Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Racial Segregation 2.0

Americans are constantly being reminded of their accomplishments regarding civil rights and racial equality. This sudden surge of televised introspective into the progress the U.S. has made is due in large part to election of Barak Obama, and the recent deaths of prominent civil rights activists including Rosa Parks – the black woman who was made famous by her refusal to sit at the back of the bus, thereby sparking a year long bus boycott and bringing racial segregation to the forefront of the American conscience. After watching and reading numerous biographical segments about her life and the lives of other civil rights activists, I began to wonder if much has changed since the days of racial segregation. It is true that blacks are not being lynched any more, but is that really enough to congratulate our collective selves? After all, there is very seldom a day goes by without news of racially motivated crimes. If we are too quick to congratulate ourselves we would neglect to face the very ugly reality that racial segregation still exists and is as strong as it ever was. Contemporary western society is as guilty today of racial segregation as it was 60 years ago, because a necessary byproduct of economic segregation is racial segregation. Take a drive down any middle or upper class suburb in Calgary and you would be hard pressed to find any blacks. You would think they simply did not exist in this city, until, of course, you take a drive down to a low income area. All of a sudden it’s all pepper and no salt. Here is how I think it goes: if you are colored you are more likely to be poor. If you are poor, your children are more likely to be poor. Poor children are exposed to nastier things than rich children, because the schools they go to and the neighborhood they live in is filled with other poor children doing nasty things: drugs, sex, gambling, gangs, etc. Children exposed to these elements of society are more likely to wind up in jail, pregnant at sixteen, or addicted to drugs. These things tend to limit ones ability to procure the amount of money it would take to move to the middle class suburbs. As a result, these children will grow up and have children of their own who will be raised in the same perilous environment as their parents, thus perpetuating this cycle of racial segregation via economic segregation. One needs to look no further than the places a disproportionately high amount of American blacks are concentrated: prison, the army, the ghetto, and low paying jobs. It is no secret that blacks make up roughly 13% of the American population. This fact is not debatable. So why do they make up 50% of the prison population? Are they more predisposed to commit crimes than white people?  Absolutely. Poverty leads to crime, and crime leads to getting caught and winding up in jail. Why do they get caught? Because the police presence in poor (black) areas is much higher than it is in rich (white) areas. Some blacks slip through the cracks and defy virtually impossible odds to make it out of the low income areas and into the middle class suburbs. Many find a loophole by joining the army, because they will pay for College. As a result 25% of the U.S. army is made up of blacks, while only 13% of the American population is. That means that blacks are much more likely to get their heads blown off fighting an oil war so that rich white kids could gas up their SUV’s a little cheaper.

As a Canadian I am especially troubled by the North American Native reservation system that was setup hundreds of years ago supposedly for the sake of Native autonomy. Really? Upon studying the primary sources you will find that it was setup primarily because our founding fathers did not want the few natives that survived the smallpox they imported to the Americas living among them. Our legacy of systemic racial segregation is something we as Canadians cannot deny and have a well documented history of supporting. One might even argue that the present day reservation system in concert with the Department of Indian Affairs is guilty of promoting and propagating inequity and injustice, due to the squalor that many aboriginal people find themselves living in on reservations all over the country. All the while their Chiefs are some of the highest paid politicians in the country who are just as happy to take the billions of taxpayer dollars as the Government is in doling it out to buy their silence and cooperation.

What does all of this mean in the context of a fully functioning free and democratic society? To answer that question we must first ask: can a true democracy function where rampant and unchecked hyper-capitalism has allowed for the disparity of wealth to equal a disparity in political representation? Is it really any better that racial segregation based on skin color has been replaced by racial segregation based on income or a centuries old reservation system? Unless we attend to these issues and reform our democratic processes to first address and then mitigate the impact of the disparity of political representations, we will continue to find ourselves actively participating in a system which compounds and perpetuates segregation and injustice. Let us not congratulate ourselves too much, lest we forget there is much more to be done to promote true equality.  

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Update to the FDA Electoral Fairness Report on Canada

The recommendations in the FDA Electoral Fairness Report on Canada have been updated to include the following:

5. Canadian registered political parties should have member support of at least .5 percent from the voting population and have a national platform. The .5 percent threshold is a democratic means of limiting political access by unpopular political parties. The requirement of a national platform prevents interest and regional based political parties from having the same privileges as registered political parties. However, interest and regional based political parties would be allowed to be on electoral lists as long as they satisfy the .5 percent member support threshold.

