria Carrion.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

The Commons: The PM, the UN and QP

The Scene. John Baird stood and waved to the crowd. The Prime Minister had just identified Mr. Baird as the Canadian official who will be addressing the United Nations this week and the Foreign Affairs Minister—with Mr. Harper still speaking, mind you—rose in his spot and welcomed everyone’s recognition and adulation.

Alas, Thomas Mulcair was not reassured by the promise of Mr. Baird’s presence. “Mr Speaker, he’s busy photocopying his speech at the British embassy,” he chided.

Political parties operate outside Canada's privacy laws

In 2011, about 10,000 people signed a petition addressed to Jason Kenney and his ministry, Citizenship and Immigration, demanding that Alvaro Orozco, a young Nicaraguan who was facing deportation, be allowed to stay in Canada.

Orozco, a gay artist, did avoid deportation, but that petition is back in the news after Kenney sent out an email extolling what the government of Canada has been doing on "gay and lesbian refugee protection."

It startled many in the gay community that a federal minister had their contact information at his disposal. It also pulled back the covers on the use of personal data and, in particular, the lack of Canadian laws governing what personal information Canadian political parties are allowed to keep and exploit, essentially as they see fit.

CSIS report raises a question to be asked about the CNOOC-Nexen deal

Foreign espionage is surely not a “net benefit to Canada.” That phrase is the essential criterion for the approval of takeovers by foreign companies, under the Investment Canada Act. It is striking that the most recent annual report of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, released last Thursday, implicitly draws a connection between foreign-investment policy and security and intelligence – a point that decision-makers and policy-makers need to bear in mind.

Nexen deal called dangerous precedent

The man who famously flung open Canada’s doors to foreign investment 27 years ago is speaking out against a Chinese state-owned petroleum company’s takeover bid for a major Alberta oil producer.

Sinclair Stevens was industry minister in the mid-1980s when the Mulroney government undertook a major rewrite of the rules governing foreign buyouts of homegrown companies.

Prison syringe ban: HIV advocates file suit against federal government

A former inmate and a group of HIV advocacy organizations are suing the federal government for its ban on distributing sterile needles in prisons.

Steven Simons, incarcerated from 1998 to 2010 in Ontario’s Warkworth prison, says he contracted hepatitis C when he shared his drug injection equipment with another inmate.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday names the Correctional Service of Canada and its commissioner, the public safety minister and the attorney general of Canada.

Northern pipeline could jeopardize ancient, endangered sturgeon

VANCOUVER—One of the most powerful foes of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline through northern British Columbia is not a lawyer or a conservation group or any of the many First Nations who have lined up against the project.

It’s a very large, very, very old fish.

The Nechako white sturgeon is listed as an endangered species under the federal Species At Risk Act, a designation which is supposed to legally protect the sturgeon’s habitat so the species can recover.

The pipeline is planned to cross the Stewart and Endako rivers, where the highly imperilled species — there are estimated to be only 335 left — live.

Harper rewrites the rules of democracy

Prime Minister Stephen Harper caught Canadians off-guard in April when he sprang a massive, multi-part budget implementation bill on the nation.

Bill C-38, weighing in at 425 pages, went far beyond enacting the provisions of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s 2012 budget. It changed 70 different laws covering everything from environmental reviews to the role of charities. It authorized spending cuts worth $5 billion without telling the public where the axe would fall. (Treasury Board President Tony Clement was to provide details later — but still hasn’t.) The legislation was rammed through the House of Commons before MPs had finished scrutinizing it.