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.]

Friday, October 05, 2012

'Charter Cities' and escalating human rights violations in Honduras: Will Canadian investment continue?

Canada's economic plot for Honduras is wavering. The "Charter Cities" initiative that Harper's Conservatives have been discreetly championing for months has erupted in a constitutional challenge and a flurry of human rights abuses.

Yesterday, NDP MP for Toronto-Danforth Craig Scott submitted a letter to Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Diane Ablonczy regarding recent violence in Honduras and links to Canadian investment.

Health Canada tight-lipped on Champix suicides

Heidi Clow was on a health kick.

The 22-year-old Canadian navy steward worked out religiously during her foreign deployment with a tactical team that boarded vessels and searched for contraband.

She watched what she ate and studied the labels of any medication she or her friends were taking. When a doctor told her she shouldn’t be smoking while on birth control, she decided to try to quit.

Mayor Rob Ford’s allies sink to a new low

For nearly five hours Thursday, Toronto city council exposed its nasty underside with such maniacal relish that only a tiny ombudsman with sturdy spine stood between the elected weasels and a disgusted public.

Fiona Crean, barely five feet tall, towered over her ill-mannered adversaries — deflecting their poisonous pronouncements with the ease of an accomplished fencer.

Pity the public service that labour beneath the club of the current administration, an outfit that governs through threats and intimidation. If you are the head of the TTC and you share a view opposite the mayor’s, you are fired, as was Gary Webster.

Conservatives Doubt Jobs Numbers Following Strong Report

WASHINGTON -- Following an unexpectedly strong jobs report Friday showing unemployment falling to 7.8 percent and 114,000 new jobs added, conservative media figures and one prominent business leader quickly latched on to conspiracy theories about the veracity of the numbers.

Call it jobs-numbers trutherism. And for the sake of historical record, its origin was a tweet from former General Electric CEO Jack Welch.

Northern Gateway: A Pipeline Without a Seatbelt

I cannot sum up all deficiencies in a short article but I believe Enbridge faces three critical engineering problems with its Northern Gateway proposal.

They include the quality of its pipe; the reliability of its welds and the thoroughness of its inspection systems on welding quality. Without quality, a small accident can become an uncontrollable disaster. In sum the science doesn't add up and British Columbia will get a pipeline transporting hazardous materials without concern for the fundamental material engineering to make the pipe safe for the long life of this asset.

Why the US Debates Won't Change Anyone's Mind

By most accounts, Wednesday night's presidential debate was one of the worst anybody could remember. Moderator Jim Lehrer, anchor of the PBS NewsHour, seemed largely absent, President Barack Obama brought little fight to the game, and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, presented a pile of lies that were left either unchallenged or ineffectively countered.

Add to that the barrage of numbers issued by each candidate, and you have the recipe for a very boring and dispiriting debate. And it was.

BC Education Plan Linked to Private Corporations

The government is proud of using citizen engagement and best practices to decide what and how to teach children in the BC Education Plan. But it's also engaging at least one not-for-profit organization whose partners include technology corporations and private foundations that favour private market solutions to issues in the public education system.

British Columbia is one of 12 "jurisdictions" of the Global Education Leaders' Program (GELP), a not-for-profit social enterprise organization based in the United Kingdom that according to its website is "committed to using the power of innovation to solve social challenges."

Inside the mayor’s brain

Our Expert Panel

Dr. Robert Feldman, author of The Liar in Your Life and a social psychologist and dean at the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Massachusetts, has studied deception for more than 25 years.
Dr. Robert Gardner, a Jungian analyst and past president of the C.G. Jung Foundation of Ontario.
Dr. Dan P. McAdams, narrative psychology researcher, professor of psychology at Northwestern University, and author of George W. Bush and the Redemptive Dream: A Psychological Portrait.

Canadian-Owned Firm Gives $1 Million to Romney Super-PAC, Raising Red Flags

A million-dollar donation by a foreign-owned corporation to a Republican super-PAC has raised legal concerns and opened up the controversial Citizens United Supreme Court decision to new criticism.

