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.]

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Paul Krugman's Comments About Canada Have Bank Economists Seeing Red

Pulitzer Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman’s New York Times blog post forecasting a possible “deleveraging shock” to Canada’s economy has some Canadian bank economists visibly unhappy.

Krugman said last week that Canada “ought to be quite vulnerable to a big deleveraging shock despite its boring banks.” (“Boring” is a compliment in Krugman’s vocabulary, and “deleveraging shock” means stagnant retail sales and falling house prices as Canadians reduce their debt.)

Iran vote exposes Canadian extremism

The overwhelming reaction of international governments to the dramatic outcome of Iran’s presidential election was cautious but hopeful. Some even wondered whether it might lead to a historic breakthrough in the dangerous nuclear conflict between Iran and the West.

In contrast, the response of the Canadian government — dismissing the vote as “effectively meaningless” and calling the newly elected Iranian president “one of Ayatollah Khamenei’s puppets” — was cynical and extreme.

How the control freak lost control

Just for a change of pace, let’s start with the good news for Stephen Harper’s government as his Conservative party prepares to gather in Calgary June 27-29 for its biennial policy convention.

May was the best month for job creation Canada has seen since 2002, with 95,000 net new jobs, all in the private sector. Unemployment fell to 7.1 per cent. The economy grew by 2.5 per cent in the first quarter. That’s almost triple the growth rate for the last quarter of 2012. It’s the best quarterly growth in a year and a half. And it is well ahead of federal budget projections. If this kind of growth continues, Harper should have little trouble eliminating the deficit before a scheduled 2015 election. He could then bring in a new round of targeted tax cuts designed to buttress his argument that smaller government is better government.

From bullying to corruption: Two diseases afflicting Canadian society

Two diseases seem to be gradually worsening in Canadian society: bullying and corruption.

Both can be interrelated and seem to afflict our children in schools and our politicians in the public arena, respectively.

Sometimes one disease is a simple continuation of the other, sometimes they are totally separate, but both diseases are nevertheless extremely dangerous.

The Dictatorship of Data

Big data is poised to transform society, from how we diagnose illness to how we educate children, even making it possible for a car to drive itself. Information is emerging as a new economic input, a vital resource. Companies, governments, and even individuals will be measuring and optimizing everything possible.

But there is a dark side. Big data erodes privacy. And when it is used to make predictions about what we are likely to do but haven’t yet done, it threatens freedom as well. Yet big data also exacerbates a very old problem: relying on the numbers when they are far more fallible than we think. Nothing underscores the consequences of data analysis gone awry more than the story of Robert McNamara.

GCHQ taps fibre-optic cables for secret access to world's communications

Britain's spy agency GCHQ has secretly gained access to the network of cables which carry the world's phone calls and internet traffic and has started to process vast streams of sensitive personal information which it is sharing with its American partner, the National Security Agency (NSA).

The sheer scale of the agency's ambition is reflected in the titles of its two principal components: Mastering the Internet and Global Telecoms Exploitation, aimed at scooping up as much online and telephone traffic as possible. This is all being carried out without any form of public acknowledgement or debate.

Council’s G20 secret

It hangs in a frame on the wall of Gord Perks’s office without any context: a rudimentary printout of city  council vote GM29.22, dated 3/31/10.

There are 26 yea votes and five nay votes recorded on it. And each of the five people responsible for those nays has graced the page with their signature.

If Defense Contractors Are Rich, Why Aren’t Their Workers Paid?

The headlines to emerge from the shadier corners of private defense contracting these days are, generally, stories of extravagance. Just last week, The Atlantic deemed Edward Snowden “Exhibit A for How Washington Blows Money on Contractors,” in a story that aimed to describe “what the leaker’s $200,000 salary tells us about the absurd cost of privatizing government.” Meanwhile, in the Wall Street Journal, we learned that President Obama plans to target the lush executive pay of federal contractors, alongside another story that attributed Washington’s “New Boomtown” moment to many of these same companies—Booz Allen types who’ve prompted “luxury-condo developers from around the country” to arrive “in droves.”

