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, May 03, 2013

Stephen Harper’s Conservatives say Fisheries Act was used to protect puddles

OTTAWA-Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative party is telling its supporters that its government overhauled a major water pollution law last year because it believed it was used to protect puddles.

The message contrasts with an explanation last year from the minister responsible for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Keith Ashfield, who suggested the changes were designed to help make it easier for industrial facilities to pollute water.

Senator pushes for greater parliamentarian oversight of national security spending

OTTAWA — Liberal Sen. Romeo Dallaire is asking for a Senate committee to look into a way to give federal politicians more access to top-secret information about national security issues.

Dallaire, a retired lieutenant-general, will present a motion next week asking the Senate Anti-Terrorism Committee to study how to create a “national security committee of parliamentarians,” and look at the role women play in “deradicalization in Canada and abroad.”

‘Economic Action Plan’ ads to continue for the rest of our lives

Those “Economic Action Plan” ads we’ve all come to love over the last four years are going to continue until at least 2016, but probably forever.

The Harper government has called for bids from ad agencies willing to plan a campaign that could run for up to three years, with the purpose of strengthening “ongoing consumer confidence in the Canadian economy and the direction of the country.”

PR strategy proposed to compensate for federal cuts in climate-change spending

OTTAWA — The Harper government is facing a “challenging” task to promote the benefits of energy efficiency for Canadians in light of hundreds of millions of dollars of reductions in green spending, says a federal public-relations strategy obtained by Postmedia News.

“Stakeholders and media have questioned Canada’s ability to become a leader in clean energy based on the government’s support of oil and gas development,” said the strategy document, prepared for Natural Resources Canada’s top bureaucrat and released through access-to-information legislation. “With fewer incentives and therefore potentially fewer announcements, it will be challenging to communicate the benefits of energy efficiency.”

Do the Conservatives want to change Canada’s history?

The question, really, is why? Why would a Commons committee undertake a study of something that isn’t really under its jurisdiction? This is essentially what the Heritage committee is about to do, after it decided it would launch a “thorough and comprehensive review of significant aspects in Canadian history,” which will include “a breakdown and comparison of relevant standards and courses of study offered in primary and post-secondary institutions in each of the provinces and territories.”

Online reaction to a Postmedia story Thursday night on the committee’s decision was resoundingly negative — and in the House of Commons on Friday it didn’t get much better.

Cheap American Flights Threaten Canadian Airport Business

The promise of cheaper flights is driving many Canadians across the border to U.S. airports — and costing millions in lost revenue in Canada.

The trend is disconcerting to Canada's aviation industry, which is calling on the federal government to do something to lure back those travellers.

Mushroom Clouds Over Texas, 500 Deaths in Bangladesh -- That's Why We Need Unions

News reports tell us that more than 500 people have now died and more than 2,500 were injured in Savar, Bangladesh, while the toll in West, Texas stands at 15 dead and over 200 injured. Behind these two disasters is  a common thread of greed - and a common need for unionized resistance.

"It was like a nuclear bomb went off," said the mayor as a mushroom cloud soared above his tiny Texas town.  The explosion "ripped through three feet of concrete floor slab and then tore apart 10 additional feet of earth," scattering the wreckage more than 1,000 feet and leaving a blast crater is 93 feet wide.

Ted Cruz Calls Audience At NRA Meeting An 'Army'

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) described the audience at an annual National Rifle Association retreat as an "army" Friday afternoon.

Speaking at a meeting in Houston, the first major NRA event since a background checks bill failed in the Senate, Cruz praised the audience members for speaking out against gun control laws and credited them with the defeated legislation in the Senate.

The Case Against Cronies: Libertarians Must Stand Up to Corporate Greed

The Republican attack on President Obama's economic policy has changed subtly, but significantly, in the last three years. In 2009, he was allegedly a "socialist" and a "Marxist" who lusted for government control of the entire economy. But lately, that has given way to more nuanced charges of "crony capitalism" -- of giving special, friendly treatment to certain companies and industries, or allowing powerful corporations to essentially write the laws, themselves.

State Officials Fear Loss Of Health Care Aid Ahead Of Overhaul

WASHINGTON — Thousands of people with serious medical problems are in danger of losing coverage under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul because of cost overruns, state officials say.

At risk is the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, a transition program that's become a lifeline for the so-called "uninsurables" – people with serious medical conditions who can't get coverage elsewhere. The program helps bridge the gap for those patients until next year, when under the new law insurance companies will be required to accept people regardless of their medical problems.

