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.]

Monday, April 21, 2014

Google is building up a digital superstate, says German media boss

The chief executive of Europe's largest newspaper publisher has accused Google of abusing a monopoly position in the digital economy to discriminate against competitors and build up a "superstate".

In an open letter to Google's Eric Schmidt published in Wednesday's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the head of Germany's Axel Springer SE publishing house, Mathias Döpfner, said the US company was operating a business model that "in less reputable circles would be called a protection racket", discriminating against competitors in its search rankings. Google's motto was "if you don't want us to finish you off, you better pay", he said.

Michael Lewis: 'Wall Street has gone insane'

On a sliding scale of difficulty, writing a general-interest book about high-frequency trading is slightly harder than making baseball statistics interesting, but easier than animating the role played by quantitative analysis in the 2007 financial collapse. "Collateralised debt obligations," says Michael Lewis, who has written about all three, "are impossible to describe. There's nothing harder. However, trying to show a reader how a market moves? How stock prices move? You can already see them tuning out."

Why We Can’t Strip Race Out of the Gender Wage Gap Conversation

April 8 was Equal Pay Day, the day by which women will have theoretically worked enough to catch up to what men made the year before. In honor of that, the Senate voted on the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill aimed at giving women a little more power to fight wage discrimination, which Republicans unanimously blocked. While some Republicans claim they care about the wage gap and just object to what they see as burdensome regulation, other conservatives have been calling the idea of the gender wage gap itself into question.

Canadian Housing Boom Ending, Will Be Drag On Growth: Scotia

Canada’s long housing boom is coming to an end, and because of the country’s growing reliance on real estate-related jobs, that will be a drag on the economy, Scotiabank predicts in a new report.

Senior economist Adrienne Warren says home resale activity will fall this year and next because “rising mortgage rates, combined with high home prices and stricter mortgage regulations, will strain affordability, especially for first-time buyers in major urban centres.”

Climate Costs ‘May Prove Much Higher’

LONDON—Economists and scientists may have seriously underestimated the “social cost” of carbon emissions to future generations, according to a warning in Nature.

Social cost is a calculation in US dollars of the future damage that might be done by the emission of one metric ton of carbon dioxide as greenhouse gas levels soar and climates change, sea levels rise and temperature records are broken in future decades.

Ukraine Conflict: Government Forces Tighten Grip On Eastern Town, Prompting Warnings Of War From Putin

KRAMATORSK/SLAVIANSK, Ukraine, April 16 (Reuters) - Separatists flew the Russian flag on armored vehicles taken from the Ukrainian army on Wednesday, humiliating a Kiev government operation to recapture eastern towns controlled by pro-Moscow partisans.

Six armored personnel carriers were driven into the rebel-held town of Slaviansk to waves and shouts of "Russia! Russia!". It was not immediately clear whether they had been captured by rebels or handed over to them by Ukrainian deserters.

Canada becoming launch-pad of a global tar sands and oil shale frenzy

If you can be sure of one thing, it’s that oil companies didn’t get the United Nations’ latest memo on climate change: the world must urgently switch to clean, renewable energy. Over the next few decades, the UN report shows that a shift from fossil fuel extraction is the only way to prevent a complete destabilization of the planet – of which raging storms, droughts, and extreme weather are a taste of things to come.

But as conventional oil reserves have dwindled, oil companies have done the opposite of embracing this shift: they’ve doubled-down on their business model by seeking out remote, more polluting fossil fuels, in harder-to-extract places.

Canada to let private companies decide where search-and-rescue aircraft are based

It will be up to aerospace firms vying to supply Canada with new search-and-rescue aircraft to decide where such planes are to be located - a process that raises questions about private companies deciding the country's defence policy and where military staff are located.

The Department of National Defence has confirmed that bids for the $3-billion search-and-rescue aircraft project will not only include details about the planes being offered but also where they are to be based. Officials inside the department privately concede the end result could be a foreign company telling the Canadian Forces where to situate its planes and people.

Rick Perry Dismantled Texas' Public Integrity Unit. Now He's Facing a Grand Jury.

