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, June 12, 2013

So Are We Living in 1984?

Since last week’s revelations of the scope of the United States’ domestic surveillance operations, George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” which was published sixty-four years ago this past Saturday, has enjoyed a massive spike in sales. The book has been invoked by voices as disparate as Nicholas Kristof and Glenn Beck. Even Edward Snowden, the twenty-nine-year-old former intelligence contractor turned leaker, sounded, in the Guardian interview in which he came forward, like he’d been guided by Orwell’s pen. But what will all the new readers and rereaders of Orwell’s classic find when their copy arrives? Is Obama Big Brother, at once omnipresent and opaque? And are we doomed to either submit to the safety of unthinking orthodoxy or endure re-education and face what horrors lie within the dreaded Room 101? With Orwell once again joining a culture-wide consideration of communication, privacy, and security, it seemed worthwhile to take another look at his most influential novel.

Ohio's Gay Community Rattled By Three Alleged Hate Crimes

New York's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community may continue to be rattled after a series of alleged hate crimes. Now, however, a spate of incidents is making headlines in another state.

A Northern Kentucky man told Ohio-based ABC affiliate WCPO that he was attacked outside of a Columbus bar on June 6 because he is gay.

New Jersey Law Would Allow Police To Seize Cell Phones, Records After Car Crashes

A New Jersey lawmaker wants to enable police to search a driver’s cell phone immediately after a crash to see if the phone contributed to the accident.

State Sen. James Holzapfel (R-Ocean County) recently introduced legislation that would allow police officers to automatically confiscate a cell phone if there is a suspicion that the driver was texting or talking on the phone prior to the accident, the Star Ledger reported Monday. The legislation would also increase penalties for texting while driving. The New Jersey bill, which is opposed by civil liberties activists, is the second attempt in the nation to give police this power.

Obama's Handling Of Civil Liberties Gets Poor Ratings In Poll

A new HuffPost/YouGov poll has found that while Americans are divided in their opinion of how President Barack Obama is handling the job of protecting the country against terrorism, they are more likely to give Obama bad marks when it comes to protecting constitutional rights.

According to the survey, 16 percent of Americans say Obama has done an excellent job at protecting the U.S. from terrorism, while 29 percent say he's done a good job, 20 percent say he's done only a fair job, and 29 percent say he's done a poor job.

Anti-Putin Protests: Thousands March Against Russian President In Moscow

MOSCOW — Thousands of Russian opposition activists marched through Moscow on Wednesday, decrying President Vladimir Putin's authoritarian rule and calling for the release of people they consider political prisoners.

The march on Russia Day, a national holiday, was to show support for 27 people arrested after a protest turned violent on the eve of Putin's inauguration more than a year ago. Sixteen of the defendants have remained in jail pending trial on charges that could send them to prison for up to 10 years.

NSA Spying Controversy Highlights Embrace Of Big Data

Even within the infrastructure of the American surveillance apparatus, the National Security Agency is notoriously secretive. The spy agency jealously guards from public view practically all aspects of its operations, from the information it collects to its plans for a massive 100,000-square-foot building being constructed in the Utah desert.

James Clapper: I Gave 'Least Untruthful' Answer Possible On NSA Surveillance

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper sought to clarify his claim that the National Security Agency does not collect information on millions of Americans, telling NBC News' Andrea Mitchell that he gave the "least untruthful" answer possible on the agency's surveillance program.

During a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on March 12, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked the intelligence czar if the NSA gathers "any type of data at all on millions of Americans.”

"No, sir," Clapper responded. "Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently perhaps collect, but not wittingly."

Does Sen. Jeff Sessions Think Obama Is Secretly a "Radical Machiavelli"?

Is Barack Obama a "radical Machiavelli" bent on destroying American society so he can shape it into a totalitarian state? In February, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) endorsed a book that makes such a case.