Ari Fleischer Claims Nazis Were Law-Abiding In Justification Of Guantanamo Bay

Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer defended Guantanamo Bay on CNN Thursday night, arguing that the United States was justified in opening the facility.

Fleischer, who served as press secretary for former President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2003, said he believes the Bush administration was right to open the detention camp in 2009 because terrorists do not adhere to "the law of war."

"These people didn’t even wear a military uniform. They engaged in battle against America as terrorists, a violation of the laws of war. That’s why Guantanamo got invented," Fleischer said.

Dow Hits 15,000 For The First Time, Boosted By U.S. Jobs Report

TORONTO - North American stock markets moved higher Friday after a surprise improvement in the U.S. jobless rate helped the Dow Jones industrials break through 15,000 for the first time.

Toronto's S&P/TSX composite index was 74.67 points higher at 12,454.31 in the late afternoon.

The gains came after the U.S. Labour Department said employers added 165,000 jobs in April, while both February and March numbers were also better than first thought. The combination trimmed the U.S. unemployment rate to a four-year low of 7.5 per cent.

Toronto Housing Market 2013: Prices Rise In April Even As Sales Continue To Fall

TORONTO - Home sales dipped two per cent in the Greater Toronto Area in April, but selling prices were also up, according to the latest report from the Toronto Real Estate Board.

The board said Friday that area realtors reported 9,811 sales last month through the Multiple Listing Service, down from 10,021 in April 2012.

Enough with ’10-percenter’ attack ads. Or ’10-percenters,’ period

There was a glimmer of good news this week. Several Conservative MPs politely declined to send out mass mailings to their constituents, slamming Justin Trudeau. These mailings were designed by the Conservative party’s partisan war room, but would be distributed at taxpayer expense using as a so-called “10-percenter.”

You may recall the term “10-percenter” from bitter political fights several years ago, when Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government was still a minority, facing off against the Liberals, led by Michael Ignatieff, and the NDP, led by Jack Layton. The opposition had become angry that the Tories were exploiting 10-percenters — which allow MPs to mail packages equal in number to 10% of the households in their ridings, theoretically to share important local news with the public — for partisan ends. The Tories were carefully co-ordinating their mailings, and MPs in safe Conservative seats were sending their 10% worth’s of mail to households in other ridings. And all on the taxpayer’s dime — 10-percenters are considered part of every MPs legitimate office budget. The bill, an estimated $10-million a year, wasn’t huge. But it was more than the taxpayers ought to have been paying to advance the partisan political goals of any party.

Parliamentary associations spend $1.2-million on junkets around the world

PARLIAMENT HILL—Ninety-nine Parliamentarians took part in $1.2-million worth of junkets around the world last year to destinations including Monaco, Tokyo, Paris, Ireland, Iceland and Catagena.

The 12 Parliamentary Associations that organize the trips through exchange associations with legislators in other countries reduced their travel budgets last year, along with other cuts to Parliamentary spending as result of the government’s strategic program review to reduce costs.

The Coming War Over Net Neutrality

Tom Wheeler, Obama’s nominee to run the Federal Communications Commission, surely has much he hopes to get done. Perhaps it’s freeing up some more wireless spectrum or bringing cell-phone service to Mars—who knows. But chances are (assuming his confirmation goes smoothly) that he’ll end up spending time on different challenges, and a chief candidate is a resurgence of the net-neutrality wars.

The outgoing chairman, Julius Genachowski, made many very good and important decisions, but he also made a rather terrible one that may darken Wheeler’s term. Genachowski spent years and much political capital negotiating net-neutrality rules that everyone could live with, only to enact them in a way that is highly vulnerable to a court challenge. That challenge (brought, cynically, by Verizon after it negotiated the rules it wanted) may soon invalidate years of work and create industry chaos.

The Maya Genocide Trial

Efraín Ríos Montt, the eighty-six-year-old former dictator of Guatemala, has, for the past six weeks, been spending his days in a courtroom in Guatemala City with his former chief of intelligence, José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, where they are being tried for genocide and crimes against humanity. (Both men maintain their innocence.) The trial is unprecedented. It’s the first time a former head of state has gone on trial for genocide in a national, as opposed to an international, court. Even more importantly, in a country with one of the highest crime rates in the world and a long history of legal impunity, it’s a defining moment for a justice system that has been painstakingly rebuilt with help from the international community (including the United States) since 1996, when peace accords ended Guatemala’s civil war.