Restore Our Future, the super-PAC supporting Republican Mitt Romney's run for president, received a $1 million donation in mid-August from reinsurance company OdysseyRe of Connecticut, a "wholly-owned subsidiary" of Canadian insurance and investment management giant Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited.

Paul Ryan: "Let's Make This Country a Tax Shelter"

In 2010, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), now Mitt Romney's running mate, called the Cayman Islands "the place you hide your money," arguing that the United States needs to slash tax rates below those of other countries in order to make this country "a haven for capital formation." But in previously unreported comments, from an interview with American Business Magazine in August 2011, Ryan went even further on the same topic, saying, "let's make this country a tax shelter for other countries instead of having other countries be a tax shelter for America."

Canada's National Security Advisory Council Quietly Shut Down By Conservatives

OTTAWA - Despite the Conservative government's frequent warnings about lingering terrorist threats, it has quietly abolished a federal panel of national security advisers.

The advisory council on national security was shut down during the summer — just two years into the three-year terms of its latest members.

The council was established in 2005 by the Liberal government of the day to provide confidential views on security issues in the post-9-11 era.

A Privy Council Office spokesman said it is now routine for federal security departments and agencies to contact outside experts through other means.

The advisory council had a budget of about $30,000 a year to cover travel and other hospitality-related costs associated with meetings.

University of Toronto historian Wesley Wark, who served on the council from 2005 to 2009, says he regrets the shutdown as there is still a complex security environment and a need for high-level, independent advice.

Original Article
Source: huffington post
Author: CP

Nexen takeover by China: Are we being naive or progressive?

OTTAWA—Barack Obama last week became the first U.S. president in 22 years to block a Chinese takeover of an American asset, citing national security concerns.

It was a private deal, a Chinese buyout of wind farms in northern Oregon, too close, in the Democrat’s view, to a U.S. military installation.

It would be easy to blame election year politics as the driver behind the decision.

NDP tries shaming Tory backbenchers into giving up partisan trash talk

OTTAWA - The NDP is trying to shame Conservative backbenchers into abandoning their daily game of partisan trash talk in the House of Commons.

Repeated rebukes by the Speaker have done nothing to stem Conservative use of members' statements — the 15-minute interval preceding question period each day — to lob verbal grenades at the leader of the Opposition.

Canada alone will decide on Nexen: PM

OTTAWA -- A $15-billion bid by China's state-owned offshore oil company for Canada's Nexen Inc. "raises a range of difficult policy questions," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday.

But Harper says cautionary signals from the United States about the takeover bid will not be a factor in whether the deal ultimately gets the green light.

"I don't think it's a surprise for me to tell you the government of Canada will take its own decision, irrespective of what the government of the United States does," the prime minister said at a joint availability news media session with the visiting president of Tanzania.

How to reframe beginning-of-life issues

Last week’s parliamentary debate on whether to have a committee examine the issue of when life begins illustrates the need to reframe how we in Canada approach “beginning of life” issues.

The proponent of the parliamentary motion, and cabinet ministers such as Jason Kenney and Rona Ambrose who supported it, insisted that its aim was to address a more fundamental issue than abortion. But the opposition and most of the media insisted on debating it within the historical abortion-focused framework – still polarized between pro-choice and pro-life positions developed in the 1970s and 1980s.

Canadian government to announce it missed last year’s deficit reduction target: sources

OTTAWA—Federal officials have tidied up Ottawa’s books from last year and the final tally is expected to show the Conservative government has missed its deficit-reduction target. The results for 2011-12 are expected to be somewhat worse than the $24.9-billion deficit predicted by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

Sources say Flaherty will disclose the figures as early as Friday in the Annual Financial Report, which covers the fiscal year that ended March 31.

Flaherty has acknowledged Ottawa’s spending commitments have had an impact on the deficit.