Rick Perry—Republican Texas governor, failed 2012 presidential candidate, and potential 2016 retread contender—is battling legal trouble at home, thanks to his controversial veto that demolished the state office tasked with investigating political scandals. On Monday, a Texas judge convened a grand jury to probe Perry's decision last year to ax funding for the state's Public Integrity Unit. The special prosecutor investigating the case, Michael McCrum, has not filed any charges. But earlier this month he said, "I cannot elaborate on what exactly is concerning me, but I can tell you I am very concerned about certain aspects of what happened here."

Here's What Fracking Can Do to Your Health

If you know one thing about fracking, it might be that the wells have been linked to explosive tap water. Of course, a tendency toward combustion isn't the biggest problem with gas-infused water; it's what could happen to you when you drink it.

Although the natural gas industry is notoriously tight-lipped about the ingredients of the chemical cocktails that get pumped down into wells, by now it's widely known that the list often includes some pretty scary, dangerous stuff, including hydrochloric acid and ethylene glycol (a.k.a. antifreeze). It's also no secret that well sites release hazardous gases like methane and benzene (a carcinogen) into the atmosphere.

Low wages, not poor work ethic, behind surge of foreign labour

Tired of being demonized by the media, denounced in Parliament and disciplined by Employment Minister Jason Kenney, Canada’s small business owners are starting to push back.
The reason they hire foreign temporary workers when 1.3 million Canadians are unemployed, they insist, is that they have a better work ethic than domestic job applicants. “If we’re not prepared to do these jobs and we don’t want our kids to do them either — yet we still want to go to the mall and find a clean bathroom and we still want someone to clean our hotel rooms — why are we so afraid to allow people to come to Canada to happily do these jobs?” asked Dan Kelly, head of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).

The Fair Elections Act is ever so telling

The so-called Fair Elections Act, however it eventually turns out, will have shown again the hard face of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government.

Everything about the bill was wrong, from the way it was conceived to the method of presentation to the scorn for expert evidence. From conception to eventual adoption, even if amended by the Senate (a move obviously orchestrated by the government), the bill will have demonstrated a government determined to wring political gain from every measure, a fierce partisanship for something that ought to have been non-partisan, a dismissal of experts who, by virtue of dissent, were deemed enemies of the party.

Senate gives government cover to pass anti-democratic bill

The push by Conservatives senators to amend Stephen Harper’s elections act had all the elements of a marvelous yarn.
The unelected senators had taken their revenge, biting back and riding in on their white steed to save democracy, showing their relevancy and putting the government on its heels.
Unfortunately, it is nonsense.

Young Women See Sexual Assault As Normal, Report Finds

How does a crime committed against nearly 238,000 women a year go unreported 60 percent of the time? According to a new report, many victims of sexual assault may not actually see themselves as victims.

Heather Hlavka, a sociologist at Marquette University, analyzed interviews with 100 girls between ages three and 17 who may have experienced sexual assault. Overwhelmingly, their accounts indicated that sexual violence had been normalized in their communities. They considered harassment an everyday part of life rather than a criminal act.

Paying For School With Summer Job 'Is Now Just A Myth'

Tuition-paying parents will tell you things are tougher for students today than they were a generation ago, but here’s some solid proof.

The number of hours needed to work to pay university tuition in Canada has soared nearly 150 per cent since 1975, according to an analysis from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

Super PAC Leaders Score Perks From Political Donations

The People’s Majority super PAC advertises itself with lofty goals.

“We are the only super PAC dedicated to the research, development and enhancement of motivating conservatives to the polls,” it proclaims on its website. “No dinners, no pictures with VIPs, no shirts or yard signs here. People's Majority uses every penny of your contribution to identify and motivate low-turnout voters on Election Day.”

Well, not every penny. The super PAC, which registered  with the Federal Election Commission with the express purpose of advocating for and against political candidates, spent nearly ten grand on meals alone last year, including eye-popping bills at restaurants including Sorellina in Boston, Manny’s Steakhouse in Minneapolis, Henri in Chicago and Michael’s on the Hill in Vermont.

Student Loan Borrowers' Costs To Jump As Education Department Reaps Huge Profit

The U.S. Department of Education is forecast to generate $127 billion in profit over the next decade from lending to college students and their families, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Beginning in the 2015-16 academic year, students and their families are forecast to pay more to borrow from the department than they did prior to last summer’s new student loan law, which set student loan interest rates based on the U.S. government's costs to borrow. The higher costs for borrowers would arrive at least a year sooner than previously predicted.