China's Drone Program Appears To Be Moving Into Overdrive

BEIJING -- Determined to kill or capture a murderous Mekong River drug lord, China's security forces considered a tactic they'd never tried before: calling a drone strike on his remote hideaway deep in the hills of Myanmar.

The attack didn't happen – the man was later captured and brought to China for trial – but the fact that authorities were considering such an option cast new light on China's unmanned aerial vehicle program, which has been quietly percolating for years and now appears to be moving into overdrive.

'We Wanted to Let Them Know Who Is Making Their Clothes': A Q&A With Kalpona Akter

One week ago, a garment factory collapsed in Savar, Bangladesh, about thirty miles from the capital of Dhaka. The death toll of that factory collapse has climbed to more than 400 people, with hundreds injured and hundreds more still missing.

The night of the collapse, I was moderating a panel in Seattle with Kalpona Akter, executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, and Sumi Abedin, a survivor of the horrific Tazreen garments factory fire that killed at least 112 people and injured 200. Abedin and Akter were at the tail end of a twelve-city tour to demand compensation and accountability for fire and building safety down the supply chain. The following interview was conducted with Akter on Saturday, April 27, three days after the Savar factory collapse and the day before she returned to Bangladesh. The interview has been edited.

Turning Point for Britain's Labour Party

Jon Cruddas could have been a contender. In 2007, the MP from Dagenham in East London won the first round of the contest to become deputy leader of the Labour Party. Although he eventually lost to Harriet Harman, Cruddas’s call for Labour to reconnect with its grassroots and renew its core values, which he described as “hollowed out” after ten years in power, resonated powerfully within the party. Labour’s decisive defeat in May 2010, which ushered in a coalition between David Cameron’s Conservative Party and Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats, also put an end to Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s political career—and to the vicious sniping between Brown loyalists and the followers of his predecessor, Tony Blair, that had long paralyzed the party.

Angela Davis and Assata Shakur’s Lawyer Denounce FBI’s Adding of Exiled Activist to Terrorists List

One day after the exiled former Black Panther Assata Shakur became the first woman named to the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list, we’re joined by another legendary African-American activist,
Angela Davis, as well as Shakur’s longtime attorney, Lennox Hinds. Davis, a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, is the subject of the recent film, "Free Angela and All Political Prisoners." She argues that the FBI’s latest move, much like its initial targeting of Shakur and other Black Panthers four decades ago, is politically motivated. "It seems to me that this act incorporates or reflects the very logic of terrorism," Davis says. "I can’t help but think that it’s designed to frighten people who are involved in struggles today. Forty years ago seems like it was a long time ago. In the beginning of the 21st century, we’re still fighting around the very same issues — police violence, healthcare, education, people in prison." A professor of criminal justice at Rutgers University, Hinds has represented Shakur since 1973. "This is a political act pushed by the state of New Jersey, by some members of Congress from Miami, and with the intent of putting pressure on the Cuban government and to inflame public opinion," Hinds says. "There is no way to appeal someone being put on the terrorists list."

Original Article
Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Scarborough Hospital facing more cuts, more turmoil

Already facing an internal uprising, the Scarborough Hospital has announced further cuts that staff warn will hurt patient care.

The hospital announced Thursday it is scaling back medical care in the summer and eliminating 100 staff positions on top of 98 announced earlier in the year. Seventy of the positions are for registered nurses.

The Star revealed Wednesday that the beleaguered 550-bed hospital is also planning to close 20 surgical beds and close two operating rooms. “The elimination of front-line workers will have an impact on patient care because the work still has to be done, whether it is cleaning a bed or transferring patients,” said Susan Brickell, who works as a registered nurse at the hospital and represents the Ontario Nurses’ Association.

Hundreds rally and march in Toronto for a Solidarity City

For seven years, thousands have marched through the streets of Toronto on May 1, demanding status for all, immigrant rights and worker rights. Supporting indigenous communities and environmental justice. Calling for an end to racism, ageism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia.

"And on February 21, Toronto City Council voted to reaffirm its promise to deliver services to every resident regardless of immigration status," said Tings Chak, a member of No One is Illegal Toronto.

Premier Redford tells schoolkids to beware of such opponents as Wildrose Party

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Alison Redford is warning young schoolchildren to beware of the Opposition Wildrose party because, she says, it is committed to not building anything.

Redford, with dozens of children spread in a semicircle at her feet at an Edmonton school, made the comments while announcing construction of new schools for the area.

