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.]

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Stephen Harper turns down invite to premiers meeting for third straight year

The premiers are upset because they're not getting enough love from Ottawa.

Canada's premiers and territorial leaders are convening in Halifax this week for the annual Council of the Federation, a.k.a. the premiers' conference.

And once again, for the third straight year, Stephen Harper is invited but won't be attending.

Harper government denounced at International AIDS Conference in Washington, DC

To launch off the AIDS 2012 XIX International AIDS Conference Washington D.C., Canadian and international activists demonstrated at the Canadian exhibition booth yesterday afternoon.

The Canadian booth is financed by the Public Health Agency of Canada and is a symbol of the government's presence at the conference. "The Harper government's lack of commitment on HIV and human rights is negligent and shameful," said Alex McClelland of Canada’s AIDS ACTION NOW, the group who organized the demonstration. "We need to act in order to save our lives and our communities," stated McClelland who is living with HIV.

An idiot's persistence: Asinine adventures of the Harper Conservatives

"Orators are most vehement when their cause is weak." -- Marcus Tullius Cicero

Economist Jeffrey Sachs' book The price of civilization: Economics and ethics after the fall is a razor-sharp dissection of the implosion of American democracy and economy. As the jacket cover says, "Sachs goes deeper than an economic diagnosis. By taking a broad, holistic approach -- looking at domestic politics, geopolitics, social psychology, and the natural environment as well -- Sachs reveals the larger fissures underlying the current economic crisis." All this is true, and much more as well. I won't explore the many perceptive analyses contained within this book, but simply wish to pluck one string and examine how it reverberates in a Canadian context.

Aurora shooting may ruin one victim's finances

(CBS News) Victim Caleb Medley was shot in the eye at the Aurora movie theater massacre and remains in intensive care in an induced coma. In the same hospital, one floor away, his wife Katie is about to give birth to their first child.

"He's a strong guy," said Seth Medley, Caleb's brother. "I'm not used to seeing him like that. I don't ever want to see him like that again."

But even if Caleb fully recovers, what happened at the midnight movie threatens to ruin the couple financially. His family has been told medical bills could total $2 million. Longtime friend Michael West is trying to raise money.

Loblaw locked in labour dispute at Asian supermarket chain

Loblaw Cos. Ltd.’s fast-growing Asian supermarket chain is locked in a dispute with its warehouse employees over their attempt to form a union.

The nearly 100 employees at one of T&T Supermarket Inc.’s distribution centres voted Monday on union certification.

But the Ontario Labour Relations Board sealed the ballot box because the union and the company disagreed over which names should appear on the voters’ list, said Kevin Shimmin, national representative of the United Food and Commercial Workers Canada union.

Austerity's Big Winners Prove To Be Wall Street And The Wealthy

WASHINGTON -- The poor and middle classes have shouldered by far the heaviest burdens of the global political obsession with austerity policies over the past three years. In the United States, budget cuts have forced states to reduce education, public transportation, affordable housing and other social services. In Europe, welfare cuts have driven some severely disabled individuals to fear for their lives.

But the austerity game also has winners. Cutting or eliminating government programs that benefit the less advantaged has long been an ideological goal of conservatives. Doing so also generates a tidy windfall for the corporate class, as government services are privatized and savings from austerity pay for tax cuts for the wealthiest citizens.

Summer yawn: Indifference meets UN report on Canadian complicity in torture

It's been more than a month, but Canadians in general have been able to go about their daily business despite the United Nations declaration that the federal government is complicit in torture. July 1st flag-wavers didn't have their spirits dampened by the findings that, apart from a few headlines, fell victim to the vagaries of the 24-7 news cycle.

The report from the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) came on the heels of another UN report from the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, who not only expressed concern about the growing inequality gap in this country, but also took Canada to task for what he called its "appallingly poor" record of respecting and implementing the recommendations of UN human rights organizations.

We must keep saying the names of killers

There was, as David Carr pointed out in The New York Times, a sickening predictability to the aftermath of the theatre shooting in Colorado last week. Even the mistakes and rumours felt familiar.

But there was one element, this time around, that felt new: the pleas, especially online, for the victims’ names and stories to be remembered. For that we can thank, primarily, two remarkable people: Jessica Ghawi and her brother Jordan.

Why we feel like America is going to hell

What’s wrong with the United States of America? It’s a question countless people are asking, in the United States and around the world, following the massacre at a movie theatre in Colorado. Why does the United States spawn such madness, so frequently? And why is it getting worse?

I’ll get to that. But first, let’s recall another massacre in Colorado, not far from last week’s atrocity.

Residential school abuse claims surpass federal estimates

The number of people coming forward to say they were seriously abused at Canada’s Indian residential schools greatly outstrips early federal estimates and will boost the cost of settlements by more than $2-billion, federal officials say.

It is a situation that suggests the problems at the government-funded, church-run institutions that operated for most of the previous century were far more pervasive than originally believed.

80,000 take to the streets of Montreal, as Human Rights Commission declares Bill 78 unconstitutional

It's been a wild weekend here in Quebec. On Thursday, the Quebec Human Rights Commission denounced virtually the entirety of Bill 78, in the strongest terms I have yet seen used.

