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.]

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Military subversion: Adventurism, seduction, and transformation on the front lines

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children." -- Dwight D. Eisenhower, April 16, 1953

Canadian Chief of Defence Staff General Walter Natynczyk is hot to trot, ready and eager for new military missions. He's telling his troops to keep their "kit packed up" ready for new military adventures: "We have some men and women who have had two, three and four tours and what they're telling me is 'Sir, we’ve got that bumper sticker. Can we go somewhere else now?' You also have the young sailors, soldiers, airmen and women who have just finished basic training and they want to go somewhere and in their minds it was going to be Afghanistan. So if not Afghanistan, where's it going to be?"

Food Waste: Americans Throw Away Nearly Half Their Food, $165 Billion Annually, Study Says

Aug 21 (Reuters) - Americans throw away nearly half their food every year, waste worth roughly $165 billion annually, according to a study released on Tu esday.

"As a country, we're essentially tossing every other piece of food that crosses our path. That's money and precious resources down the drain," said Dana Gunders, a scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council's food and agriculture program.

Paradoxical Québécois ethnic and civic nationalisms

Quebecers are in the midst of a rather noisy and often confusing debate centred on Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois’ proposed controversial Charter of Secularism. This oxymoronic Charter would restrict the use of religious symbols, except the Catholic crucifix, within public sector institutions. The debate demonstrates vividly the paradoxical clash between traditional ethnic and modern civic nationalisms that now bedevils Quebec and many European Union states. Homage is paid to an inclusive civic nationalism while states increasingly promote the religious and cultural values of the majority while curtailing — via discriminatory legislation — the rights of religious/cultural minority communities.

Jim Flaherty to business leaders: Loosen your fists

To Jim Flaherty’s frustration, there is a massive wad of idle cash in the Canadian economy. The finance minister would like to get the money in circulation, creating jobs, improving productivity, boosting consumer confidence and helping the country to compete against the world’s emerging economic giants.

But the $525-billion stash is out of his reach. It’s in private hands. Since the financial meltdown of 2008-2009, Big Business has socked away most of its earnings. According to the Gandalf Group, which tracks corporate cash reserves, the accumulation has now surpassed half a trillion dollars.

An education in equalization

If an Alberta student wants to attend the University of Alberta or the University of Calgary, he or she will pay about $6,000 a year for tuition. If he or she enrolls at McGill University in Montreal, the cost will also be around $6,000, not including books, room and board and living expenses.

It’s the same if a young Montrealer comes west. Tuition for out-of-province Canadians at Alberta’s largest universities runs about $6,000 annually.

Equalization only promotes lazy spending habits

OTTAWA - Equalization doesn't just reward failure. It encourages it. Seven Canadian provinces were chronic recipients of the program from the very beginning and all have been economic and financial underperformers that bleed ambitious young people to more dynamic parts of the country. Newfoundland and Saskatchewan are no longer recipients of equalization and are struggling to reverse economic and demographic decline, but Quebec, Manitoba and the other three Atlantic provinces are still stuck in it.

BBC says it won’t allow statue of George Orwell at its entrance

To the surprise of right-wing commentators, it is possible to be too lefty for the BBC.

The British public broadcaster, which is often criticized by conservatives for its political slant, will not allow a statue of George Orwell to grace the entrance of its new headquarters, reportedly because the idea is too partisan.

Fees eat up 90% of RESP refund after baby’s death

Rashed Chowdhury and Nuzhat Rehman lost their one-year-old daughter, Samara, to a rare form of childhood cancer.

They spent a month sleeping in her room at the Hospital for Sick Children, while she underwent chemotherapy treatments that failed to stop the disease.  Soon after burying his little girl, the grief-stricken father got into a fight with the company that ran the registered education savings plan (RESP) he started to pay for her college costs.

China’s state-run news agency being used to monitor critics in Canada: reporter

Mark Bourrie had just finished listening to the Dalai Lama speak at the Ottawa Civic Centre with his wife and daughter when he says his cellphone rang: It was his boss — the Ottawa bureau chief for the Chinese state-run news agency, Xinhua — asking Mr. Bourrie to take notes at the spiritual leader’s press conference and pin down what happened at the Dalai Lama’s private meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper earlier that April day.

On its face, the request was not an odd one. Mr. Bourrie, an award-winning Canadian journalist and author, had for two years worked as a full-time freelancer for the news agency and had covered the Dalai Lama’s speech at a convention the day before.

Stephen Harper's ATV Ride In Yukon Ruffles Local Feathers

Stephen Harper's ATV ride through a "fragile ecosystem" has left some Yukon locals irritated.

The prime minister posed for photos Monday sitting atop an ATV in the Carcross Desert and, according to iPolitics, unknowingly rode into an ongoing environmental dispute in the Arctic territory.