UK Spying Scandal Even Bigger Than In U.S., According To GCHQ Documents Obtained By The Guardian

LONDON — British spies are running an online eavesdropping operation so vast that internal documents say it even outstrips the United States' international Internet surveillance effort, the Guardian newspaper reported Friday.

The paper cited British intelligence memos leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden to claim that U.K. spies were tapping into the world's network of fiber optic cables to deliver the "biggest internet access" of any member of the Five Eyes – the name given to the espionage alliance composed of the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Mitch McConnell: Citizens United Amendment Is An 'Absurd Proposal'

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) criticized a proposed constitutional amendment to eliminate corporate personhood rights on Friday, calling the idea "absurd."

The amendment, proposed by Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) on Tuesday, would establish that corporations are not people with constitutional rights. This would overturn the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision, which holds that corporations have a First Amendment right to spend unlimited funds on political campaigns as long as that spending is independent from candidates and political parties.

Why Is This US-Born Citizen Being Detained by ICE?

Gerardo Gonzalez Jr. was born near Los Angeles and, as such, is a US citizen. The 23-year-old was arrested on a drug charge in December—and his world was turned upside down. Gonzalez is legally eligible for release on bail, but when his girlfriend attempted to post bail in January, they both learned that Gonzalez was placed on an immigration hold. Despite meeting the burden of providing evidence that he was born in the United States and holds citizenship, authorities have unconstitutionally held Gonzalez in jail for six months—only because an officer involved in Gonzalez’s arrest erroneously noted that he was born in Mexico.

Why Are Brazilians Protesting the World Cup?

On Wednesday, days after massive protests took over the streets, officials in 14 cities in Brazil—including the capitals Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre, Belo Horizonte and Recife—announced they were reducing public transport fares. It was a historic popular win over the unilateral way transportation, and urban policies in general, are decided in Brazil.

Tory MPs Urge Burka Ban, Death Penalty And Abolition Of Nick Clegg

Tory MPs have tabled a series of Bills that would, among other things, ban the burka, privatise the BBC, bring back the death penalty, take the UK out of the European Union, rename a day after Margaret Thatcher and abolish Nick Clegg.

The list of 40 Private Members Bills published on Friday (full list below), dubbed an 'Alternative Queen's Speech', is a wish list of the Conservative right and the four MPs behind it have been nicknamed the "Tory Taliban".

Ed Miliband To Be 'Ruthless' About Public Spending But Accepts Further Cuts Needed Beyond 2015

Ed Miliband has promised to be "ruthless" about pursuing Labour's public spending priorities despite accepting the need for further cuts beyond the 2015 general election. The Labour leader said he would not make any promises on changes to the spending plans set out by the Chancellor unless he can be "absolutely crystal clear" where the money would come from as he set out the "hard reality" facing the party.

In the favelas on the frontline of protest, Brazilians ask: who is this World Cup for?

Wednesday night was due to be a celebration in Fortaleza. This north-eastern coastal city was the first in Brazil to complete its World Cup stadium in readiness for the 2014 contest. Things didn't quite work out as planned.

"After the first teargas bomb, my brother and I ran with a few others to flee the police," said Julia Lopes, 27, who was among 30,000 local people demonstrating before the Brazilian national side's showcase Confederations Cup match against Mexico. "My husband Pedro ran in the opposite direction. Later I met him – he had a swollen eye.

Power Killer

This is a tale of two presidents—the one we hope we have and the one we actually have. It is also a tale of two kinds of violence—the surgical and the indiscriminate—and how the latter blurs the distinction between self-defense and something far more sinister.

This story began last year, when the White House told the New York Times that President Obama was personally overseeing a “kill list” and an ongoing drone bombing campaign against alleged terrorists, including American citizens. Back then, much of the public language was carefully crafted to reassure us that our country’s military power was not being abused.

Up to Their Eyeballs

One of the most disturbing aspects of the National Security Agency surveillance scandal is the way government has reportedly worked with private companies such as Yahoo, Facebook and Google. Those companies have disputed allowing the government direct access to their servers, as was originally reported by The Washington Post and The Guardian. The technology firms, Google foremost among them, have even pressed the government to be more transparent. However it was with their help that the NSA has devised a system to sort the massive amounts of data swept up by its snooping.