Although the denunciation was sharper, the main difference between the QHRC report and other groups which have assailed the embattled law, like Amnesty and the Quebec Bar Association, is the fact that this was friendly fire.

Why China pays big premiums for energy companies

China’s state-controlled companies sure know how to make their energy takeovers look compelling.

When Sinopec announced its plan to buy Daylight Energy Ltd. last fall, the Chinese firm offered a whopping 120 per cent premium to the previous day’s closing price. On Monday, CNOOC Ltd. offered Nexen Inc. shareholders a 61 per cent premium over Friday’s closing price.

But look a little bit deeper, and the numbers aren’t as sexy.

Canada’s crime rate at lowest level since 1972

The amount of crime, including violent offences, reported by Canadians dropped by 6 per cent last year, falling to the lowest level since 1972, though there were increases in homicides, some crimes against children and cannabis possession.

Numbers released Tuesday by Statistics Canada show that the “crime severity index,” a way of weighting offences, was down by 26 per cent in 2011 compared to a decade earlier.

CETA will constrain options for governments at all levels

Canadian trade negotiators are in Brussels this month for another round of free trade and investment talks with the EU. Though the negotiations are delayed — they’ve been at it for three years now — the expectation is still that the Conservative government will be able to clinch a deal eventually, if not by the end of 2012 as planned. That is, unless public opinion gets in the way, which it is threatening to do in both Europe and Canada.

Believe it or not, where the Conservatives may once have seen their Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) as another economic “no brainer,” concluding the deal might actually use up a lot of Prime Minster Harper’s political capital. Disagreements within the closed-door CETA negotiations are spilling out onto the street as leaked text becomes available, creating fissures that will only widen over time.

America has surrendered to the NRA

Noteworthy among the responses to the movie theatre massacre in Colorado was that of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a strong advocate of gun control. He was reacting to the words of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Both gentlemen expressed deep sorrow. Neither advocated measures to address their country’s sick gun culture.

“Soothing words are nice,” Mr. Bloomberg said, “but maybe it’s time that the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they are going to do about it.”

Alberta can look to China for path to B.C. pipeline approval

EDMONTON - The contrast couldn’t be more stark.

On one hand: resource-hungry China, which is spending hundreds of billions of dollars to secure global commodity supplies and control its own destiny.

On the other hand, resource-rich Canada, which is so paralyzed by petty regional politics, competing provincial agendas and the sky-is-falling rhetoric of environmental pressure groups that it runs the risk of squandering its economic future.

Knowing truth tougher without research: is that the PM’s objective?

“If it’s the case that we’re spending on organizations that are doing things contrary to government policy, I think that is an inappropriate use of taxpayers’ money and we’ll look to eliminate it.” (Prime Minister Stephen Harper, June 7, 2012).

Earlier this month research scientists in lab coats held a protest lab on Parliament Hill. Their demonstration included a symbolic funeral procession for ‘evidence’ amid Conservative cuts to research funding and federal in-house research capacity. The protest also came on the heels of a federal budget that put the axe to the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE), the First Nations Statistical Institute (FNSI) and the National Council on Welfare (NCW). Taken together, the chop to these three agencies takes just $7.5 million off the federal books – a paltry sum in relation to the value of the public goods they provided and now lost to Canada.

Nexen bid part of China’s plan to become resources powerhouse

China is taking a historic step toward its ambition to become a global resources powerhouse with a $15.1-billion (U.S.) bid to buy Calgary-based oil producer Nexen Inc.

The bid by state-backed CNOOC Ltd. is the largest by a Chinese firm for a foreign company, and confirms that Canada has become a proving ground for China’s rise in the global economic order as it deploys some of its trillions of dollars in foreign reserves to secure strategic resource properties around the world.

Nexen deal could put other oil sands firms in play

A large but troubled oil sands project will fall into Chinese hands after CNOOC Ltd. agreed to pay $15.1-billion (U.S.) for Nexen Inc., in a takeover that signals even the most important members in the Canadian oil patch are vulnerable.

Never before has a foreign firm paid so much for a Canadian energy company – and never before has a Chinese firm paid so much for an overseas asset.

The Ford Brothers Escalade escapade

Doug and Randy are probably right; Rob has taken the populist stuff just a little too far. Being a man of the people is all very well, but not when it comes to certain things — including, above all, the car you drive. A late-model minivan simply doesn’t cut it, not when you’re the mayor of Toronto.

And a Ford.

Sometimes a man must be true to his roots. Though Rob tried to make it clear he was happy with his biscuit tin, Roug and Dandy, er, Doug and Randy, know better.

Nexen deal China’s Canadian bridgehead

Stephen Harper won’t stand in the way of Beijing’s biggest-ever foreign investment, a $15.5-billion (U.S.) bid unveiled Monday for Calgary-based oil producer Nexen Inc. by China’s state-owned Cnooc Ltd., or China National Offshore Oil Corp.

Indeed, the Canadian prime minister will be applauding.

