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, June 20, 2013

Fetuses Feel Pain at 20 Weeks, and 4 Other Anti-Abortion Myths

The House of Representatives passed a law on Tuesday banning abortions after 20 weeks across the country, based on the scientifically dubious claim that a fetus can feel pain at that point. The federal "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act" draws from a model bill promoted by the National Right to Life and mirrors laws that have passed in a dozen states in the last three years.

Where does this premise for a 20-week abortion ban come from? In the debate on Tuesday, House members repeatedly cited the research of Dr. Kanwaljeet "Sunny" Anand, a University of Tennessee professor of pediatrics, anesthesiology, and neurobiology who has promoted the idea that 20 weeks post-conception is the point when a fetus begins to feel pain. His work, which has been the go-to resource for anti-abortion groups, was mentioned at least four times on the House floor. Citing Anand's findings, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) argued that "the baby responds the same way you and I respond to pain, by recoiling." She went on to claim that the pain of a fetus at 20 weeks is "possibly more intense than that felt by older newborns."

Tory MP questions Ottawa’s decision to sole source multi-million-dollar contract for 21 coast guard helicopters

A Conservative MP has questioned his own government’s decision to sole source a multi-million-dollar contract for 21 new coast guard helicopters from a Montreal-area company over safety concerns and fears that the process was rigged so that the Quebec firm would win.

In a letter to Transport Minister Denis Lebel, obtained this week by the National Post, Tory MP Rick Dykstra questioned a decision to grant Bell Helicopters of Mirabel, Que., a weight exemption that its rivals claim gave the firm an unfair advantage.

Why World Refugee Day is so important

June 20th is World Refugee Day. This is a day dedicated to raising awareness about the plight of refugees worldwide. This year's campaign theme is: "Take 1 minute to support a family forced to flee."

While many people might not see the importance or urgency of helping refugees, either because they are scared or wary of them, ignorant about what causes refugee populations in the first place, or who refugees are -- or merely because they cannot wrap their heads around the fact that in literally one minute, someone can lose everything and be forced to flee their home -- refugee populations are in dire need of international support and protection.

Margaret Doughty, Atheist Seeking U.S. Citizenship, Told To Join Church Or Be Denied

Margaret Doughty, an atheist and permanent U.S. resident for more than 30 years, was told by immigration authorities this month that she has until Friday to officially join a church that forbids violence or her application for naturalized citizenship will be rejected.

Doughty received the ultimatum after stating on her application that she objected to the pledge to bear arms in defense of the nation due to her moral opposition to war. According to a letter to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services by the American Humanist Association on Doughty's behalf, officials responded by telling her that she needed to prove that her status as a conscientious objector was due to religious beliefs. They reportedly told her she'd need to document that she was "a member in good standing" of a nonviolent religious organization or be denied citizenship at her June 21 hearing. A note “on official church stationary [sic]" would suffice, they said.

C-377: A chance for the Senate to prove its worth

There's a hilarious piece in the National Post by Dean Beeby, who cleverly used an access to information request to ferret out a copy of the training manual they use for the summer students who guide tourists around Parliament Hill. Anticipating critical questions about the role of the Senate in our modern-day democracy, the students are primed to highlight its virtue as a site of sober second thought.

Consider these choice phrases, straight out of the manual:

Did U.S. Gov’t Lie about TWA Flight 800 Crash? Ex-Investigators Seek Probe as New Evidence Emerges

Seventeen years ago, TWA Flight 800 crashed off Long Island, killing all 230 people aboard. The official government investigation blamed mechanical failure, but now a group of former investigators are petitioning the National Transportation Safety Board to reopen the probe, saying the original report was falsified. Was the plane accidentally shot down by the U.S. Navy conducting a nearby exercise, or was it a terrorist attack? We speak to the filmmakers behind a new documentary on the crash, "TWA Flight 800," former CBS News producer Kristina Borjesson and Tom Stalcup, a physicist and co-founder of Flight 800 Independent Researchers Organization. We also play an extended excerpt of the film "Shadows of Liberty," which also explores the controversy.

Author: -

Study Details Canada's 'Perfect Storm' Housing Problem

New research into Canada's housing crisis has yielded some disturbing conclusions, including findings that 200,000 Canadians experience homelessness every year, and three-quarters of that group is forced to stay in shelters at some point.

