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, September 18, 2013

Wall Street tells Oliver time is of essence on pipelines

As the Harper government continues with its push to build support for the Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan pipeline projects in Canada's West, officials on Wall Street are taking notice and raising concerns about Canada's ability to get resources to market, says Canada's Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver.

"These are opportunities that have a certain lifespan and it's wrong to assume that because the resources are in the ground that it doesn't matter then when you get them out," Oliver told reporters gathered at a news conference in New York on Tuesday.

Will the Supreme Court Stop Cops From Reading Your Text Messages?

If you're like many Americans, your cellphone is overflowing with personal information—text messages, emails, photos of your friends and family, an organized history of who you've been calling, private notes, automatic login to your Facebook and Twitter accounts, your favorite music, and even maps of where you like to run around your house. And if you're anything like Mother Jones staffers, you probably keep your cellphone on you at all times. If I'm arrested on my way home from work (probably for eating on the Metro), you can bet that my smartphone will be in my pocket or my purse. And in Washington, DC, as well as most states across the country, the law won't keep the arresting officer from taking my phone without a warrant, rifling through my text messages, copying the data for later use, and even breaking my password to do so—all things that would most likely be illegal if the officer went to my office and did them to my work computer, instead.

Larry Summers Is Out, but the Boys’ Club Is as In as Ever

On Sunday, Larry Summers sent President Obama a letter withdrawing his name from consideration to be the next chairman of the Federal Reserve, and progressives did rejoice. The news came after a protracted and heated debate, particularly for a role that doesn’t tend to get a lot of hearts racing, over who should take over when Ben Bernanke leaves in January. The contest was reportedly between Summers and Janet Yellen, who currently serves as vice-chair for the Fed.

Women Still Earned 77 Cents On Men's Dollar In 2012: Report

Women still earned only 77 cents for every dollar that men earned in 2012, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

In 2012, the median earnings of American women working full time year-round were $37,791. American men earned a median income of $49,398. The gender wage gap has hovered at about 77 cents on the dollar since 2007.
Women are also lagging behind men in terms of re-employment after the recession. The number of men working full time year-round increased by 1 million between 2011 and 2012, while the number of full-time working women remained close to the same.

Within some minority groups, the wage gap is even worse: African-American women earn 69 cents for every dollar paid to African-American men, and Latinas earn just 58 cents on the dollar compared to Latino men. The disparity grows wider when these women are compared to non-Hispanic white men.

Linda D. Hallman, executive director and CEO of the American Association of University Women -- whose group studied this issue last year -- was not pleased with the latest news.

"We are disappointed by the Census Bureau's latest economic snapshot showing that the gender wage gap remains stagnant," Hallman said. "Unfortunately for women and their families, it’s the same old story -- another year of no improvement. It's clear that this problem is not going to fix itself -- we need strategies to address it. Although we always hope for appropriate legislation from Congress, given the stalemate on Capitol Hill, we're urging President Obama to do all he can through the executive branch to move the ball down the field."

The gender wage gap can be attributed to several factors: Women make up a majority of workers in the 10 most common jobs that pay less than $10.10 an hour, and they tend to be under-represented in high-earning fields. Bloomberg Businessweek reported in 2012 that the only occupation in which women out-earn men is personal care and service work, including butlers, valets, shoe shiners and house sitters.

But studies show women are paid less even when they are in the same job and have the same experience as their male counterparts. The 2012 report by the American Association of University Women found that after controlling for occupation, college major, hours worked, employment sector and other factors related to a person's pay, the gender wage gap shrunk but did not entirely disappear.

"About one-third of the gap cannot be explained by any of the factors commonly understood to affect earnings, indicating that other factors that are more difficult to identify -- and likely more difficult to measure -- contribute to the pay gap," that report said.

House Democrats, led by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), are working with progressive advocacy groups to launch a major initiative aimed at improving women's economic security. They will push to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and close some of the loopholes employers use to pay women less than men for the same work, along with bills to raise the minimum wage, expand affordable child care and mandate paid sick and family leave.

Most Republican lawmakers oppose those policies, arguing that they are bad for employers and the economy. Pelosi has said she and her colleagues plan an aggressive communications strategy to elevate the issues until Republicans are pressured into taking them seriously.

"A majority of Republicans voted against the Violence Against Women Act, and they only brought it to the floor this year with great reluctance because we made it too hot to handle out there," Pelosi told The Huffington Post in a June interview. "That may be what we have to do with these issues -- paycheck fairness, child care, sick leave. As President Lincoln said, 'Public sentiment is everything,' and that's where we have to take our fight."

Original Article
Author: Laura Bassett 

Median Income Falls For 5th Year, Inequality At Record High

No wonder so few Americans seem to think their economy is in recovery: They keep getting poorer. Unless they are rich, in which case they keep getting richer.