According to the territory's own website, the dunes are "home to a variety of rare plants and animals unique to this habitat" and constitute a "fragile ecosystem" created from deposits of sand and silt left on the bottom of Lake Watson at the end of the last ice age.

Canada’s new immigration rules put premium on young people

New immigration rules will target workers aged 18 to 35 as the Conservative government provides the clearest sense yet of how Canada will rely on young immigrants to soften the fiscal pain of a demographic crunch.

The federal regulations reveal a sweeping overhaul of the points system used by Canada for approving foreign worker applications.

Oil Company Polar Bear Rules Affirmed By Appeals Court

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Oil companies operating in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska's northwest coast will have a negligible effect on polar bears and walrus, according to a federal Appeals Court ruling Tuesday that backed U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rules on harassment of the animals.

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the agency correctly issued rules that provide legal protection to oil companies if small numbers of polar bears or Pacific walruses are incidentally harmed.

Goldman Sachs Looks to Turn a Profit on a Program to Fight Recidivism

Earlier this month, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the first-ever “social impact bond” in the United States. The bond, between the city of New York and investment giant Goldman Sachs, will finance a behavioral treatment program for incarcerated adolescents on Rikers Island. Unlike a traditional revenue bond, a social impact bond will pay a dividend only if the target outcomes are met—in this case, that the recidivism rate among the youth treated falls by 10 percent. If it does even better, Goldman Sachs will turn a small profit—with the city footing the bill.

Akin Fiasco Gets Rove to Admit, Again, Why Crossroads Exists

Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS is allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money on attack ads in battlegrounds states—without ever disclosing a single donor—because it has protected status as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization. Unlike Super PACs, which must disclose donors, Crossroads GPS and other groups don’t have to disclose because they supposedly don’t have political activity as a primary purpose, and therefore are allowed to protect their funding sources.

Liberals Need to Start Holding Obama Responsible for His Policies

A spot-on Election 2012 parody recently published at Reason begins as follows: "The past several weeks have made one thing crystal-clear: Our country faces unmitigated disaster if the Other Side wins." I though of it upon reading a Salon interview with novelist Paul Auster, whose foray into political commentary sums up what frustrates me about a certain kind of liberal. His remarks presume extraordinary bad faith on the part of right-wing Republicans while ascribing the best intentions to President Obama. The GOP-bashing makes Auster seem unserious. Really? Comparing the opposition to jihadists? Tom Friedman could craft a better metaphor.

Paul Ryan Cosponsored All the Most Extreme Anti-Abortion Bills

Over his career in the House, GOP VP candidate Paul Ryan has endorsed a number of measures that would limit or completely bar abortion in the United States. Although Ryan's anti-abortion credentials have gotten plenty of coverage since he was announced as Romney's veep choice, the full extent of the measures he's endorsed is breathtaking, and includes cosponsoring a measure that would allow hospitals to deny women access to an abortions even if their life is in immediate danger.

Everything You've Heard About Failing Schools Is Wrong

"SPEEK EENGLISH, TACO," THE GIRL with the giant backpack yelled when Maria asked where to find a bathroom. The backpack giggled as it bounced down the hall. It had been hours since Maria began looking for a bathroom. Anger boiled inside her, but she didn't know any English words to yell back. That was the hardest part. Back in El Salvador she'd always had something to say.

The bell rang. A flood of shoulders and sneakers swirled around Maria, and she couldn't see much until the sea of strangers streamed back into classrooms. Then she stood alone in the hallway.

It was Maria's first day at school, her first week in the United States. Her middle school in San Francisco was the biggest building she'd ever seen. It was bigger than the entire Best Buy store she'd walked through in awe on her first day in the city.

Bryant's Story Needs Scrutiny, Dead Cyclist's Father Says

Michael Bryant's suggestion that police wilfully mishandled the investigation into his involvement in the death of a Toronto cyclist has sparked an angry backlash from officers.

Bryant has released a new book called 28 Seconds: A True Story of Addiction, Injustice and Tragedy, which details the events that led to the death of bike courier Darcy Allan Sheppard three years ago.

During an interview with CBC's Amanda Lang about the memoir, the former attorney general for Ontario said it appeared that the work of police officers following the Aug. 31, 2009, incident "didn’t seem like an investigation."

Feds walk away from environmental assessments on almost 500 projects in B.C.

Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has washed its hands of environmental assessments of nearly 500 projects in B.C. as a result of a revised Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

The 492 wide-ranging projects include gravel extraction on the lower Fraser River, run-of-river hydro projects and wind farms, bridge construction as well as demolition of the old Port Mann Bridge, shellfish aquaculture operations, hazardous-waste facilities and liquid-waste disposal.