Redford told the children — and the parents and dignitaries seated behind them — that while her government is committed to building things, her opponents are not.

Premier explains Alberta politics to children: 'Opposition Leader, what big teeth you have!'

Once upon a time, while Alberta's premier was telling fairy tales to impressionable children, some of her senior officials were spinning fairy stories of their own.

Actually, this all happened yesterday.

The premier told a group of Grade 1 students at an Edmonton school library a story about a good princess named Alison, who built schools for children just like them, and a very bad princess named Danielle, who wouldn't build any schools at all!

The Alison in question, of course, is Premier Alison Redford herself, the one telling the story. The Danielle is Danielle Smith, leader of the Opposition Wildrose Party. And maybe Redford didn't use exactly those words, but you get the general idea.

The giants of the green world that profit from the planet's destruction

The movement demanding that public interest institutions divest their holdings from fossil fuels is on a serious roll. Chapters have opened up in more than 100 US cities and states as well as on more than 300 campuses, where students are holding protests, debates and sit-ins to pressure their to rid their endowments of oil, gas and coal holdings. And under the "Fossil Free UK" banner, the movement is now crossing the Atlantic, with a major push planned by People & Planet for this summer. Some schools, including University College London, have decided not to wait and already have active divestment campaigns.

Boston, from One Citizen of the World Who Calls Himself a Runner

In the past thirty years, I’ve run thirty-three full marathons. I’ve run marathons all over the world, but whenever someone asks me which is my favorite, I never hesitate to answer: the Boston Marathon, which I have run six times. What’s so wonderful about the Boston Marathon? It’s simple: it’s the oldest race of its kind; the course is beautiful; and—here’s the most important point—everything about the race is natural, free. The Boston Marathon is not a top-down but a bottom-up kind of event; it was steadily, thoughtfully crafted by the citizens of Boston themselves, over a considerable period of time. Every time I run the race, the feelings of the people who created it over the years are on display for all to appreciate, and I’m enveloped in a warm glow, a sense of being back in a place I missed. It’s magical. Other marathons are amazing, too—the New York City Marathon, the Honolulu Marathon, the Athens Marathon. Boston, however (my apologies to the organizers of those other races), is unique.

Doug Elmendorf, CBO Director: Fixing Debt Problem Requires Hitting The Middle Class

One government official has some bad news for Americans and politicians: You can’t protect the middle class from tax increases or benefit cuts if you want to fix the deficit. But part of the problem lies in the definition: Basically everyone considers themselves part of the middle class.

JPMorgan Caught in Swirl of Regulatory Woes

Government investigators have found that JPMorgan Chase devised “manipulative schemes” that transformed “money-losing power plants into powerful profit centers,” and that one of its most senior executives gave “false and misleading statements” under oath.

The findings appear in a confidential government document, reviewed by The New York Times, that was sent to the bank in March, warning of a potential crackdown by the regulator of the nation’s energy markets.

Stephen Harper To Skip Commonwealth Meeting In Sri Lanka, Citing Human Rights Abuses

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper won’t be attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Sri Lanka next November, The Huffington Post Canada has learned.

The decision may ostracize Harper as the only G8-level leader not attending the meeting with Britain, Australia and New Zealand all expected to send their prime ministers, but it is expected to be very popular with Tamils, a new community the Tories are going after.

RCMP Report Details 51 Cases Of Disciplinary Action

RCMP officers have faced disciplinary action for acts of bad behaviour ranging from driving a cruiser drunk, to surfing porn on the office computer, to carelessly firing a gun.

According to the latest annual report on bad behaviour in the RCMP ranks, an Alberta sergeant was also disciplined for deliberately deleting portions of a document that led to a stay of proceedings in a "major criminal case."

Global warming caused super storms, ice thaw, UN organization warns

Global warming was to blame for super storms that killed hundreds of people last year, and record levels of ice thaw in the Arctic, the United Nations has warned.

As national representatives meet in Bonn, Germany, for the latest round of climate change negotiations, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) issued its latest report on the damage attributed to global warming.

The annual summary, which will inform policy-makers around the world, confirmed that 2012 was the ninth-warmest year on record, since record have been kept. The global average temperature in 2012 was 0.45 C warmer than the 1961 to 1990 long-term average of 14 C.

The report also pointed out that Arctic ice was at a record low, rainfall increased causing floods around the world and a number of countries experienced drought.