Speaking at a conference run by David Horowitz, the onetime 1960s radical who remade himself as a conservative provocateur, Sessions, the ranking member of the Senate budget committee, opened his remarks with praise for Horowitz and his books:

    I really liked A Point in Time. If you haven't read that, it is a good book, a wise book, well in the tradition of the Western heritage of faith and reason, and gives us some perspective about who we are. And recently reading Radicals, I hit the last chapter lying in bed, and I awakened myself and had an epiphany, 'cause he was talking about our president. And I've been wrestling with how do we deal, what is this, how has this been working, and how can we do better, and how can we understand better, how to respond to his quite successful tactics politically. So I was so moved. I called [Horowitz]. He gave me some ideas. He's written some papers. I passed them around—the draft—a bunch of senators, and shared those thoughts. I know [Sen.] Ron Johnson—I don't know if Ron's still here or not. He and I definitely have discussed what you shared with us, and it will make a difference in how we approach things.

Tea Partiers Don't Have a Good Legal Case Against the IRS

The improper targeting of tea party groups and other conservative nonprofits by the Internal Revenue Service has inspired a wave of lawsuits against the agency. The suits have provided an opportunity for grandstanding—"Americans are not going to be bullied and intimidated by our government," declared the American Center for Law and Justice's Jay Sekulow, who is representing 25 conservative groups suing the IRS—but legal experts say those cases may yield little more than publicity.

Health Wait Times Still Fail To Meet Patient Demands

National wait-time grades haven't improved for medical treatments that federal and provincial governments agreed to provide more quickly, according to a new report card.

The Wait Times Alliance, which includes doctors from specialties such as emergency medicine, radiology and cardiology, released its annual report on wait times, titled "Canadians still waiting too long for health care," on Tuesday.

Prism is the worst attack on personal freedom since 1939

The U.S. Prism surveillance of emails, phone calls, social networking, data storage and other personal communication around the world is the worst attack on freedom since World War II.

If that sounds overwrought, consider that in 1939, the West faced a force that intended to enslave most of humankind, a force that came very close to winning. Any sacrifice of freedom and privacy in the West was worth the cost.

Clement an ironic choice as champion for taxpayers

Federal employees have been given the word from Treasury Board president Tony Clement.

Last month, they were told their work would be measured under a new system of performance reviews.

This month, it’s an overhaul of the sick leave structure.

Taxpayers, as Clement has emphasized in a series of interviews on his plans for the federal civil service, deserve to know they are getting good value for their hard-earned tax dollars.

Parliament group pullout put off

The Senate and House committees that have the final say over whether Canada leaves a club of more than 160 parliaments worldwide have decided to send the issue back to another committee for review.

Both the Senate and House internal economy bodies voted last week to have the Joint Interparliamentary Council take another look at whether Canada should pull out of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. They suggested that it also scrutinize other international parliamentary groups to which Canada pays membership fees.

Opposition seeks parliamentary oversight of Canada’s spy agencies

OTTAWA — Opposition parties are calling for greater oversight of Canada’s spy agencies as questions continued to swirl about the size and scope of super-secret U.S. and Canadian surveillance programs.

Concerns about Canada’s spy agencies existed even before it was learned over the past week that the U.S. National Security Agency and the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) have been mining Internet and telephone records from around the world.

US, Canadian online surveillance programs spark privacy concerns

A Canadian spy agency and the Harper government are denying that Canadian email and phone logs, and other communications activity, are being secretly targeted by classified eavesdropping programs.

But security analysts and civil liberties advocates say the revelations raise serious concerns about how the privacy of Canadians is being protected when such programs are in use.

Canada offers EU some concessions

OTTAWA — The Harper government has agreed to smooth the way for more takeovers of Canadian companies by European firms in one of several concessions during free-trade talks, sources tell The Canadian Press.

Canada has also agreed to open up parts of its hydro-electric sector to a limited amount of foreign investment, say sources in Canada with intimate knowledge of the talks.

Harper announces new transparency rules for energy, mining

Canada is adopting a G8 initiative that would require companies to disclose any payments they make to foreign governments, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Wednesday in London at a meeting with oil, gas and mining executives.

Harper said Canada will adopt new mandatory reporting standards for payments made to foreign and domestic governments by Canadian companies in the extractive sector.

Canada not targeting offshore tax cheats, analysis shows

There is no question Robert Chen cheated the taxman. He lied about $496,530 in income and, in 2008, he pleaded guilty to tax evasion and received a $107,000 fine and a 15-month conditional sentence that allowed him to travel abroad.

But for reasons it wouldn't explain — perhaps because some of his undeclared earnings came from a business that imported clothing from China — the Canada Revenue Agency considers the Richmond, B.C., resident an offshore tax outlaw.

