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, December 20, 2012

Richard Trumka On Fiscal Cliff: Not Ready To Blow Up Deal Over Obama's Social Security Concession

WASHINGTON -- The head of the most powerful union federation in the country is holding off judgment on President Obama's most recent debt reduction proposal, despite its inclusion of cuts to Social Security beneficiaries.

AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka called the chained-CPI proposal offered by Obama as part of his recent effort to resolve the so-called fiscal cliff standoff, "bad policy" that he and his group were strongly against. But in an interview with The Huffington Post on Thursday morning, Trumka stopped notably short of urging Democrats to walk away from the table because of it.

Dalton McGuinty wants ‘locked door’ policy at all Ontario elementary schools by next fall

hereIn the wake of the deadly school shooting in Newtown, Conn., Ontario is earmarking $10 million for front door locks, entry buzzers and security cameras.

“It’s an appropriate and a reasonable response,” Premier Dalton McGuinty said Thursday at a Catholic school near Keele St. and Highway 401.

How conflict of interest rules affect the public interest

Since the Redford, Katz, Ford and other scandals of late, there has been much discussion about conflict of interest rules, what is and isn't a conflict of interest, and whether there can be degrees of conflicts of interest. What should the legislative penalties be where a conflict is found?

Conflict of interest can be a difficult subject. Various provincial and federal statutes govern conflicts of interest. Roughly speaking, a conflict of interest for a public office holder is usually defined as the exercise of an official power, duty or function that provides an opportunity to further private interests.

Transparency for unions and other 'little people'

I had a good old-fashioned knock-em-down drag-em-out debate with Ian Lee from Carleton University on CBC's Power and Politics about Bill C-377.

There were a number of "zingers" from Prof. Lee that are worth considering:

- He said "hundreds of thousands" of Ontarians have their salaries listed on the government's sunshine list (reporting salaries of those who earn over $100,000). Of course it's not "hundreds of thousands," and at any rate unions are not tax-financed organizations.

Albertans With Intellectual Disabilities Suffered Abuse, Attacks, Burns, Reports Say

Inadequate training and staff shortages contributed to the abuse of people with intellectual disabilities in Alberta that ranged from physical attacks to burns that were left unattended, say provincial records.

The records from Alberta Health obtained by The Canadian Press under access to information legislation say there were 39 incidents of abuse of people with intellectual disabilities for the period between July 1, 2010, and May 1, 2012.

Flaherty's pay-later pension plan will put the burden on our kids and grandkids

Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty went into the meeting with his provincial colleagues firmly focused on the fiscal deficit and came out the same way.

The annual operating deficits Ottawa and the provinces have been running to get out of the global recession over the past few years while the economy has limped along have added billions to our cumulative debt.

Canadian Penny Discontinued: Eliminating Copper Coin Will Cost Taxpayers

OTTAWA - The demise of Canada's one-cent coin next year will cost taxpayers a pretty penny.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced the impending withdrawal of the penny in last March's budget, saying the government would save $11 million a year in production costs.

Steelworkers suggest B.C. coal mines controlled by Chinese government

VICTORIA - The United Steelworkers says it has dug up what it calls close ties between the Chinese government and the reportedly privately-run coal mine in northeastern British Columbia embroiled in a foreign-worker controversy.

The union released a report Wednesday that suggests HD Mining International Ltd. — the firm developing the proposed Murray River mine near Tumbler Ridge — has ownership links to the government in China, where workers receive low wages in unsafe conditions.

Thousands of AR-15s registered in Canada differ signifcantly from American variants

OTTAWA — Thousands of Canadians legally own the same type of military-style rifle used in last week’s slaughter of 20 elementary school children in Connecticut.

Data from the federal firearms registry, obtained by the Ottawa Citizen in 2007, showed that individuals and businesses had registered more than 3,800 semi-automatic AR-15 rifles or variants of the same design.

Home care for seniors falls largely on friends, family

More than half of Canadians aged 65 and older who received home care in 2009 said they relied on family, friends and neighbours for the support, according to Statistics Canada.

In total, about one in four Canadian seniors, just over one million people, received home care such as housework and transportation that year, the federal agency said Wednesday in its Health Reports publication.