If Athabasca is rivalled only by the Middle East in its vast oil reserves, the world’s top creditor nation has its own vast resources — of cash — that Harper is eager to tap. Chinese firms already have pumped $17 billion into North American oil and gas plays since 2010. But there’s at least another $2 trillion of acquisition firepower where that came from.

Health Ministry’s $428,000 man Saad Rafi gets a contract extension

The highest paid mandarin at Queen’s Park has quietly been reappointed to his $428,000-a-year job.

Saad Rafi, the deputy minister of health, was awarded a contract extension of up to three years with an order in council personally signed by Premier Dalton McGuinty at cabinet on June 27.

Rafi, who spent Monday at the side of Health Minister Deb Matthews for their joint grilling at the hands of the legislature’s estimates committee, made $427,551 last year.

Nexen-CNOOC takeover: Why China will keep calling on Canadian oil, resources

State-controlled Chinese oil giant CNOOC Ltd. has made a $15.1 billion (U.S.) offer to buy Calgary-based Nexen Inc., which has operations in the oil sands as well as overseas.

The blockbuster deal—China’s biggest takeover of a foreign energy firm—needs sign-offs from shareholders, Industry Canada and the Competition Bureau, reignites the controversy of foreign ownership of Canadian companies and puts political pressure on Ottawa’s energy strategy.

The true story of Rob Ford’s ‘B.S.’ line on crime

As a peace officer, Police Chief Bill Blair knows how to keep the peace between a bully and a pulpit.

A week after the public shootout in Scarborough, Toronto’s top cop had a tough law-and-order assignment Monday: keep the pressure on Premier Dalton McGuinty, but keep a lid on Mayor Rob Ford.

The bully-pulpit summit at Queen’s Park, pitting Mayor Mad versus Premier Dad, yielded an outcome that isn’t half-bad:

Anonymous takes on prison industrial complex with latest hack

The prison industrial complex is the latest victim of Anonymous’ #FuckFBIFriday campaign. Hacktivists have compromised data from a massive correctional facility management firm and have defaced their website.

The website for The GEO Group, Inc., a Florida-based management firm with clients worldwide, has been targeted by operatives with the online collective Anonymous. Friday’s hack from the group is the most recent release related to the #FFF campaign that has in past weeks targeted and successfully taken down the sites of the CIA, FBI and US Department of Justice.

Police Brutality in Anaheim Sparks Outrage After 2 Latinos Shot Dead and Demonstrators Attacked

Police in the California city of Anaheim are facing allegations of murder and brutality after fatally shooting two Latino men over the weekend and firing rubber bullets at crowds of protesters. On Saturday, Anaheim police shot and killed 24-year-old Manuel Diaz after he reportedly ran away from a group of officers who confronted him in the street. Diaz was unarmed. Hours after his death, a chaotic scene broke out when police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at a crowd of local residents protesting the shooting. Another Latino resident, Joel Acevedo, was shot dead by police the following day. Police say Acevedo was suspected in a car robbery, but the circumstances around his death remain unconfirmed. We discuss the situation in Anaheim with Gustavo Arellano, editor of the alternative newspaper, OC Weekly, and Theresa Smith, who has worked with families to call for police accountability in Anaheim since 2009, when officers shot and killed her son, Cesar Cruz, a 35-year-old father of five. "Given the fact that this is the eighth officer-involved shooting within one year in the city of Anaheim ... the community is going to be very upset," Arellano says. "There’s a lot of angry residents, and rightfully so."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Northern Gateway Pipeline: B.C. Liberals Unsatisfied With Oil Pipeline Answers; Call For More Safeguards

VANCOUVER - British Columbia is demanding a greater share of economic benefits from the controversial $5.5-billion Enbridge (TSX:ENB) pipeline and a greater spread for the potential risks as some of the preconditions that must be satisfied to give its blessing to the project.

But the Alberta government has said compensation for B.C.'s risk is not an option.

Mitt Romney Made Over $25 Million In Foreign Income While Governing, Campaigning

WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney accumulated more than $25 million in foreign income between 2005 and 2010, while he was governor of Massachusetts and a presidential candidate, according to an analysis of his 2010 tax return.

The 2010 return lists foreign tax payments Romney made dating back to 2000. By Romney standards, the payments were modest through 2004, averaging $37,000 a year. In 2005, however, his foreign tax bill shot up to $333,149 and stayed high for the next three years, before dipping in 2009, as the financial crisis hit hard.

7 foreign takeovers that shook up Canadian business

Foreign takeovers of prominent Canadian companies make headlines when they are proposed. They frequently draw opposition from economic nationalists and labour groups, but are rarely blocked by the federal government.

Calgary-based oil and gas producer Nexen Inc.announced Monday that it has agreed to be purchased for $15.1 billion US by the China National Offshore Oil Co. (CNOOC), which is owned by the Chinese government.

B.C.'s Northern Gateway demands trigger showdown with Alberta

British Columbia has triggered a showdown with Alberta over energy royalties, saying it won’t support the controversial $6-billion Northern Gateway pipeline project unless it is given a bigger cut of tax revenues.

Alberta, however, quickly fired back, saying it won’t be cutting its neighbour a cheque.