Ontario ombudsman says jail staff committing ‘brazen acts of violence’

Some prison guards in Ontario beat convicts, then lie about their injuries, scare them into silence and force their colleagues to do the same, says the province’s ombudsman in a damning report on jailhouse violence.

André Marin’s report includes photos of inmates, their eyes swollen shut, their faces covered in blood, and the stories of the prison guards who tried to get away with the attacks.

You’re not paranoid, the government might be watching you

Defence Minister Peter MacKay says the country’s top-secret eavesdropping agency is barred from spying on Canadians. He is wrong.

In fact, the little-known Communications Security Establishment Canada is specifically mandated to intercept telephone or Internet communications involving Canadians — as long as it does so in an effort to gather foreign intelligence.

Stephen Harper government should stop muzzling Canada’s ambassadors

The Harper government is regularly criticized for its unwillingness to allow civil servants to speak openly about Canadian policy in their areas of expertise.

To its credit, Ottawa has provided a rationale for its actions that is not unreasonable. The country should speak with one voice, argues the prime minister, and that voice should come from the elected leadership (and their personal communications officials).

More Intrusive Than Eavesdropping? NSA Collection of Metadata Hands Gov’t Sweeping Personal Info

As the American Civil Liberties Union sues the Obama administration over its secret NSA phone spying program, we look at how the government could use phone records to determine your friends, medical problems, business transactions and the places you’ve visited. While President Obama insists that nobody is listening to your telephone calls, cybersecurity expert Susan Landau says the metadata being collected by the government may be far more revealing than the content of the actual phone calls. A mathematician and former Sun Microsystems engineer, Landau is the author of the book "Surveillance or Security?: The Risks Posed by New Wiretapping Technologies."

Author: --

Canada has tracked phone and Internet data for years

Canada’s electronic eavesdropping agency has tracked Internet and phone data to search for leads in terrorism cases for years, intelligence experts and insiders say.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise to Canadians.

In 2005, the newly appointed head of the Communications Security Establishment Canada said his agency must learn to “own the Internet” to combat terrorism.

BC Liberal Pay Raises Put Finance Minister On Defensive

VICTORIA - The Opposition New Democrats say the cost-conscious Liberal government has found some extra cash to approve pay-scale raises for some of its top staff bureaucrats.

The New Democrats point to a June 3 order-in-council document signed by a Liberal cabinet member that increases salary ranges available to a chief of staff and some ministerial assistants.

Library And Archives Paywall Delayed Until Fall

An internal document from Library and Archives Canada suggests the department is considering a paywall to help pay for digitizing its content, but that plan has been delayed until at least the fall.

Part of a plan posted on an archivist's Tumblr blog involves a 10-year agreement with non-profit group

Turkey Protests: Police Crush Barricades In Taksim Square

ISTANBUL — Riot police fired tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets in day-long clashes that lasted into the early hours Wednesday, battling protesters who have been occupying Istanbul's central Taksim Square and its adjacent Gezi Park in the country's most severe anti-government protests in decades.

MPs studying wrong data about not criminally responsible bill: researchers

OTTAWA – Members of Parliament studying a bill that would make major changes to the not criminally responsible law are reviewing the wrong data about recidivism even though the Conservative government has had the corrected numbers since March, according to researchers.

Patrick Baillie, a Calgary-based psychologist involved in the research, said he was surprised MPs are still using a November 2012 version of the report which he says contains dramatically incorrect figures.

Ex-Harper aide Carson 'surprised' PM unaware of Duffy deal

A former top adviser to Stephen Harper is "surprised" the prime minister was left in the dark about a secret financial deal between his then-chief of staff and Senator Mike Duffy.

Bruce Carson, who called in to a special edition on the Senate expense scandal on CBC News Network's Power & Politics, said the PM would have been briefed on a matter that significant during his tenure.

Alberta Health Services Chair to Health Minister on executive bonuses: 'Drop dead, Fred!'

Whatever happens next, it seems certain Alberta Health Minster Fred Horne is going to end up with egg on his face.

Indeed, when the dust has settled from the current contretemps at Alberta Health Services, the entire government of Alison Redford is likely to look foolish.

Challenged yesterday by Alberta Health Services Chair Stephen Lockwood over the question of bonuses for the health system’s top 99 executives, Horne has no way to respond that won't make him look either foolish or weak, possibly both.

