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 27, 2011

Harper blocks mention of 1967 border in G8 Mideast statement

Stephen Harper blocked G8 leaders from declaring in their summit statement that Middle East peace talks should be based on returning to Israel’s pre-war 1967 borders, plus negotiated land swaps.

Full Article

PM to extend Libyan mission

Stephen Harper is planning to extend Canada’s controversial military intervention in Libya and will ask the Commons, which he controls, to approve this.

He announced this Friday at the Group of Eight leaders’ meetings in France.

It’s not clear yet how long Mr. Harper intends to extend Canada’s involvement.

Full Article

Jim Flaherty’s son joins Fords at City Hall

Councillor Doug Ford has hired federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s son, Galen, as a summer student, forging a new link in the close, mutually beneficial friendship between the conservative families.

Full Article

NDP will learn to live without party subsidies: Layton

OTTAWA—Jack Layton says ending the public financing of political parties is bad for democracy, but he has little hope the Conservative government will change its mind so New Democrats will learn to live with it.

“This of course opens the door then for big money to come back into politics, where private fundraising will become the engine of the political system. We think that’s wrong,” Layton told reporters on Wednesday.

“Of course our party will live with the new rules even though we think that they actually undermine democracy and we will all just have to work harder to raise the funds that are necessary.”

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty confirmed on Wednesday that his upcoming budget would make a longtime Conservative dream a reality and end the per-vote subsidy that provides political parties with a total of $27 million annually.

Full Article

Tea Party Targets Schools For 'Constitution Week'

MALTA, Idaho — America's kids will be learning about the U.S. Constitution this coming school year with help from a decidedly conservative Idaho publishing house, if a tea party group gets its way.

The Tea Party Patriots, Georgia-based but claiming 1,000 chapters nationally, are instructing members to remind teachers that a 2004 federal law requires public schools to teach Constitution lessons the week of Sept. 17, commemorating the day the document was signed. And they'd like the teachers to use material from the Malta, Idaho-based National Center for Constitutional Studies, which promotes the Constitution as a divinely-inspired document.

Full Article

The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You

The Internet is increasingly becoming an echo-chamber in which websites tailor information according to the preferences they detect in each viewer. When some users search the word “Egypt” they may get the latest news about the revolution, others might only see search results about Egyptian vacations. The top 50 websites collect an average of 64 bits of personal information each time we visit—and then custom-designs their sites to conform to our perceived preferences. What impact will this online filters have on the future of democracy? We speak to Eli Pariser, author of "The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You.” “Take news about the war in Afghanistan. When you talk to people who run news websites, they will tell you, stories about the war in Afghanistan don’t perform very well, they don’t get a lot of clicks–people don’t flock to them. And yet, this is arguably one of the most important issues facing the country,” says Pariser. “But it will never make it through these filters. Especially on Facebook, this is a problem because the way that information is transmitted on Facebook is with the ‘Like’ button. And the ‘Like’ button has a very particular balance. It is easy to click ‘Like’ on ‘I just ran a marathon’ or ‘I baked a really awesome cake.’ It is very hard to click ‘Like’ on ‘War in Afghanistan enters its 10th year.’”


When the Internet Thinks It Knows You

ONCE upon a time, the story goes, we lived in a broadcast society. In that dusty pre-Internet age, the tools for sharing information weren’t widely available. If you wanted to share your thoughts with the masses, you had to own a printing press or a chunk of the airwaves, or have access to someone who did. Controlling the flow of information was an elite class of editors, producers and media moguls who decided what people would see and hear about the world. They were the Gatekeepers.

Then came the Internet, which made it possible to communicate with millions of people at little or no cost. Suddenly anyone with an Internet connection could share ideas with the whole world. A new era of democratized news media dawned.
You may have heard that story before — maybe from the conservative blogger Glenn Reynolds (blogging is “technology undermining the gatekeepers”) or the progressive blogger Markos Moulitsas (his book is called “Crashing the Gate”). It’s a beautiful story about the revolutionary power of the medium, and as an early practitioner of online politics, I told it to describe what we did at But I’m increasingly convinced that we’ve got the ending wrong — perhaps dangerously wrong. There is a new group of gatekeepers in town, and this time, they’re not people, they’re code.

Full Article

Keep Chilean Patagonia Wild

An environmental review commission in the Aysén region of southern Chile has made a potentially disastrous decision, voting to approve the construction of five hydroelectric dams, two on the Baker River and three on the Pascua. The damage these dams would do to the environment is tremendous, and their construction — in a largely unspoiled natural haven — would open the way for further development, including more dams.

Full Article

California's Jam-Packed Prisons

On May 23, 2011, the US Supreme Court ruled that conditions in California's prisons violated the constitutional ban on "cruel and unusual punishment" and affirmed a lower court's order that the state drastically reduce its inmate population.

Writing on behalf of the court's five-vote majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that this unprecedented measure had become the only way to remedy the "serious" and "uncorrected" constiutional violations against inmates in the state's correctional facilities, particularly the sick and mentally ill. "For years the medical and mental health care provided by California’s prisons has fallen short of minimum constitutional requirements and has failed to meet prisoners’ basic health needs. Needless suffering and death have been the well-documented result," he wrote. "Short term gains in the provision of care have been eroded by the long-term effects of severe and pervasive overcrowding." His decision included vivid examples of the problem, from open dorms so packed they can't be effectively monitored, to suicidal inmates "held for prolonged periods in telephone-booth sized cages without toilets."

Full Article

Court Strikes Down Gov. Scott Walker’s Anti-Union Bill

A Wisconsin judge has struck down Governor Scott Walker’s union-busting law. On Thursday, Judge Maryann Sumi ruled Republican legislators failed to provide sufficient public notice before passing the measure in March. Judge Sumi had previously issued a temporary restraining order to prevent the measure from taking effect. The law sharply curbs nearly all collective bargaining rights of state employees.
Republicans pushed it through despite massive protests this March that paralyzed the State Capitol. The day after Republican Governor Scott Walker signed it into law, more than 100,000 people filled the streets of Madison in what was described as Wisconsin’s largest protest ever. Democracy Now! was there to cover the rally and spoke to Democratic State Senator Tim Carpenter.


Endless Worldwide War

The Republican-led House has passed a defense spending bill Thursday with a number of controversial provisions. If signed into law, the bill would prohibit any non-U.S. citizen suspected of terrorism from receiving a federal trial regardless of where they were arrested. In addition, the bill expands the president’s ability to wage an endless worldwide war against terrorism suspects and against nations suspected of supporting them even when there is no connection to the Sept. 11 attacks. Laura Murphy of the American Civil Liberties Union criticized the bill saying: "A new authorization of worldwide war will mean unrestricted powers to use the military at home and abroad."