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, April 12, 2014

Tories plan new attack on windfarms

David Cameron is considering whether to go into the general election promising new restrictions on onshore windfarms as influential Tories launch an attempt to rid the countryside of turbines, a senior source close to the prime minister said.

The Conservative source indicated that Cameron is "of one mind" with some of the loudest opponents of onshore windfarms and wants to "go further" in cutting financial aid for them.


Here’s all you need to know about the G.O.P.’s effort to face reality, moderate its policies, and present a more coherent policy platform to voters in 2016. David Camp, the Michigan Republican who chairs the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, and who in February introduced a sweeping tax-reform plan that, at least, recognized the basic laws of arithmetic, is leaving Congress. Paul Ryan, the conservative Moses of Capitol Hill, is sticking around. On Wednesday, he unveiled the latest of his right-wing manifestos, thinly disguised as a serious budget, proposing to repeal Obamacare, privatize Medicare, and slash spending on Medicaid and food stamps.

The Passion of Rob Ford, or the Neoliberal Making of Toronto’s Municipal Crisis

By now much of the world has heard of Toronto’s mayor Rob Ford. Media outlets have treated us to a staccato drumbeat of astounding revelations about the mayor of Canada’s biggest city. Outside Toronto, observers gleefully tut-tut the city that Canadians love to hate for its municipal leader’s failings. Beyond Canada, people follow the city’s ongoing political soap opera with a mix of amazement and amusement. It’s little surprise that so easy a target has become the object of global mockery, especially in the United States. Many south of the border imagine Canada to be a kinder, gentler, better-ordered place—a peaceful, well-governed society whose good manners and health care system offer a mirror with which to examine their own society’s failures. Americans have watched videos of big city mayors smoking crack before; Ford comes as a comic surprise because they simply never imagined that things like this could happen in Canada, too.

Canada's 'Too Big To Fail' Bank Problem Is Worse Than U.S.: IMF

Even as other countries are working to reduce the problem of “too big to fail” banks, Canada’s financial industry is becoming more concentrated in the hands of a few large players, says a new study from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Such a high level of banking concentration “carries with it a high degree of potential systemic risk,” the IMF report states.
The study also found that too-big-to-fail banks enjoy an unofficial “subsidy” in the form of lower borrowing costs than those enjoyed by smaller banks.

Blind voters may lack ID to cast ballots under election changes

Blind or vision-impaired Canadians may struggle to meet the identification requirements that would be imposed under the federal Conservatives' plan to update election laws, a spokeswoman for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind said Tuesday.

Diane Bergeron told MPs that the CNIB ID card can be used at polling stations, but no one is required to register with the CNIB, so many blind or partially sighted Canadians won't have that identification.

Without a Warrant, Companies Hand over Data

The lawful access fight of 2012, which featured then-public safety minister Vic Toews infamously claiming that the public could side with the government or with child pornographers, largely boiled down to public discomfort with warrantless access to internet subscriber information.

The government claimed that subscriber data such as name, address, and IP address was harmless information akin to data found in the phone book, but few were convinced and the bill was ultimately shelved in the face of widespread opposition.

More Porsche Sales, More Poor Children in BC

"Social Acceptance: It is important to us that the Porsche brand is firmly anchored in society. And represents an attainable dream." -- Porsche Canada

Great news: Porsche sales went up 20 per cent in British Columbia in 2013.

But unfortunately, so did the number of poor children and people without full-time jobs!

NSA performed warrantless searches on Americans' calls and emails – Clapper

US intelligence chiefs have confirmed that the National Security Agency has used a "back door" in surveillance law to perform warrantless searches on Americans’ communications.

The NSA's collection programs are ostensibly targeted at foreigners, but in August the Guardian revealed a secret rule change allowing NSA analysts to search for Americans' details within the databases.


Sunday’s municipal elections in France offer at least three historical firsts: a historically poor result for the socialist party of President François Hollande; the best-ever results for the right-wing National Front party of Marine Le Pen; and a national record for low voter turnout. The left lost mainly because its own electorate—discouraged by the disappointing performance of the Hollande government and a lacklustre campaign—decided to stay home.

“It’s a defeat for the government and the majority,” Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said. “The message is clear, it should be understood fully…. There is a serious disaffection among those who voted for us in 2012.” Indeed, Ayrault is among those likely to pay a price for the defeat. President Hollande is expected to replace Ayrault, in a cabinet shuffle meant to show that he has heard the electorate and gets the message. François Kalfon, a Socialist mayor who was defeated on Sunday, put it even more bluntly in an interview on France 3 (one of the national networks), saying that the results showed that the government “doesn’t seem to live on the same planet as the people who voted for it.”

House GOP Ignores Congressional Budget Office On Unemployment Benefits

WASHINGTON -- House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) says he is against restoring long-term jobless benefits because doing so wouldn't create jobs.

"We have always said that we’re willing to look at extending emergency unemployment benefits again, if Washington Democrats can come up with a plan that is fiscally responsible, and gets to the root of the problem by helping to create more private sector jobs," Boehner said.

NATO Suspends Cooperation With Russia Over Crimea Annexation

BRUSSELS, April 1 (Reuters) - NATO suspended all practical cooperation with Russia on Tuesday in protest at its annexation of Crimea and ordered military planners to draft measures to strengthen its defenses and reassure nervous eastern European countries.

Foreign ministers from the 28-nation, U.S.-led alliance were meeting for the first time since the Russian occupation of Ukraine's Crimea region touched off the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War.