National Research Council's new focus ignores how science works

The federal government recently announced a reorganization of the National Research Council to make it more "business-led" and industry-focused. It appears we're coming full circle to the early 1970s, when Sen. Maurice Lamontagne released "A Science Policy for Canada," a report proposing Canadian science be directed to "mission-oriented" work rather than "curiosity driven" research.

Since then, many politicians have encouraged support for science that serves market interests. I believe we should support science because curiosity and the ability to ask and answer questions are part of what makes our species unique and helps us find our way in the world. Still, basic research aimed at specific outcomes can lead to game-changing applications, from transistors and pesticides to nuclear bombs, penicillin and oral contraceptives. But how do new applications flow from science?

Please Spy On Us: Poll Finds Public Support For 'Snooping' Plans Despite NSA Prism Scandal

A majority of Britons support the government's controversial 'snooping' proposals - despite the growing NSA/Prism data-sharing scandal, an exclusive poll for The Huffington Post UK reveals.

And more than four in 10 people think the security services should be able to break data laws in order to prevent terrorism.

The first major survey carried out since the leaking of details of the US Prism surveillance programme found that 51% of voters either backed the coalition's draft Communications Data Bill, or thought it did not go far enough.

Nick Clegg Warned Blocking Snoopers' Charter Could See Terrorists Walk Free

The Director of Prosecutions has warned Nick Clegg not to block new snooping powers, it has been reported.

Keir Starmer said there was a "real risk" that terrorists could avoid prosecution if the proposed internet monitoring powers are abandoned, The Sun said.

Turkish Protesters Clash With Riot Police After Erdogan Warns 'Tolerance' Has Ended

Turkish riot police have fired tears gas upon protesters in Taksim Square on Tuesday evening following a day of clashes between demonstrators and the authorities.

Protesters set fires in the square following the latest police advance, with Reuters reporting that many were forced into side streets to escape the choking gas. Running battles between hundreds of protesters and riot police are likely to continue into the night.

G8 summit protest: riot police arrest 57 in raid of London HQ

Riot police raided the central London HQ of anti-G8 protesters on Tuesday and hundreds of officers were deployed in the capital as protests took place against next week's G8 summit.

Squatters inside the building, a former police station in Beak Street, off Regent Street, accused police of heavy-handed tactics after they were led out by officers who forced their way in after a tense standoff lasting more than three hours.

David Brooks and the Mind of Edward Snowden

David Brooks, in a column on what he takes to be the inner life of Edward Snowden, the N.S.A. leaker, has a long list of those he believes Snowden has betrayed. Among them are “his employers,” Booz Allen and the C.I.A., who “took a high-school dropout and offered him positions with lavish salaries. He is violating the honor codes of all those who enabled him to rise.” He also “betrayed the Constitution. The founders did not create the United States so that some solitary 29-year-old could make unilateral decisions about what should be exposed.”

Housing Discrimination Makes Search More Costly For Minorities: Study

WASHINGTON (AP) — A major federal study has found that minority renters and homebuyers who test the housing market for discrimination were told about and shown fewer homes and apartments than their equally qualified white counterparts.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has released results of the study in which pairs of testers — one white, one minority — were deployed last year to do more than 8,000 tests separately across 28 metropolitan areas. Testers' were the same gender and age and presented themselves as qualified to rent or buy a unit.

Minorities usually were able to get appointments and see at least one unit.

But study authors say the more subtle discrimination of telling them about and showing fewer units makes housing searches more costly and limits their options.

Original Article

NYC Bomb Plot Details Settle Little In NSA Debate

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration declassified a handful of details Tuesday that credited its PRISM Internet spying program with intercepting a key email that unraveled a 2009 terrorist plot in New York.

The details, declassified by the director of national intelligence, were circulated on Capitol Hill as part of government efforts to tamp down criticism of two recently revealed National Security Agency surveillance programs.

Bradley Manning vs. SEAL Team 6

The prosecution of Bradley Manning, WikiLeaks’ source inside the US Army, will be pulling out all the stops when it calls to the stand a member of Navy SEAL Team 6, the unit that assassinated Osama bin Laden. The SEAL (in partial disguise, as his identity is secret) is expected to tell the military judge that classified documents leaked by Manning to WikiLeaks were found on bin Laden’s laptop. That will, in turn, be offered as proof not that bin Laden had Internet access like 2 billion other earthlings, but that Manning has “aided the enemy,” a capital offense.