Law tilts toward liberty for mentally ill offenders

The mother of a boy allegedly lured out of an Oshawa elementary school last week by a woman with a history of child abduction says it is “unacceptable” that the accused woman was allowed back into society unsupervised.

Joanne Merlene Jones, 41, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, is charged with kidnapping an 11-year-old boy from Village Union Public School on Thursday morning and walking him away from the school, before he broke free and ran back.

Harper "sabotaged" health-care talks, Ghiz says

Prime Minister Stephen Harper “sabotaged” health-care talks between the federal government and the provinces, says Premier Robert Ghiz.

Ghiz, who is co-chairing a working group on the future of health care in Canada, didn’t pull his punches when he discussed his frustrations over meetings last January in British Columbia in his year-end interview with The Guardian.

The premiers were hoping to sit down with the federal government to negotiate a new formula for funding health care. However, Ottawa had no interest in negotiating. It put a take it or leave it deal on the table.

Harper government may revive direct business subsidies in effort to win Quebec, Atlantic votes

“Our government’s top priorities are economic growth, job creation and long-term prosperity,” said Conservative MP Greg Kerr, as he announced the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency will fork out $114,000 for a skateboard park in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

The MP from West Nova did not state the obvious — that the government’s real top priority is to get re-elected in a region where its Employment Insurance reforms have proven unpopular.

Gender wage gap hurts economic growth

Breaking news: Women are paid less than men across OECD countries.

OK, it's not breaking news. Not even close. In Canada, the 'Female to Male earnings ratio' has hovered around the 70 per cent mark for the past 20 years. And for women with university degrees, the ratio peaked in the early 1990s, and has been below 70 per cent for 13 of the past 14 years.

Rescued B.C. snowboarder to get $10K bill

The private company that operates the Cypress Mountain ski area on Vancouver’s North Shore says it plans to present a bill for $10,000 to a snowboarder who became lost after he went out of bounds Sunday, triggering a three-day search that ended with his rescue Tuesday night.

Joffrey Koeman of Cypress Mountain told CBC News Wednesday that he was pleased that wayward snowboarder Sebastien Boucher was found alive, but said the man would be asked to help pay for his rescue.

Can a People’s Movement Ground U.S. Drones?

In her latest book, Medea Benjamin, peace activist and co-founder of Code Pink, offers a critical guide to the dramatic increase since 2001 in the U.S. military’s use of hunter/killer drones. She also covers effective strategies for resisting this disturbing shift in modern warfare.

Under President Obama, who Benjamin calls the “peace candidate turned war president,” the military has shifted strategies “from boots on the ground to assassins in the air.” Drones have delivered bombs in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen—often killing civilians and inflaming hatred against the United States.

Shelter skelter

Housing advocates and members of the homeless community gathered outside a downtown church on Tuesday, December 11, to mark a grim milestone: six people dead on Toronto’s streets in the previous month, the most since May 2007.

Those who attend the monthly Homeless Memorial at the Church of the Holy Trinity say things are bad and will only get worse if council approves the cuts to front-line shelter services proposed in the 2013 budget.

The Bribery Aisle: How Wal-Mart Used Payoffs to Bribe Its Way Through Expansion in Mexico

New details have emerged in the massive bribery scandal behind Wal-Mart’s expansion into Mexico, where the corporate giant now operates one in five of its stores. After exposing the bribery earlier this year, The New York Times has now visited dozens of Mexican towns and cities to document the payoffs the company used to get its way. We’re joined by the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter who broke the story, David Barstow. As a result of Barstow’s reporting, the Justice Department is now considering whether Wal-Mart violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it a crime for American corporations to bribe foreign officials.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Louisiana TV Station Fires Black Meteorologist for Responding to Viewer’s Barb About Her Hair

Rhonda Lee, an African-American TV meteorologist, was fired by Louisiana’s KTBS last month after responding to a viewer’s criticism of her short, natural hairstyle on Facebook. Lee had written: "I am the 'black lady' to which you are referring. I’m sorry you don’t like my ethnic hair. And no I don’t have cancer. ... I am very proud of my African-American ancestry which includes my hair ... I’m very proud of who I am and the standard of beauty I display. Women come in all shapes, sizes, nationalities, and levels of beauty. Showing little girls that being comfortable in the skin and HAIR God gave me is my contribution to society." Lee joins us to discuss her firing, and the remarkable show of support she’s received from around the nation after her story went viral.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

The China syndrome

Canada’s PM might be somebody’s tool, but he’s nobody’s fool.