Extreme weather events, like Superstorm Sandy in the U.S. and typhoon Bopha in the Philippines, were linked to climate change and the damage and death toll could be exacerbated by rising sea levels. Michel Jar-raud, the secretary-general of the WMO, said the extreme events in 2012 were "a sign of things to come."

Original Article
Author: Louise Gray

Baird’s icy UN approach is just what many Canadians have ordered

If Paul Heinbecker didn’t exist, the opposition Liberals, New Democrats and Greens would have to manufacture him in a lab.

From his perch on the op-ed pages of the Globe and Mail, or on the airwaves of the CBC, this most august of retired Canadian diplomats regularly casts thunderbolts at the Harper government, more in sadness than in anger. Worldly and world-weary, Heinbecker knows — simply knows, to his core — that the Harper government’s foreign policy, especially its frostiness towards the United Nations, is inept, harmful to Canada’s standing in the world, and, well, just plain stupid.

Attack ads and bullying

Pundits and politicians have been tripping over themselves in recent weeks to point out the apparently delicious irony that a Conservative government working hard to criminalize bullying among schoolkids has been incessantly bullying Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau via particularly venomous attack ads.

The point has been made ad nauseam. But the point is a dubious one.

New Bank of Canada Governor’s most important attribute is understanding the Harper agenda

Bank of Canada Governors are appointed by the bank’s independent directors, subject to the approval of the Minister of Finance and the federal Cabinet. At least, that’s how the Bank of Canada puts it.

Jim Flaherty would doubtless say it differently – the directors give the Finance Minister a shortlist of qualified candidates and he picks the one most likely to follow the government’s agenda.

In reality, it is a very political appointment – which, in part, explains why Stephen Poloz is the new Governor.

Harper sneers when statesmanship is required

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is at risk of sneering himself into irrelevance.

His comments on terrorism in the last three weeks have left Canadians shaking their heads, hoping he doesn’t really mean what he says and looking elsewhere for answers. They want to know how young men amid them, going to the same schools as their kids, turn into mass killers. Who is radicalizing them? How does this metamorphosis happen in plain view of their unsuspecting parents, friends, teachers and imams?

Democracy and the decline of Parliament

Since his days as Paul Martin’s campaign chairman ended, David Herle has given a lot of thought to the state of our democracy and the increasing disconnect between Parliament and Canadians.

And the more Herle studies the issue, the more the former prime minister’s strategist worries.

“There’s a growing gap that could have serious long-term implications for the health of our democracy” from voter turnout to policy formation, Herle says over coffee one recent afternoon in downtown Toronto.

The Wizard of Wrath: Harper and the death of civility

Watching Canadian politics these days is like trying to see the Wizard behind the curtain.

Another budget bill full of sneakiness and bellicosity. Another auditor general’s report showing that the government needs new batteries for its calculator.

Just as in the movie, our Wizard is playing the bully with the big stick to the very end. In big things and little ones, the movie Wizard was nothing like the superior being that Dorothy, the Tin Man and the Lion expected to see when he was finally exposed. With Stephen Harper there is not much on display other than the lust to control, exercised with that familiar and most un-Canadian mean streak. What? Did someone take his rubber ducky away when he was a kid?

Stephen Harper’s Conservatives to lead review of Canadian history

OTTAWA — Federal politicians have launched a “thorough and comprehensive review of significant aspects in Canadian history” in Parliament that will be led by Conservative MPs, investigating courses taught in schools, with a focus on several armed conflicts of the past century.

Elections Canada needs politicians onside to change voting system

Elections Canada wants to avoid the procedural errors that plagued the last election, but the changes will likely cost money and require political will.

An independent report commissioned by Elections Canada found a pattern of serious errors in voting procedure during the 2011 general election. It said that election officers made over 500 serious administrative errors per riding on voting day.

Charge in robocall case has caused split among Guelph Tories

Several members of the Guelph Conservative riding association have left the group because they are unhappy with the way the central party reacted when local election worker Michael Sona was charged in connection with a fraudulent robocall that sent hundreds of Guelph, Ont., residents to the wrong poll on election day.

Stephen Harper has reshaped Canada in two years

The Conservative majority turned two Thursday. Hold the cake.

For all its carefully-crafted imagery as the stay-the-course, steady-as-she goes government, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have reshaped much of this country in 24 short months.

From the environment, to health care, to foreign policy, this is a different Canada than it was May 2, 2011, and many of the Harper initiatives may not be easily undone by future governments, or even future leaders of a Conservative government.