Mr. Harper's science problem

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's setting of a Dec. 31, 2013 deadline for completion of the environmental review of the Northern Gateway project now is looking somewhat hasty. Mr. Harper is keen to get the review and approval process going, but his commitment to a hard and fast deadline seems out of step with the pace at which his own fisheries department can supply evidence that review will need. Canadians need to know this project gets the scrutiny it deserves.

The prime minister earlier this month assured Canadians that the fate of the plan by Enbridge to lay pipeline from Alberta to the British Columbia coast south of Kitimat rests on science. The project has many critics and faces formidable obstacles, including the buy-in of all the First Nations bands that claim traditional rights to a lot of the land affected. British Columbia Premier Christy Clark wants to know what is in it for her province, since B.C. gets little of the profit but will shoulder most of the environmental risk.

First Nations must be partners, not an afterthought

The debate over the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline has vaulted First Nations people and their rights to the forefront of the national discussion on energy, the environment and resource development.

This is fitting. Our lands are the backbone of the Canadian economy. Yet we have often been seen only as an obstacle or afterthought to development (when we were seen at all). Now we have an opportunity and impetus to reconcile our rights and interests and reap benefits for all Canadians.

Climate change deniers are almost extinct

Most North Americans know that human-caused global warming is real, even if political leaders don’t always reflect or act on that knowledge. According to a recent poll, only two per cent of Canadians reject the overwhelming scientific evidence that Earth is warming at alarming rates – a figure that may seem surprising given the volume of nonsense deniers (many of them funded by the fossil fuel industry) spread through letters to the editor, blogs, radio call-ins, and website comments.

Polling indicates more deniers live in the U.S., but they still make up just 15 per cent of that population.

It’s getting harder to ignore the evidence: record high worldwide temperatures; increasing extreme weather events; devastating droughts, floods, and wildfires; animal and plant species turning up where they’ve never been found before; record ice loss in the Arctic and Greenland; melting glaciers… The trends are exactly as climate scientists predicted.

Final fantasies: The illusions of personal debt and Canadian consumerism

Canadians as individuals are in debt. In debt to an extent never before seen in Canadian history, and to an extent never likely to be seen again. Much of this debt, as I noted in an earlier piece, is invested in the ultimate middle-class dream of personal home ownership, a debt that has been backed by the government as a dangerous and "tax-payer" insured form of speculative stimulus.

Yet that is only one side of the equation and only one side to the story of how credit has been used to artificially sustain a middle-class consumerist illusion on a continent that has for decades increasingly turned away from the production of commodities.

NDP to campaign against F-35 purchase in next election, fight is about democracy, says opposition MP

PARLIAMENT HILL—The NDP is ready to campaign against the Conservative government’s controversial plan to spend at least an estimated $40-billion on a fleet of 65 F-35 stealth attack warplanes and cancel the program if it forms government after the next federal election, a senior New Democrat MP signalled on Tuesday.

After a three-hour NDP hearing on Parliament Hill where four expert witnesses denounced the F-35 procurement—with one former government procurement official accusing the Department of National Defence of lying in a letter to the Public Works Department before the government announced the acquisition in 2010—NDP MP Jack Harris (St. John’s East, Nfld.) said the his party’s fight against the F-35 procurement once Parliament resumes will be “about democracy.”

Inside Karl Rove’s Secret Kingdom: Craig Unger on Stolen Votes, Political Attacks, Billionaire Ties

In a new book, author Craig Unger examines the return of Karl Rove, the man who masterminded the rise of George W. Bush from governor of Texas to a two-term presidency, who advised Bush during two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who was at the center of two of the biggest scandals of the Bush administration: the Valerie Plame Wilson affair and the U.S. attorneys scandal. While Rove was almost indicted for the Plame affair, he has reinvented himself to become the most powerful political operative in America. Heading up the American Crossroads super PAC and the affiliated nonprofit, Crossroads GPS, Rove has built up a war chest that has given Mitt Romney a significant cash advantage in the fundraising race with President Obama. In "Boss Rove: Inside Karl Rove’s Secret Kingdom of Power," Unger writes that Rove’s ambitions are not simply about winning elections, but represent "a far more grandiose vision — the forging of a historic re-alignment of America’s political landscape, the transformation of America into effectively a one-party state."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Rolf Wiborg's Tough Love for Canada

Rolf Wiborg is sizing me up -- something I imagine he does with most people sitting across his desk. I am in his modest office at the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, an organization he helped lead for many years. He leans close with a practiced and penetrating gaze, raising his voice, as he recounts how he once dealt with a visiting American oil executive who he felt was "bullshitting" him.

"I told him, 'Stop! We have 45 minutes left and you've spent 15 talking about nothing. My time is paid by the Norwegian taxpayer and your time in Norway is deducted from your company's taxes, so we pay for around 80 per cent of your time as well. So we better spend that 45 minutes EFFECTIVELY!'"