Canada poised to claim ownership of vast underwater territory bigger than Quebec

OTTAWA – Canada is poised to claim ownership of a vast new expanse of undersea territory beyond its Atlantic and Arctic coasts that’s greater in size than Quebec and equal to about 20% of the country’s surface area, Postmedia News has learned.

The huge seabed land grab has been in the works since 1994, when federal scientists first conducted a “desktop study” of Canada’s potential territorial expansion under a new UN treaty allowing nations to extend their offshore jurisdictions well past the current 200-nautical-mile (370-km) limit of so-called “Exclusive Economic Zones” in coastal waters.

Behind the tainted meat crisis: Regulation and public health

Another tainted meat crisis rages in Canada and there are concerns that industry and government have not swiftly and thoroughly applied the lessons learned from previous crises, notably the listeriosis outbreak in 2008.

During question period on Thursday Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz kept saying that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) did take seriously early warning signs of trouble at the giant XL Foods plant in Brooks, Alberta.

Ritz kept repeating that the CFIA followed rigorous scientific testing procedures to ascertain whether or not there was, in fact, contamination and when it finally concluded there was a problem, it acted.

Think you have a right to privacy online? Think again, says Ontario court

If you expect privacy when you’re online, if you think you can anonymously use the Internet without the government finding out who you are and what you’ve accessed, then you’re being unreasonable. That’s what the Ontario Court of Appeals has said, making them the highest court in Canada to rule that privacy laws don’t protect Canadians’ names and addresses from warrantless requests by police.

The case in question, of course, involves child pornography. David Ward of Sudbury was convicted of possessing pornographic images and videos of children. Police found him after German authorities handed them an I.P. address linked to a Canadian Internet account, provided by Bell Sympatico. The cops took the I.P. number to Bell and told them it was a child porn case, and Bell handed over Ward’s name and address. With that, police were able to get a search warrant, which they used to seize Ward’s incriminating hard drive. The service agreement Ward had signed with Bell gave them the right to surrender his identity in the event of a criminal investigation, and, as we now know, no Canadian privacy law trumps that contract.

20 questions with Gerry Ritz

The Scene. Thomas Mulcair stood and turned in his spot to directly face the Agriculture Minister seated across the way. After three days elsewhere, Gerry Ritz was back in the House of Commons. And with the Prime Minister occupied by a photo op scheduled for precisely this moment, there was now no one between Mr. Ritz and the opposition MPs who were here to shame him.

“Mr. Speaker,” Mr. Mulcair began, “is the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food willing to accept responsibility for the self-regulating food inspection system he put in place?”

Tories go behind closed-doors in House committee to kill opposition motion to prevent omnibus bills

PARLIAMENT HILL—The governing Conservative MPs used their majority clout on a House of Commons committee Thursday to take the panel behind closed doors before voting down an opposition proposal to restrict the kind of omnibus legislation that sparked a 22-hour marathon of opposition voting last June in protest against the government’s massive bill implementing the federal budget.

The vote on a Conservative motion to take the committee in camera to deal with a motion from Liberal MP Marc Garneau (Westmount-Ville Marie, Que.) calling for a review of omnibus legislation, with the goal of establishing new House orders to limit its use, was the last battle in a Parliamentary war that began soon after Finance Minister Jim Flaherty (Oshawa-Whitby, Ont.) tabled his budget implementation bill last April 26.

Non-Christian prison chaplains chopped by Ottawa

The federal government is cancelling the contracts of non-Christian chaplains at federal prisons, CBC News has learned.

Inmates of other faiths, such as Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jews, will be expected to turn to Christian prison chaplains for religious counsel and guidance, according to the office of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, who is also responsible for Canada’s penitentiaries.

XL Foods takes 'full responsibility' for meat recalled for E. coli

XL Foods Inc. says it is taking full responsibility and pledged to regain the trust of consumers as a massive recall of meat intensified today.

Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz repeated that the Alberta company's plant, where the E. coli contimination occured, won't reopen until he and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency are assured it is safe.