Median household income fell for the fifth straight year in 2012, the Census Bureau reported on Tuesday, to $51,017. That was the lowest annual income, adjusted for inflation, since 1995.

"The Fifth Little Girl": Birmingham Church Bombing Survivor Still Seeks Compensation 50 Years On

Fifty years ago this week, four young girls — Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Addie Mae Collins — were killed when the Ku Klux Klan bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The bombing came less than a month after the landmark March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Hundreds gathered in the nation’s capital last week to honor their memory when lawmakers posthumously awarded the girls the Congressional Gold Medal. We’re joined by Addie Mae’s sister, Sarah Collins Rudolph, who is often referred to as the bombing’s "fifth victim." Just 12 years old when the church was attacked, Collins Rudolph was hit with shards of glass, lost an eye and was hospitalized for months. Today, she continues to live in Birmingham, suffering from the physical, mental and emotional effects of the bombing. She says she has yet to receive any compensation. Click here to watch Part 2 of this interview.


Gun Violence In America: At Least 57 Shot In Weekend Preceding Navy Yard Shooting

WASHINGTON -- Just after 1 a.m. this past Sunday, police in Shreveport, La., stumbled upon a horrifying scene at the city's Cedar Grove neighborhood. Lying on the pavement with a gunshot wound in his upper body was Sidney Thomas.

A 32-year-old man who relatives said had a condition similar to cerebral palsy, Thomas is believed to have been riding his bike when he was shot. Beyond that, virtually nothing else is known, least of all the motive for killing someone who, a neighbor told the press, "couldn't even hurt a fly." A call to the Shreveport Police Department was not returned.

The Uneven Economic Recovery: Eleven Things We’ve Learned and Six Charts

On a day when President Obama talked about the economy and the financial system five years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, it’s worth being reminded about what has transpired in those years, taking into account the many revisions that have been made to the official statistics since that fateful day in September, 2008. For ease of exposition, I’ll list them individually.

Former NSA Head: Terrorists Love Gmail

Gmail is reportedly the most "preferred” online service of “terrorists worldwide.”

The Google marketing team likely won't be celebrating the news, which comes from Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of the National Security Agency and director of the Central Intelligence Agency, according to the Washington Post.

In a Sept. 15 speech at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., Hayden explained Gmail's popularity amongst international terrorists. "It's free, it's ubiquitous," he said, later adding that we're probably not going to "see that in a Google commercial."

We cannot be complacent about the Stasification of our societies

We all know by now that the tinfoil-hat wearers were right all along: they are watching everything you do. As Bruce Schneier, the well known cryptographer and security expert says, the US government has commandeered the internet; its surveillance capabilities are far beyond anything Orwell imagined in 1984. Luckily, after a steady torrent of revelations about abusive levels of state surveillance by the US, the UK, and other western governments, public opinion has begun to shift. Even influential mainstream media like the New York Times (also here and here), The Economist, and Foreign Policy are increasingly critical of the excesses of US surveillance and the lack of oversight and debate on the erosion of civil liberties over the last decade. (This is a terrific rundown of how the issue has been treated by politicians and the mainstream press.) The detention of David Miranda and the flagrant intimidation of The Guardian by British intelligence thugs sent by the British Prime Minister’s Office have shown even to many inclined to trust the security state that it cannot be trusted with the power it has.

Canada Helped US Crack Open Encrypted Data: Reports

As the tidal wave of disclosures on widespread U.S. surveillance continues -- there is now little doubt that the U.S. government has spent billions creating a surveillance infrastructure that covers virtually all Internet and wireless communications -- the question of Canada's role in these initiatives remains largely shrouded in secrecy.

The Canadian government has said little, but numerous reports suggest that agencies such as the Communications Security Establishment Canada (the CSE is the Canadian counterpart to the U.S. National Security Agency) are engaged in similar kinds of surveillance. This includes capturing metadata of Internet and wireless communications and working actively with foreign intelligence agencies to swap information obtained through the data mining of Internet-based surveillance.

Surveillance a condition of Canadian wireless licence

Wireless carriers in Canada, including those bidding on a block of prime spectrum tomorrow, must agree to allow police and Canadian securities agencies to monitor suspects through their networks as a condition of licence.

The first bids are due tomorrow on four blocks of Canadian spectrum that will help wireless carriers improve broadband access across the country.

Oil Spill Cold Lake: First Nation Says 6 Sites At Oilsands Project Leaking Bitumen, Up From 4

COLD LAKE, Alta. - A First Nation says it is concerned about two other leaks at an oilsands project in northeastern Alberta, bringing the total in recent months to six.

Chief Bernice Martial of Cold Lake First Nation said Monday that she is worried about the safety of drinking water, animals and vegetation in her region.