Given the tar sands’ iffy prospects, Stephen Harper faced limited choices when he allowed the sale of Calgary-based Nexen to China’s state-owned CNOOC (China National Offshore Oil Corporation).

Still, it was trippy: Alberta’s oil barons gave birth to Canada’s new brand of neo-conservatism back in the 1980s because they were ticked at PM Pierre Trudeau for creating a national energy policy and a publicly owned national oil company, Petro-Canada.

Sharing Sherbourne

Toronto’s first separated bike lanes are complete, but the jury is out on whether they will keep cars safely out of the paths of riders.

On Tuesday, the city issued a press release declaring the Sherbourne cycle tracks officially open from Bloor to King. A second phase of the project, from King to Queens Quay, will be completed in 2014, part of a planned 14-kilometre network of separated bikeways downtown.

At a cost of $2.4 million, the Sherbourne lanes are worth every penny according to some Toronto cycling advocates.

Libor Manipulation Cost Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac $3 Billion, Watchdog Says

Libor manipulation cost Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac more than $3 billion, according to an estimate by a government watchdog, who recommends the government-owned mortgage giants sue the big banks.

That estimate and legal advice were made in a private report by Steve Linick, the inspector general for the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the regulator for Fannie and Freddie, which were taken over by the U.S. government during the financial crisis. The Wall Street Journal first reported the watchdog's analysis on Wednesday.

Fiscal Cliff Negotiations: Obama And Boehner Staffs Haven't Talked Since Monday

WASHINGTON -- Negotiations over resolving the so-called fiscal cliff have hit a standstill as top Obama administration officials say they have not had formal talks with House Speaker John Boehner's office since Monday.

The officials, who briefed reporters on the condition that they not be quoted, flatly rejected the speaker's latest proposal to fully extend the Bush-era tax rates for income under $1 million. The White House's veto threat issued earlier in the day was sincere, they said. Moreover, they said they would not consider the offer as a formal proposal as a starting point to conduct future negotiations. Instead, they said they would work off Boehner's previous offer, which included a variety of entitlement reforms and spending cuts to go along with $1 million in revenue increases.

Oshawa GM Plant's Camaro Production Shifted To Michigan Plant

General Motors is moving production of the next version of its Camaro sports car from its Oshawa operation in Ontario to a plant in Michigan, a move the union says will cost 1,000 jobs at the massive factory east of Toronto.

The Canadian Auto Workers estimated the move, which could also affect parts companies, could cost as many as 9,000 jobs in the region after all the spinoff affects are included.

Nixing penny saves $7M less annually than promised

Getting rid of the penny isn't going to save taxpayers as much as the federal government indicated in the March budget.

When Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced the impending withdrawal of the penny, he said the government would save $11 million a year in production costs.

How the Government Dethroned A Crown Corporation

Last week, the Harper government announced that it is putting Ridley Terminals Inc. (RTI), a relatively small federal Crown corporation, up for sale.

RTI is one of those many state-owned enterprises that serves no useful public policy purpose, and really never has. It was built on a wish and a prayer, much like the Mirabel airport boondoggle was in the same era. The head-scratching logic probably made sense to the mandarins that came up with the scheme.

The teachers’ dispute and the war on wages

The one-day teachers’ strikes are coming to an end. What’s next?

For teachers, the new year will almost certainly include government-imposed contracts and the suspension of their right to strike for 24 months.

For other public sector workers, this is their likely future as well. The Liberal government didn’t have time to eliminate their bargaining rights before Premier Dalton McGuinty abruptly prorogued the Legislature this fall.

Idle No More protest brings more than 1,000 to the street in London

They halted traffic for 90 minutes on Canada’s busiest highway Wednesday, more than 1,000 protesters from area First Nations. They’re part of a grassroots movement — Idle No More — gaining momentum across Canada. Jennifer O’Brien explores the story behind the protest.