The company issued a statement Thursday following further grilling of Ritz in the House of Commons by opposition MPs who accused the agriculture minister of withholding information from consumers.

You heard it here: Northern Gateway’s dead

The Northern Gateway pipeline that Enbridge proposes to build from Alberta’s bitumen oil to the Pacific coast of British Columbia is, for all intents and purposes, dead.

Yes, regulatory hearings before the National Energy Board will continue until the NEB approves the project. And yes, Enbridge will keep pushing for it. And yes, the Harper government, which is so publicly committed to the project, will continue to extol its virtues as part of the need to get Canadian resources to Asia.

But the project is dead. It has too many obstacles now, and there’ll be more in the future.

Nexen decision a tipping point for Canada

The decision on CNOOC ‘s proposed acquisition of Nexen will be a key litmus test on whether the government intends to “walk the talk” on diversification. Approval – along with clear limits on future foreign investments – not only makes sense, but is clearly in the national interest, if the government seriously intends to broaden economic ties with the fastest-growing, second-largest global economy.

Concerns about state-owned enterprises not adhering to market principles have some legitimacy, as do the undeniable facts that the Chinese political system is different and plays by different quasi-market rules. Furthermore, Canadian firms have nothing like open access to invest in China on oil sands development or in virtually any other sector.

China turns to courts in business disputes with western governments

Backed by Beijing’s order to invest abroad, Chinese firms are shedding their political caution and becoming increasingly aggressive in launching legal actions to defend their interests against western governments.

In the U.S., Chinese-owned Ralls Corp. is suing President Barack Obama and his government for blocking the acquisition of a wind farm over national security concerns. In Europe, China’s second-largest insurer, Ping An Insurance Group, has launched a $2-billion arbitration claim against the Belgian government over the expropriation of a Belgian-Dutch bank in which it had invested.

Questions grow over why Ottawa didn’t act as fast as U.S. on unfit meat

The Alberta beef packer at the centre of a massive recall is taking full responsibility for the tainted product, as questions mount over why Canadian officials let the company’s plant operate for two weeks after the U.S. deemed the meat unfit to cross the border.

XL Foods, which has been relatively quiet amid the E. coli outbreak, issued a statement on Thursday that stopped short of an apology. The company acknowledged its food-safety practices were “not enough” and said it would work with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to strengthen them.

On Afghan War 11th Anniversary, Vets Confront Mental Health Crisis, Soldier Suicides and Violence

On the 11th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, we take a look at the invisible wounds of war here at home. Since the war began on Oct. 7, 2001, less than a month after the Sept. 11th attacks, at least 2,000 U.S. soldiers have died. Some 2.4 million U.S. soldiers have served in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the psychological toll of the wars is mounting. Last year, the Veterans Administration treated almost 100,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and soldier suicides reached an all-time high this year. In Colorado Springs, the commanders at Fort Carson have come under scrutiny for its handling of mental health concerns, with a 2010 joint NPR-ProPublica investigation finding that as many as 40 percent of Fort Carson soldiers had mild brain injuries missed by Army health screenings. Meanwhile in 2009, the Colorado Springs Gazette published a startling series called “Casualties of War,” written by our guest, investigative reporter Dave Philipps. His book, "Lethal Warriors: When the New Band of Brothers Came Home,” shows how a wave of violence swept across Colorado Springs when the 506th Infantry Regiment, known as "the Band of Brothers,” returned home from their first tour in Iraq. We are also joined by Georg-Andreas Pogany, a retired Army sergeant who is now an independent veterans’ advocate and investigator, and Graham Clumpner, an Afghanistan War veteran and Colorado regional organizer for Iraq Veterans Against the War. Democracy Now! is on the road, broadcasting from Colorado Springs, the home of five major military installations — Fort Carson, Peterson Air Force Base, the U.S. Air Force Academy, Schriever Air Force Base and the Cheyenne Mountain Air Station.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---