Transient States: On Mary Cassatt

Mary Cassatt could have been a character in a Henry James novel: the spirited young American woman who goes to Europe seeking her destiny. In 1979, Adelyn Dohme Breeskin, who compiled the catalogues raisonnés of Cassatt’s work, evoked the artist’s background in suitably Jamesian tones, conjuring for her readers “that legendary period when art had as yet no firm foothold in this country, when artists were set apart as strange eccentrics, and even the thought of a woman artist was considered preposterous.” That period may be more of a legend than Breeskin presumes: Cassatt was neither the only female student in her time at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, nor the sole woman among the thousands of aspiring American artists trooping to Paris in those days to pursue their studies. But still, her father’s first response to her plan to go abroad was one that would have required a far less artful novelist than James to imagine: “I would almost rather see you dead.”

The Sword Drops on Food Stamps

It’s official: Congress will slash food stamp funding in the midst of a deep economic recession, when more people rely on food stamps than ever before.

Monday night, the Senate passed a five-year farm bill that contained $4.1 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) over ten years. This ensures that the only debate now will be about how much to cut—and it’s likely to result in cuts much deeper than $4.1 billion.

Santa Monica Killer John Zawahri: A Familiar Profile

More details have emerged about John Zawahri, who murdered five people and wounded several others in a gun rampage on Friday before police shot him dead on the campus of Santa Monica College. He is the kind of mass killer we've come to see all too often in recent years, from his gender and age to the type of weapons he used to his mental health history. With our in-depth investigation of 62 mass shootings over the last 30 years we identified strong patterns among the killers, and Zawahri fits several of them:

Shooter's identity: Zawahri was an adult male, age 23. All but one of the killers in the cases we analyzed were male, most of them young adult to middle-age. (Whereas the majority of killers in our dataset were Caucasian, Zawahri was the son of Lebanese immigrants.)

Employment Outlook Canada: Pace Of Hiring To Slow, Manpower Says

Job seekers should shed any illusions they have that the near-record number of jobs added in May means that the country’s labour market is suddenly booming, according to a new employment forecast.

The pace of new jobs added over the summer months will slow both compared to the previous quarter and last year, says the Manpower Employment Outlook released Tuesday.

Parties in Commons jockey to claim ethical high ground in sitting of scandals

OTTAWA - As the clock ticks down on a scandal-saturated parliamentary sitting, the three main parties are jockeying to claim the ethical high ground.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair used a speech Tuesday to cast his party as the ethical antidote to Conservative and Liberal corruption. He painted the two "old-line parties" as tired, unaccountable, self-serving and corrupted by the pursuit of power.

Senate committee told about Wallin expense concerns 18 months ago

OTTAWA - The Senate subcommittee that has been reviewing questionable expenses was warned roughly a year-and-a-half ago that there were potential problems with Pamela Wallin's travel claims.

But that group of three senators didn't send the matter to outside auditors until a year later.

Senate sources tell The Canadian Press that Senate finance officials brought their concerns about Wallin's travel to the three-person steering group inside the internal economy committee in late 2011 or early 2012.

Russia passes anti-gay bill, detains protesters

MOSCOW—A bill that stigmatizes gay people and bans giving children any information about homosexuality won overwhelming approval Tuesday in Russia’s lower house of parliament.

Hours before the State Duma passed the Kremlin-backed law in a 436-0 vote with one abstention, more than two dozen protesters were attacked by hundreds of anti-gay activists and then detained by police.

ACLU Suing Obama Administration Over Phone Records Gathering

The American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Obama administration, challenging the constitutionality of the phone surveillance program revealed by The Guardian.

The suit alleges that the program violates the First and Fourth amendments.

Alberta Oilsands Cleanup Harder Than First Thought: Industry, Regulator

EDMONTON - Alberta's energy industry has found that cleaning up oilsands tailings is much harder than it thought.

The province's energy regulator says all oilsands companies affected by tailings reduction rules missed what were supposed to be legally binding targets — some by wide margins. All were given extra years to meet reductions that should have been done by now.