(Sources: FDA auditors' ideas; Venezuela, Organic Law of Electoral Processes, Chapter II, Article 9-10, .5 percent declared member support either national or regional; Norway, Political Parties Act, Chapter II, Article 3(2), party registration based partly on public support from 5000 person who are eligible to vote; France, Organic Law No. 2011-410, representation on electoral list requires support from 500 elected officials at any level of government, and new political parties need $10,000 in donations in a 12 month period to receive public funding; Bolivia, Bolivian Law of the Electoral System, Act No. 26, political groups must represent at least 2 percent of vote in last election to be registered in subsequent election; New Zealand, Electoral Law 1993, to be registered political parties need at least 500 members; Egypt under Mubarak, Law No. 40 of the year 1977 Concerning the Political Party System and Its Amendments, ban on political parties which are based on religious, class, sectarian, categorical, or geographical basis. Note, countries with minimal barriers to entry for political parties like New Zealand, Canada, and the United States have various barriers within their electoral systems which favor significantly established and large political parties.)

2011 FDA Electoral Fairness Audit Report on Canada

The following FDA podcasts are related:

Religion and Democracy Parts 2 and 3

Sunday, December 18, 2011

FDA Religion and Democracy Podcast (Part 3 of 3)

In this month's podcast and with reference to the 2011 FDA Global Electoral Fairness Audit Reports (found on slideshare.com), Mr. Stephen Garvey FDA founder and executive director chairs a seven person panel on the topic of what is the threshold to ban secular and religious based political parties in a democratic society? The panelists are given two minute opening statements and closing statements, and observers at the podcast are given an opportunity to share questions and comments with panelists. The panelists are comprised of Mr. Randy Tyson from the Center for Inquiry and scientist with the National Research Council of Canada, Mr. Artur Pawlowski member of the Christian Heritage Party of Canada and pastor at the Street Church Ministries out of Calgary, Alberta, Mr. Brian Seaman lawyer and research associate with the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Center, Mr. Adam Idris past director of the Muslim Council of Calgary and an active member of the Muslim Christian Dialogue, Mr. Lawrence Irwin pastor at the Centre Street Church in Calgary, and Ms. Lindsay Tetlock FDA researcher and auditor. For non-mainstream, insightful, and provocative discussion from people working in the field of international politics, listen in or download the FDA podcasts.

FDA Podcast on Religion and Democracy (Part 3 of 3)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Conservative Party of Canada's environmental policies consistent

The Conservative Party of Canada's environmental policies under the Harper Regime are consistent with what the FDA auditors saw in the party's environmental policies in the 2010 federal election: short sighted, narrow, and lack of interest. Also, the Conservative Party of Canada never ran on a policy of pulling out of the Kyoto Accord, nor did the Conservative Party consult the Canadian people via referendum on such a significant issue.

The Harper Regime without the consent of the Canadian people has pulled Canada out of the Kyoto Accord, slashed the operating budget of Environment Canada, and has laid off and silenced many of Environment Canada's scientists. (Please see one source of many below.)

In the 2010 federal election, the Conservative Party of Canada received 39.6 percent of the votes of those Canadians who voted, and 24.3 percent support overall from all Canadian voters. Yet, through the federal election laws, which the Conservative Party of Canada and the Liberal Party of Canada created over the last several decades, the Conservative Party of Canada received 54.7 percent majority of the Canadian Parliament. (In Canada currently, the majority of the members of parliament create Canada's federal electoral laws despite a clear conflict of interest.)

In the 2010 FDA Canadian Federal Election audit, FDA auditors gave the Conservative Party of Canada's environmental policies a score of 20 percent out of 100 percent. FDA auditors assessment of the Conservative Party of Canada's environmental policies are as follows:

"Conservative Party of Canada’s policies lack progressive vision, and they are contradictory by promoting more intrusion into the environment via snowmobile trails and increasing landowner rights. The score of 20 percent is justified by the fact that the Conservatives support two new national parks."
 
From the 2010 FDA Canadian Federal Election Audit Report, the Conservative Party of Canada's policy platform on the environment is as follows:

CONSERVING AND PROTECTING OUR ENVIRONMENT

We will conserve and protect our environment. We will work toward an agreement with provincial, regional, municipal, Aboriginal, and community stakeholders to establish a National Conservation Plan; facilitate the creation of new protected areas, National Parks, and National Marine Conservation Areas; make the land between protected areas more permeable to wildlife, and expand the use of digital and multimedia technologies to help connect Canadians to nature; and strengthen our efforts to restore degraded ecosystems
and reintroduce native species.