Paul Ryan Unveils House GOP Budget, Claiming Balance

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan unveiled an updated Republican budget plan Tuesday that would slash $5.1 trillion in federal spending over coming decade and promises to balance the government's books with wide-ranging cuts in programs like food stamps and government-paid health care for the poor and working class.

Ryan's plan would also cut Pell Grants for low-income students and pensions for federal workers, while steering away from cuts to benefits for senior citizens, at least in the short term. The proposal would reprise a voucher-like Medicare program for future retirees that would be the basis for GOP claims that the measure would drive down government debt over the long term. It also relies on scorekeeping help from the Congressional Budget Office, reflecting the beneficial effects of deficit cuts on long-term economic growth and tax revenues.

Climate change: 4 countries that are fighting the trend

The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states in no uncertain terms that global warming will lead to wild weather and other environmental hardships in the coming years.

"Things are worse than we had predicted" in 2007, said report co-author Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development at the Independent University in Bangladesh.

Senate Report: Torture Didn't Work and the CIA Lied About It

The Washington Post has gotten hold of the Senate investigation into CIA interrogation practices and—
No, wait. They haven't. They've only learned what the report says "according to U.S. officials who have reviewed the document." It's impossible to say if these sources are characterizing the report accurately, and their summary descriptions of the report make it very hard to judge how fair the report's conclusions are.

Hobby Lobby's Hypocrisy: The Company's Retirement Plan Invests in Contraception Manufacturers

When Obamacare compelled businesses to include emergency contraception in employee health care plans, Hobby Lobby, a national chain of craft stores, fought the law all the way to the Supreme Court. The Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate, the company's owners argued, forced them to violate their religious beliefs. But while it was suing the government, Hobby Lobby spent millions of dollars on an employee retirement plan that invested in the manufacturers of the same contraceptive products the firm's owners cite in their lawsuit.

How to Vote Against the Koch Brothers

The Koch Brothers don't actually run for office—at least not since David Koch's amusingly ambitious 1980 bid for the vice presidency on a Libertarian Party ticket that proposed the gutting of corporate taxes, the minimum wage, occupational health and safety oversight, environmental protections and Social Security.

That project, while exceptionally well-funded for a third-party campaign, secured just 1.06 percent of the vote. The Kochs determined it would be easier to fund conservative campaigns than to pitch the program openly. Initially, the project was hampered by what passed for campaign-finance rules and regulations, to the frustration of David Koch, who once told The New Yorker, "We'd like to abolish the Federal Elections Commission and all the limits on campaign spending anyway."

The Nuclear Omnicide

In the 35 years since the March 28, 1979, explosion and meltdown at Three Mile Island, fierce debate has raged over whether humans were killed there. In 1986 and 2011, Chernobyl and Fukushima joined the argument. Whenever these disasters happen, there are those who claim that the workers, residents and military personnel exposed to radiation will be just fine.

Of course we know better. We humans won’t jump into a pot of boiling water. We’re not happy when members of our species start dying around us. But frightening new scientific findings have forced us to look at a larger reality: the bottom-up damage that radioactive fallout may do to the entire global ecosystem.

The Distributional Games

Every year I ask my class on “Wealth and Poverty” to play a simple game. I have them split up into pairs, and imagine I’m giving one of them $1,000. They can keep some of the money only on condition they reach a deal with their partner on how it’s to be divided up between them. I explain they’re strangers who will never see one other again, can only make one offer and respond with one acceptance (or decline), and can only communicate by the initial recipient writing on a piece of paper how much he’ll share with the other, who must then either accept (writing “deal” on the paper) or decline (“no deal”).

Migrants face 'living hell' in Greek detention

Migrants and asylum-seekers detained in Greece are being forced to endure deplorable conditions, often with devastating effects on their health, according to a report from aid agency Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

Doctors who have attended internment camps, police stations and coastguard facilities around the country described "a living hell" for thousands of immigrants denied fresh air, natural light and basic sanitation.

Vince Cable defends Royal Mail sell-off in Commons debate

The business secretary, Vince Cable, has refused to apologise over the government's privatisation of Royal Mail, despite a scathing report from the National Audit Office, which said undervaluing the share sale had cost the taxpayer £750m in a single day.

In a lively debate in the House of Commons, Cable defended the controversial float last October, after coming under fire from the shadow business secretary, Chuka Umunna, and other MPs. "The last thing I intend to do is apologise," Cable said. He insisted that the privatisation had been a success and that there had been a real risk that the flotation could have failed if the shares had been priced higher.

Attacks On The Homeless Jumped 23 Percent Last Year: Report

The streets have become an increasingly dangerous place to be homeless.

While the number of homeless people in the U.S. dropped for the third straight year in 2012, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s latest estimates, advocates can’t quite celebrate yet.

Protect Your Work: Creativity and Digital Law

You've decided to embrace the creative (and let's hope lucrative) potential of the web. You're ready to present online your music, insights, art... fill in the blank. And of course you troll the web for inspiration and opportunities.

But how to keep your work from being ripped off? Or prevent others from claiming you stole from them?

How do you get all the upsides of sharing your work with the digital world, while avoiding all the downsides of having it copied and cheapened in the process?

Wouldn't it be great to spend some quality time with a legal expert who could clear all that up? You can. This Saturday. There are still a few seats left for The Tyee Master Class Martha Rans will be conducting on April 5 -- with lunch and a splash of wine included.