Researchers released their State of Homelessness in Canada 2013 report yesterday, billing it as the first comprehensive look at a growing problem on a national scale. The document also concludes that 380,600 Canadian households are in "severe housing need," and that on any given night there are 30,000 homeless across the country.

How Harper's Office Is Playing News Editor

Kudos to the weekly Barrie Advance for exposing the way some journalists are taking their marching orders from Erica Meekes, a flack in the Prime Minister's Office.

These edicts from Meekes instructing reporters to attack Harper's political opponents have been the subject of much chatter amongst the hacks in my small circle since they began arriving in the email box of a pal in May.

John Baird vacationed for free at historic Macdonald House in England

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and six of his friends stayed at the official residence of Canada’s High Commissioner to Great Britain for eight days, free of charge, while on vacation in England, CTV News has learned.

CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife reported late Wednesday that Baird stayed in the historic Macdonald House in central London -- a residence usually used by the prime minister and governor general for official functions when they visit the city.

G8 talk of Canada-EU trade deal wishful thinking

Wishful thinking has dominated the agenda of this week’s annual G8 summit in Northern Ireland, focused on a proliferation of planned, hyperambitious trade deals.

Barack Obama heralded negotiations to begin next month on a U.S.-European Union (EU) trade deal as leading to a pact that would “support hundreds of thousands of jobs on both sides of the ocean.”

Why the Governor General Should Remove Harper

Over the past week or so, people have become quite fond of name calling and deriding the intelligence of a certain individual: me. Perhaps they caught it from the Commons.

Collectively, the message is this: petitioning the Governor General to remove the Prime Minister won't work. One camp insists that the GG removing the PM would clearly be anti-democratic and I must be an idiot for suggesting it. A more polite, if condescending, group suggest I don't understand how responsible government works, with some going so far as to recommend further reading. More detractors maintain that, even if the Governor General has the authority on paper to remove a sitting Prime Minister, such action would result in a massive constitutional crisis. Then they start spouting legal references like Trekkies arguing which captain is better, Kirk or Picard.

Stephen Poloz, Bank Of Canada Governor: Debt-Loving Canadians Saved The Economy

BURLINGTON, Ont. - Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz says Canadian consumers did their part for the economy by borrowing the country through the worst recession since the Great Depression and now it is the turn of businesses to show some confidence and start spending.

In his first major speech since taking over from former governor Mark Carney earlier this month, Poloz preached the virtues of "stability and patience," noting the central bank's long-standing target of low, stable inflation remains "sacrosanct."

Bob Rae gone from political life? Don’t bet on it

Bob Rae may be leaving the House of Commons. But, to use an Elvis metaphor, he almost certainly hasn’t left the building.

The building in this case is Canadian political life. Rae has been a habitué since he was a student politician at the University of Toronto some 45 years ago. He has been addicted to politics most of his adult life.

It is a hard addiction to shake.

Canada-EU trade deal makes Nenshi ‘nervous'

Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi says some parts of Canada’s pending free-trade deal with the European Union make him “nervous.”

The possibility of the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) will include subnational procurement clauses raises the prospect of European companies having protected access to procurement processes in Canadian municipalities in spite of any policy desire to buy locally and that, Nenshi said in an interview Wednesday, could pose a problem.

How the PMO story unfolded

When I answered a call Monday from the prime minister’s office, my first thought was Stephen Harper was planning to come to Barrie.

I have been a journalist here for more than two decades and have only heard from the offices of high-ranking politicians when they wanted coverage of a campaign visit or were coming to Barrie to make an announcement.

As I listened to the woman on the other end of the phone explain why she was calling, it quickly became obvious to me Harper was not coming. The caller, who identified herself as Erica Meekes, told me she wanted to send information regarding Justin Trudeau’s speaking engagement at Georgian College. She would send the information along if I agreed to identify the PMO as a “source.”

GTA new home prices hit record $644,427

New home sales across the GTA hit their lowest level on record for May as average prices were pushed to new highs of $644,427, according to RealNet Canada.

The 26 per cent decline in house sales year over year, but a six per cent rise in new house prices, is being blamed on a dwindling supply of enough serviced land to meet demand for new low-rise housing, as well as government fees and charges which, a recent study showed, account for more than 20 per cent of the cost of a new home.