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.]

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Egypt's Military Warns Of 'Disastrous Consequences' If Crisis Continues

CAIRO — Egypt's military warned on Saturday of "disastrous consequences" if the crisis that sent tens of thousands of protesters back into the streets is not resolved, signaling the army's return to an increasingly polarized and violent political scene.

The military said serious dialogue is the "best and only" way to overcome the nation's deepening conflict over a disputed draft constitution hurriedly adopted by Islamist allies of President Mohammed Morsi, and recent decrees granting himself near-absolute powers.

Romney Campaign Winners: Firms Tied To Romney Aides Raked In Cash

WASHINGTON -- In the end, there were winners on the Romney campaign: the firms tied to Mitt Romney's aides.

With the Federal Election Commission posting the most recent 2012 campaign finance reports, a clearer picture has emerged as to how the Republican presidential nominee spent the hundreds of millions of dollars he raised. It quite literally paid to be part of the Romney universe.

Jobless Benefits Should Be Included In Fiscal Cliff Deal, Democrats Say

WASHINGTON — Hovering in the background of the "fiscal cliff" debate is the prospect of 2 million people losing their unemployment benefits four days after Christmas.

"This is the real cliff," said Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I. He's been leading the effort to include another extension of benefits for the long-term unemployed in any deal to avert looming tax increases and massive spending cuts in January.

BP Oil Spill Flow Rate Vastly Understated For Weeks, Emails Show

Emails that attorneys representing a defendant in the BP oil spill case plan to introduce in February show for the first time that the oil company knew the massive scale of the 2010 blowout in the Gulf of Mexico weeks earlier than previously disclosed.

BP has long maintained that it provided full disclosure to the public and the federal government about its knowledge of the spill’s extent and did so promptly. The emails suggest otherwise.

Wal-Mart's killer rollbacks: The human cost of lower prices

Wal-Mart is "so confident in our low prices, we guarantee them." And they are always reassuring us that their "Rollback low prices just got lower."

Ever wonder how they do it? We all know on a basic level how they do, even as so many of us shop there. They, as much of retail corporate North America has done, have sourced all of their purchasing from factories in the Third World that can produce certain goods more cheaply than they could be produced in North America, and that can do so with little to no regard for the lives of their workers.

Unemployment Canada: Job Growth Sources At Risk As Housing, Commodities Come Under Pressure

Canada’s job market had a stellar November, with 59,000 net positions created — six times what economists had predicted — while the jobless rate fell to 7.2 per cent, nearing lows not seen since the economic crisis of 2008.

In a year of up-and-down job markets and lacklustre economic growth, the solid November numbers were welcome relief. But don’t run out and get that second mortgage just yet, because evidence is beginning to build that the strongest sources of job growth in our economy are at risk of fizzling out, and soon.

How the NRA and Its Allies Helped Spread a Radical Gun Law Nationwide

The Florida law made infamous this spring by the killing of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin was conceived during the epic hurricane season of 2004. That November, 77-year-old James Workman moved his family into an RV outside Pensacola after Hurricane Ivan peeled back the roof of their house. One night a stranger tried to force his way into the trailer, and Workman killed him with two shots from a .38 revolver. The stranger turned out to be a disoriented temporary worker for the Federal Emergency Management Agency who was checking for looters and distressed homeowners. Workman was never arrested, but three months went by before authorities cleared him of wrongdoing.

Risk to Same-Sex Marriage "Very Great" in Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has finally decided to take on same-sex marriage. In an announcement Friday, the court said it will hear two cases: One of them will determine the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8, a referendum that stripped same-sex couples of marriage rights in that state. The other involves the portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages performed by the states. The risk here for same-sex couples is very great, as EJ Graff explains in a piece for The Advocate, because the two cases differ widely in scope and potential impact. (My colleague Dana Liebelson has a great explainer here.)

MacKay a no-show at employees’ vigil

Upset about the federal government's plans to close the Sydney office of Veterans Affairs Canada, members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) held a candlelight vigil at the gates of the garrison, where they had learned MacKay was to attend a dinner for junior ranks. However, after arriving on the site, they were told the minister was unable to make the dinner.

Military police spokesperson Sgt. Freeman Mullins confirmed that MacKay would not be attending the event.

Newsflash: Lake Winnipeg is in serious trouble

This week in Question Period, I was shocked to hear Parliamentary secretary Michelle Rempel proclaim that the Conservatives have "cleaned up Lake Winnipeg."