'Stand Up For Science' Protests: Scientists Protest Harper Government 'Muzzling,' Cuts

OTTAWA - Hundreds of frustrated scientists clad in their telltale white lab coats descended Monday on Parliament Hill to demand that the Harper government stop muzzling scientists and cutting research funding.

"What do we want? Evidence-based decision-making!" chanted the protesters as they gathered in the shadow of the Peace Tower, complaining about what they see as the government's efforts to commercialize research.

Here comes that Harper charm offensive

The Harper government’s push for pipeline love from British Columbia native leaders looks more a like a shove from a nightclub doorman to show who’s in charge.

With just three months left before the Joint Review Panel (JRP) passes judgement on Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, a swarm of Tory heavyweights — including the prime minister — has descended on B.C.

Their ostensible purpose is to win hearts and minds. That’s a largely empty enterprise, since the government will be going ahead with the controversial development no matter whose rivers it has to cross with China-bound bitumen, or how many sportsmen lie down in front of the bulldozers. It’s like that U-2 song — With or Without You — even if that means simply declaring Northern Gateway to be ‘in the national interest’, the nuclear option in the PM’s arsenal.

RCMP hid $1M cost estimate of gun registry data destruction, documents show

OTTAWA - The RCMP repeatedly stonewalled media inquiries for months about the price tag for destroying the federal long gun registry data, even though the federal police force had a full cost estimate in hand.

The Mounties had a detailed breakdown more than a year ago that showed fulfilling the long-time Conservative promise to kill the registry would cost about $1 million.

Tuition costs in Canada: Jeopardy, Jackpot, or Wheel of (Mis)Fortune?

It seems all that fuss being kicked up about tuition fees rising faster than inflation, significant levels of student debt, dismal employment prospects for young people, and parents having to postpone retirement to help shoulder some of the burden under which their kids are struggling has not gone unnoticed.

As we discuss in Degrees of Uncertainty, the average cost of tuition and compulsory fees for Canadian undergrads will rise by 13 per cent over the course of their degree, from $6,610 this fall to an estimated $7,437 in 2016-17. Since 1990, average tuition and compulsory fees, even adjusting for inflation, have tripled since 1990.

Economic Action Plan TV-Radio Ads Flopped, Poll Suggests

OTTAWA - Canadians tuned out another series of slick, taxpayer-funded Economic Action Plan ads that filled the airwaves in the spring, a new survey suggests.

Radio and TV spots appeared in late March to coincide with the release of the 2013 federal budget, but an internal poll of 2,009 adults indicates the action plan brand remains tarnished.

The Harris-Decima survey found 38 per cent were happy with the Conservative government's performance, the lowest level among the 10 such polls conducted since April 2009, when the first wave of action plan ads was released.

Stephen Harper Doesn't Drink Alcohol, Except When He Does

Stephen Harper has made his distaste for marijuana clear and now he's touting his teetotalling too.

At an event last week at which he cracked jokes about Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's plan to legalize pot, the prime minister said "I don’t drink alcohol, but I have lots of friends who do," according to The National Post.

Harper's claim to abstain isn't exactly backed up by the photographic record (see below).

Bridge Safety: Many U.S. Spans Are Old, Risky And Rundown

WASHINGTON — The United States has so many bridges in need of repair or replacement, and so little money to do the work, that state and local officials say they are engaged in a kind of transportation triage: They fix the most important and vulnerable spans first, nurse along others and, when there's no hope, order a shutdown.

Many of today's aging bridges carry more vehicles than they were originally expected to handle; truckloads that pass over are much heavier, too. Many also are years past their designed life expectancy.

Breaking Up With Occupy

Sandy Nurse seemed to have lost what tolerance she once had for long meetings. Even though the basement of the DeKalb Library in Brooklyn was air-conditioned on an especially sticky July day, and even though the meeting’s agenda was only partly finished, she told the handful of other eco-activists there that she was sorry, but she had to go build some compost bins, and she left.

Nurse never really looked all that happy in meetings. As one of the earliest members of Occupy Wall Street’s Direct Action Working Group—as well as one of the last—she attended a lot of them, including a lot of quite horrible ones. She could often be seen sitting at the far end of the oblong circle, away from the fray but guiding it nonetheless with her formidable evil eye. Where she would come alive was in the streets, leading marches through the winding canyons of the Financial District or tricking the cops with an unexpected reversal of course to get the march to where it wasn’t supposed to go: Wall Street.

Who really bears the risk for P3s?

Canada is now the second biggest market for public-private partnerships (P3s) in the world, as a recent Conference Board report showed (on page 30, see my initial critique here).

P3s are big business: Canadian governments closed deals on a reported $7 billion in P3 contracts in both 2010 and 2011. This was the highest in the world in 2010 and second only to France in 2011 (see also note 1 below). We're well above the U.S., Australia and even the U.K., which had been a world leader before their PFI program imploded.