We will invest in the creation of Mealy Mountains National Park, in Newfoundland and Labrador.

We will also take action toward the establishment of a new National Park in the Rouge Valley, in the eastern part of the Greater Toronto Area. In establishing this new National Park, we will work toward an agreement with provincial, regional, municipal, Aboriginal, and community stakeholders. We will ensure that the rights and interests of farmers in the region are fully protected. We will also ensure that communities in the region remain free to address their infrastructure needs.

HUNTING ADVISORY PANEL TO THE MINISTER OF THE ENVIRONMENT

We must take action to protect endangered species. But all too often decisions have been made without input from the Canadians most directly affected, who have unique expertise in the conservation of our natural heritage.

We will establish a Hunting Advisory Panel, reporting to the Minister of the Environment, comprised of representatives of provincial and territorial hunters and anglers associations, to ensure government decisions are based on solid science and balanced advice.

STRENGTHEN PROPERTY RIGHTS

Property rights were omitted in drafting the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, however, leaving landowners without appropriate protection against unfair restrictions on the use and enjoyment of their property. Species at Risk Act provides for compensation for land-use restrictions intended to protect the habitats of endangered species, in practice compensation is virtually never granted.

We will strengthen the rights of landowners, by reviewing the Species at Risk Act with a view to ensuring that when compensation is owed, compensation will be paid.

IMPROVE AND EXPAND CANADA’S SNOWMOBILE AND RECREATIONAL
TRAILS

We will build on the accomplishment of improving 500 trails, through additional funding for upgrades and new trails.

The Conservative Party of Canada's policies on energy, which the Conservative Party received a 20 percent score out of 100 percent, are as follows:

SUPPORT FOR CLEAN ENERGY

Stephen Harper’s Government will continue supporting clean energy initiatives, to protect our environment and improve the quality of the air we breathe. We will support economically viable clean energy projects that will assist regions and provinces in the replacement of fossil fuel with renewable fuel sources. The criteria for
our support of a project will be whether it has a national or regional significance; has economic and financial merit and will significantly reduce greenhouse emissions.

In addition to the criteria noted above, our support for any clean energy project will be based on the principles of respect and equitable treatment for all regions of the country. We will also continue taking action on climate change we have a climate change plan, and it is working. As part of our ongoing efforts we will make new investments to improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions – including an extension of the ecoENERGY Retrofit-Homes program. We will also provide additional support for research and development in clean energy and energy efficiency.

ACCORD ON QUEBEC’S OFFSHORE RESOURCES

Will allow the Government of Quebec to explore development of the Old Harry oil & gas field in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The result will be long-term job creation and economic growth in the regions of Quebec. We will implement the accord on Quebec’s offshore resources, by tabling the necessary legislation in Parliament.

FDA auditors assessment of the Conservative Party of Canada's energy policies are:

"Conservative Party of Canada’s policies are extremely vague and narrow. The score of 20 percent is justified on grounds of a few specifics such as the ecoEnergy Retrofit-Homes Program and development of Quebec’s offshore resources."

Harper Regime silences Environment Canada's scientists

2010 FDA Canadian Federal Election Audit Report

Monday, December 12, 2011

Threshold for Banning Political Parties in Democratic Society

In this month's podcast and with reference to the 2011 FDA Global Electoral Fairness Audit Reports (found on slideshare.com), Mr. Stephen Garvey FDA founder and executive director chairs a seven person panel on the topic of what is the threshold to ban secular and religious based political parties in a democratic society? The panelists are given two minute opening statements and closing statements, and observers at the podcast are given an opportunity to share questions and comments with panelists. The panelists are comprised of Mr. Randy Tyson from the Center for Inquiry and scientist with the National Research Council of Canada, Mr. Artur Pawlowski member of the Christian Heritage Party of Canada and pastor at the Street Church Ministries out of Calgary, Alberta, Mr. Brian Seaman lawyer and research associate with the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Center, Mr. Adam Idris past director of the Muslim Council of Calgary and an active member of the Muslim Christian Dialogue, Mr. Lawrence Irwin pastor at the Centre Street Church in Calgary, and Ms. Lindsay Tetlock FDA researcher and auditor. For non-mainstream, insightful, and provocative discussion from people working in the field of international politics, listen in or download the FDA podcasts.