It is true that the Prime Minister has mentioned Lake Winnipeg. He has even announced $20 million for the clean-up of Lake Winnipeg. This was done in July on a trip to Manitoba when protesters had gathered to protest the closing of the Experimental Lakes Area -- which was in the midst of researching what to do to save Lake Winnipeg. Those close to the issue tell me the money was largely re-profiled from other announcements, but at least, it is true that this is one environmental issue about which Stephen Harper seems acquainted.

Biometrics data collection: Canadian visa applicants from 29 countries will be fingerprinted

Starting in 2013, visitors to Canada from 29 countries and a territory must pay an extra $85 for Ottawa to collect their fingerprints and photos when they apply for visas.

The countries are mostly from Asia, Africa and the Middle East, but the biometrics requirement will also extend to Haiti, Jamaica and Colombia.

It is yet another measure Ottawa is imposing under the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act passed in June to tighten border entry into Canada.

Halting the March to War

Founder and president of the National Iranian American Council Trita Parsi fears we’re headed for war over Iran’s nuclear program, but says it’s not too late to turn back.
* * *
Do you think we’re heading towards a military confrontation between Iran and the United States, or Iran and Israel?

Absent any concrete action to get us off the current trajectory, yes: I believe war is going to increase in likelihood. I think there are three ways that war could start right now between the United States and Iran or Israel and Iran.

Roma take curious route through Europe, Mexico and U.S. to seek asylum in Canada

DERBY LINE, Vt. - A Dodge Caravan with California license plates and a dozen passengers zipped across the border between Vermont and Quebec in October, heading north in a southbound lane unblocked by traffic.

Border agents could only watch as the van disappeared into Quebec. But the vehicle and its occupants didn't try to disappear.

Voters who say they received robocalls face Conservatives in court

A few days before the last year’s election, a phone operator in a Conservative Party call centre placed a call to the home of a retired couple in the northern Ontario town of Mattawa.

“Can I speak to Kenneth Ferance?” the caller asked.

“He’s sleeping right now. Can I help you with something?” said his wife, Linda Hearst.

If cost has shot down the F-35, let's put all options on the table

There's no better practitioner of stealth technology than this Conservative government, particularly when it comes to dodging detection on the F-35 jet fighter purchase.

The price, the process and the purchase requirements have been shrouded in clouds of bureaucracy to render the truth invisible on the public's radar.

F-35 debacle reveals broad failure of democratic accountability

It is difficult to imagine how a worse mess could have been made of the F-35 procurement, but I’m willing to bet this government will try.

When I say mess, I don’t mean to suggest charming ineptitude, but culpable incompetence, mixed with deliberate misrepresentation. What started with a catastrophic failure of oversight, progressed through many months of dishonesty, secrecy, and stonewalling, culminating in what can only be called electoral fraud — followed by still more dishonesty about everything that had gone before.

F-35s officially costed at $45,802,000,000 in new report

$45,802,000,000. That’s the number that will stand out when the Harper government releases KPMG’s report on the cost of the F-35 program early next week.

The National Post has seen sections of the report, including the cost estimates calculated by the accountancy firm charged with forecasting the entire 42-year life cycle cost of buying 65 new fighter jets.

How Harper exploits Canadians’ ignorance of parliamentary democracy

Canada has the most dysfunctional and undemocratic parliament in the British Commonwealth. Canadians have been reduced to electoral democracy, not parliamentary democracy.

Democratizing the Constitution — Reforming Responsible Government, a new book by political scientists Peter Aucoin, Mark D. Jarvis and Lori Turnbull, defines electoral democracy as “a system in which the electorate decides who forms the government and the prime minister then governs as a virtual autocrat until the next election … The concentration of powers … cannot be permitted to remain in the hands of a single individual who is able to undermine democratic governance at his or her will.”

Nexen-CNOOC Deal: Ghost Of The National Energy Program Still Haunts Ottawa

OTTAWA - The spectre of the National Energy Program has struck again.

During the five months the Harper government spent agonizing over the CNOOC takeover of Calgary's Nexen, Conservatives repeatedly came back to their entrenched hatred of the historic Liberal policy.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper vows Chinese takeover of oil firm Nexen ‘the end of a trend’

OTTAWA — A Chinese state-owned oil giant is being allowed to expand its holdings in Canada’s oilpatch with a $15.1-billion buyout, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper says it won’t happen again.

In a long-awaited decision, the federal government announced CNOOC Ltd., controlled by Beijing, can take over Calgary-based Nexen Inc. in the largest acquisition yet of Canadian oil and gas riches by a Chinese company.

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.