Prominent Republican: Women Need To Be Paid Less So They Can Find Husbands

On Sunday, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) sought to advance the GOP’s rebranding effort among female voters by suggesting that Republicans have long “led the fight for women’s equality.” The statement came just days after Republicans voted down the Paycheck Fairness Act and sought to downplay the problem of equal pay for equal work by suggesting that Democrats were using the issue to distract from Obamacare.

Governor Bans Minimum Wage Increases And Paid Sick Leave Laws

At a time when many states and cities are working passing minimum wage increases, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) has gone in the opposite direction and signed a law banning cities from passing higher wages. The bill also bans them from enacting paid sick days or vacation requirements.

Second integrity watchdog under the gun

OTTAWA - Whistleblower protection groups are demanding the Harper government dump its second consecutive public service integrity commissioner after two damning audits of his office.

The auditor general has found "gross mismanagement" of two separate case files in the troubled Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada, which was created by the Conservative government in 2007.

"It sounds so familiar, this story did not surprise," Allan Cutler, a civil service whistleblower on the Liberal sponsorship scandal, said in an interview.

Rob Anders' pension nearly $100K a year, says taxpayer group

Calgary MP Rob Anders could collect a pension of nearly $100,000 if he leaves politics after his term ends.

The federal Conservative lost a nomination battle Saturday night to represent the party in the next election. Former Alberta cabinet minister Ron Liepert will be on the ballot for the new Signal Hill riding in 2015.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation estimates Anders will start receiving a pension of $95,546 beginning at age 55. That is based on his current pay and assuming Anders will remain as an MP until the election.

Anders, 42, currently makes $163,700 as an MP, according to the Parliament of Canada website.

China's Investment In Hollywood Movies Has Begun

HONG KONG - China's state-owned film distributor is making its first investment in Hollywood movies by taking a stake in two projects by production company Legendary Entertainment.

The two companies said on Tuesday that China Film would make an "eight-figure equity investment" in two upcoming films, "Seventh Son" and "Warcraft."

The exact amount was not specified.

Gas Prices Expected To Rise In Canada This Summer

Gasoline prices in Canada are climbing to two-year highs, and could be going higher, according to industry watchers.

In Toronto, gas prices are at 137.9 cents a litre, the highest they’ve been in two years, according to At the beginning of the year, gas was 10 cents a litre cheaper.

The Fair Elections Act Is Republican-Style Cheating

The CPC's push for its absurdly named Fair Elections Act would make infamous Republican strategist Karl Rove proud. At best, it has been a campaign to mislead the public, at worst, an attempt to rig the electoral system to favour the Tories in 2015.

Last week, Conservative Senator Linda Frum, sister of former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum, launched an attack against Elections Canada on the grounds that its efforts to promote voter turnout constitute a "conflict of interest."

Fair elections act: 7 things you may not know

Most of the debate about the changes the government wants to make to how Canadians vote and run elections has centred around vouching. But there are many more controversial measures inside Bill C-23. Here are seven things you may not know about the proposed fair elections act.

Bill S-4, Tories' Digital Privacy Act, An Attack On Digital Privacy: Critics

The Harper government’s Digital Privacy Act is being billed as “protection for Canadians when they surf the web and shop online,” but critics say it amounts to a wholesale threat to the privacy rights it ostensibly aims to enshrine.

Bill S-4, as the proposed legislation is officially known, would allow internet service providers to share subscriber information with any organization that is investigating a possible breach of contract, such as a copyright violation, or illegal activity, writes digital law professor Michael Geist.

Fair Elections Act: Senators Call For 9 Major Changes To Bill

OTTAWA - The Harper government is getting some serious push-back from Conservative senators on its controversial overhaul of elections laws, with a Senate committee unanimously recommending nine major changes to the legislation.

In an interim report to be tabled Tuesday, the Senate's legal and constitutional affairs committee recommends that the government drop provisions to muzzle the chief electoral officer and the elections commissioner, The Canadian Press has learned.