FDA Podcast on the Threshold for Banning Political Parties

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Case of Omar Khadr Parts 2 and 3

In this second and third of three part interview, Stephen Garvey FDA executive director interviews Audrey Macklin, Professor of Law at the University of Toronto, on Omar Khadr's ordeal since being captured in 2002 by the United States Army in Afghanistan.

Professor Macklin sheds light on why the Canadian government under the Liberals and now the Conservatives failed to secure Omar Khadr's release from Guantanamo Bay. Also, Professor Macklin explains why Omar's ordeal impacts all Canadians.






Related FDA Report: Incumbency section on the Conservative Party of Canada:

2011 FDA Canadian Federal Election Audit Report 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Latin America's Renaissance

In a new FDA podcast and with reference to the 2011 FDA Global Electoral Fairness Audit Reports on Bolivia and Venezuela, Stephen Garvey, FDA executive director, interviews Dr. Maria Paez Victor about humanism and the Boliviarian/Latin American revolution. Dr. Victor provides in depth insight into Latin America humanism and the Bolivarian revolution. She argues that Latin America is going through its renaissance by freeing itself from colonialism and imperialism. Moreover, Dr. Victor points out that Latin American humanism emphasizes the interconnectedness of all living beings in a country, thereby transcends the one-dimensional profiteerism/consumerism of capitalism. Dr. Victor contends that the Latin American Bolivarian revolution is a necessary movement for the survival of all earthly life.

 Latin America's Renaissance

2011 FDA Global Electoral Fairness Audit Report on Venezuela

2011 FDA Global Electoral Fairness Audit Report on Bolivia 

Monday, December 5, 2011

FDA Electoral Fairness Report on the DRC

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) received an overall electoral fairness score of 3.75 percent. The scores means that the constitutional and legislative basis for Congolese democracy is bordering on complete unfairness. The FDA auditors reached consensus in all four sections of electoral fairness. The only identified elements of electoral fairness were the legislative basis for multi-political parties and freedom of voter choice. However, these elements are canceled out by significant elements of electoral unfairness. In all four of the electoral fairness sections, the Congolese state has shut off switches: the state can shut down media companies; the state can dissolve political parties; the state can dissolve political parties for violation of electoral finances; the state can silence voter say and expression on grounds of public order or morality. In addition, the Congolese media ownership concentration laws are canceled by the lack of transparency of media ownership. The Congolese electoral finance laws are canceled out by the lack of public transparency of political parties' finances. The state uses the vague terms of public order and morality to restrict freedom of expression and assembly, media ownership, and registration of political parties. In the FDA's opinion, the Congolese electoral system is authoritarian within a muddle, insignificant constitutional, electoral, and media laws which appear to exist only to satisfy international donors.

2011 FDA Global Electoral Fairness Audit Report on the DRC

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Case of Omar Khadr--FDA interview of Audrey Macklin (Part 1)

In this first of three part interview, Stephen Garvey FDA executive director interviews Audrey Macklin, Professor of Law at the University of Toronto, on Omar Khadr's ordeal since being captured in 2002 by the United States Army in Afghanistan.

Professor Macklin sheds light on why the Canadian government under the Liberals and now the Conservatives failed to secure Omar Khadr's release from Guantanamo Bay. Also, Professor Macklin explains why Omar's ordeal impacts all Canadians.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

DRC's electoral system receives 3.75 percent score out of 100 percent

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) received an overall electoral fairness score of 3.75 percent. The scores means that the constitutional and legislative basis for DRC democracy is bordering pn complete unfairness. The FDA auditors reached consensus in all four sections of electoral fairness. The only identified elements of electoral fairness were the legislative basis for multi-political parties and freedom of voter choice in who they vote for. However, these elements are canceled by significant elements of electoral unfairness. In all four of the electoral fairness sections, the DRC state has shut off switches: the state can shut down media companies; the state can dissolve political parties; the state can dissolve political parties for violation of electoral finances; the state can silence voter say and expression on grounds of public order or morality. In addition, the DRC's media ownership concentration laws are canceled by the lack of transparency of media ownership. The DRC's electoral finance laws are canceled out by the lack of public transparency of political parties' finances. The state uses the vague terms of public order and morality to restrict freedom of expression and assembly, media ownership, and registration of political parties. In the FDA's opinion, the DRC electoral system is authoritarian within a muddle, insignificant constitutional, electoral, and media laws which appear to exist only to satisfy international donors. (Democratic reform including multi-party elections is a requisite for mobilizing financial assistance. (Source: Africa Today 56:4 (Summer 2010), 52.))

The FDA Global Electoral Fairness Report on the DRC will be published shortly.