Opposition, civil society groups condemn government approval of CNOOC Nexen takeover

At a press conference held late Friday afternoon, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that his government had approved the $15 billion takeover of Nexen by the Chinese Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC).

Reaction to Friday's announcement was swift.

NDP Energy and Natural Resources critic Peter Julian, who recently held a social media Town Hall on the subject, call the decision "irresponsible" and "a farce."

Government OK's foreign bids for Nexen, Progress Energy

The federal government has approved two major energy takeover deals, green-lighting a $15.1-billion bid for Nexen Inc. by a Chinese state oil company and a $5.2-billion bid by Malaysia's Petronas for Progress Energy.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper also announced new guidelines for evaluating proposed takeovers of Canadian companies by state-owned enterprises, including evaluating the possible influence of a foreign government in the enterprise.

F-35 fiasco: Harper needs to release the full KPMG report

I spent the morning today on Parliament Hill. Stephen Harper's government is in an absolute turmoil over the F-35 stealth fighters.

The Globe and Mail's headline is 'Ottawa scraps plan for F-35 jet,' while the National Post's reads, 'F-35 Dead in the Air.' Despite the headlines, which were spurred by an unnamed government source, the Harper government says nothing has changed. What is the truth?

Bill C-377 update: MPs debate newly amended union disclosure bill

MPs fired their opening shots this week in the first hour of the final House of Commons debate on Bill C-377.

The private member's bill, which would force unions to submit extremely detailed financial information to the government for public display, has undergone a facelift since it was last trotted through the house by MP Russ Hiebert. Last week, following several weeks of study of the bill by the finance committee, Hiebert tabled several amendments.

John McCain: Syria Using Chemical Weapons Would Be 'Most Horrendous Act' Of The Century

Speaking about reports that Syria is preparing chemical weapons for potential use against its people, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) warned that the world may be "on the precipice" of "the most horrendous act" of this century.

"I'm always skeptical of intelligence -- after all, back in 2007, our intelligence community said the Iranians are no longer pursuing nuclear weapons," he said Thursday night on Fox News' "On The Record with Greta Van Susteren." "But in this case, I think there is so much overwhelming ... including human intelligence ... that I don't think there is any doubt this is a -- we are on the precipice of one of the more horrendous acts, or the most horrendous act, certainly, of the 21st century."

Civil society breaks the silence, confronts governments at climate negotiations

This year's relatively quiet climate negotiations turned up the volume yesterday when two members of the Arab Youth Climate Movement (AYCM) were arrested for holding up a banner. Onlookers erupted in cheers as they were escorted out. They were asking the hosts, the Qatari government, for leadership. Instead, they were immediately ejected from COP18 and instructed to leave the country.

After the cheers subsided, the mood was sombre. The process at COP18 is failing; the climate deal on the table is not an ambitious one. It is not sufficient to avert the climate catastrophe that will occur if emissions are not curbed. Civil society has been speaking loudly and clearly at COP, through the AYCM’s action and others, demanding initiative on the part of governments. But are they listening?

Toronto EMS union protesting suspension of two paramedics who publicly criticized senior management

The union representing Toronto paramedics has filed a grievance on behalf of two employees who were suspended for publicly criticizing senior EMS management.

CUPE Local 416 filed its grievance with the city Thursday, a day after EMS brass suspended paramedics Ken Horton and Mike Merriman over recent unsanctioned comments to the media. Mr. Merriman was given a one-day unpaid suspension, while Mr. Horton — who was also written up for wearing his uniform off-duty during a city hall appearance and arriving at work “late” a handful of times, including on days he was not scheduled — was handed a three-day penalty.

NATO should destroy Syria’s chemical weapons. Now

I don’t support Western military intervention in Syria’s civil war. But if reports now emerging from the U.S. defence community are to be believed, and if Syria has indeed prepared its arsenal of sarin nerve gas for use, then things have changed. And the U.S., or NATO collectively, needs to go in and take these weapons out. Now.

Sarin is extraordinarily unpleasant stuff. It can be inhaled or, even at very low atmospheric concentrations, penetrate the skin. It attacks the body’s nervous system, causing systems and glands to “overload.” Exposure, unless treated with specific antidotes immediately, results in convulsions, coma and then death.

Most lakes that retain protection under government’s proposed changes are in Tory ridings

OTTAWA — The vast majority of lakes that retain federal protection under the government’s proposed changes to waterway rules lap up against ridings held by Conservative MPs.

While revisions to the Navigable Waters Protection Act has stripped federal oversight from thousands of Canadian waterways, 90 per cent of the lakes that will still be designated as protected are in Tory territory, a Citizen analysis shows.